Posts Tagged ‘Flickr’

I know I’m sometimes guilty of over-analysing things. It’s my introverted nature, I’m afraid. I worry that it creeps into my writing at times, making it turgid as I travel convoluted lines of reasoning, like trying to prove the existence of unicorns, for example, at the sight of hoof-prints, when the most logical explanation is a horse. I know I’ve done this with Second Life, the open ended role playing game by Linden Labs that I still maintain a presence in. I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words about it, trying to explain to myself its peculiar allure, trying to get to the psychological nub of it as if there were some fantastic insight to be gleaned into the heart of the human condition.

I was trying to explain it to my 14 year old son, shaking my head in wonder yet again at what I thought to be the wider implications of this virtual reality wonderland, but he just rolled his eyes and said: “Look: you’ve got this fantasy world where people can go anonymously and do absolutely anything; you don’t need to explain it any more than that, do you? Come on Dad, you’re over-analysing stuff again.”

Sure, there’s probably nothing more profound about Second Life than that. It’s just taken me five years to realise it, with the benefit of some sage advice from my teenage son. I must be careful therefore not to similarly labour my analysis of Flickr.

I’ve had a Flickr account for a couple of years now, but I’ve only recently begun to make better use of it. Flickr of course is a service that lets you put photographs and digital artwork online in a public forum. You can mark your pictures private and just share them with friends and family, or you can open them up to a worldwide audience. I put a handful of my more arty photographs on there a couple of years ago, and until recently some of them hadn’t been viewed even once, so I was wondering what the point of it all was. I mean why would I want to show my photographs to complete strangers, anyway? Is it not just “showing off”? And why on earth would anyone want to look at them? (which apparently they didn’t). And what if I’m misguided in my enthusiasm for my pictures, and they’re not that great anyway? It would be,… well,… embarrassing.

But still,…

I think for me the problem with Flickr, was the fact that it was uncomfortable sitting hunched up in front of a computer monitor of an evening to look at other people’s photographs – especially when I’d been hunched up in front of a computer all day at work. The computer – even a laptop – just didn’t quite bring out the potential of Flickr, but then I bought an iPad, and suddenly I could sit in an easy chair with it and flick through the Flickr stream like you would through a glossy magazine. Within seconds, you were guaranteed to be gazing in awe at a picture someone had taken, or drawn or painted – not necessarily because it was dramatic or shocking, but because there was just something in the picture that spoke directly to you. This is how art works, after all.

I’ve been using a little app called FlickStackr, which smooths out the browsing process for you and, as a result, diving into Flickr is now like falling down the rabbit hole. It opens up a world of richness and colour and breathtaking artistic talent that is mostly unsung. We are instinctively creative creatures, and Flickr showcases that to good effect.

I dabble a little with digital art myself. In particular I enjoy fingerpainting on my iPad with an app called Sketchbook, and I’ve put a few of my first attempts on Flickr as well. Like my earlier photographs, these didn’t attract much attention at first, but that was before I’d discovered “groups”.

At the top level, Flickr is so unimaginably vast, your little account is like a grain of sand on a beach; it’s unlikely anyone’s going to notice it. So you look for things you might have in common with other Flickrers, like say Sketchbook art, and you discover there’s a “group” for that. You take pictures with an old Canon Powershot A640? Yes there’s a group for that as well. You live in Lancashire UK? Sure, there’s a group for that as well. So you join those groups, start tagging your material to them and suddenly people start dropping by to say things about your stuff, or selecting them as favourites for their own little collections.

But before I embark on a long rambling analysis of why I enjoy doing this, I’m better asking my 14 year old son for his advice because I’m only going to get myself into another existential muddle if I don’t. He says, it’s like when he comes to me with one of his drawings that he’s worked on for ages, and says: wha’d’ya think of this then? It’s not showing off, it just makes you feel good when someone looks at something you’ve done and says, hey: nice picture!

I think writing’s the same. In a way we’re looking for approval, for permission to be as we are and to think the things we do. At the bottom of us we’re saying: I did this, I wrote this, I painted this, I saw this and felt this because I thought it might mean something. Do you think it might mean something too?

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