In January 2017, this sounds like the absolute craziest thing any photographer could possibly do even despite my own research that shows lots of people use it as a dumping ground: but I’m truthfully returning to Flickr. This has a lot to do with my own personal feelings of many platforms out there in the world and how the “photography world” has evolved and changed. Some of these things that define our current world were first made famous by Flickr. Lots of photographers have their own Instagram–and that’s fine. We really need Instagram at this point despite the platform and the general public’s complete lack of respect for intellectual property. The same can be said of any social media platform.
But I don’t see Flickr as a social media platform.
First off, let me address Instagram. Every potential client or anyone else will want to see your Instagram page. You’re probably a curator or a creator, and they all want to see your images. At this point, I genuinely don’t see Instagram as a community in the same way that Facebook is a hub for your friends to spew their political concerns and Twitter is a place to get your laughs and news. Instagram is a place to put your photos and hashtag the hell out of them until you do something that sticks. Alternatively, it’s also a place to curate the free images of other photographers and accounts for your own gain and benefit. There are magazines that have started off of Instagram and doing just this. There are also publications that do just this. Statistics say that most people on Instagram are curators vs creators.
Don’t get it confused, this isn’t a rant: it’s just a personal outlook on what Instagram is. The largest accounts are by models and fitness folks in addition to large publications with their own staff of photographers. The everyday person shares anything and everything. Photographers share their own work. And curators try to find a whole load of images in an attempt to have people submit to their hashtag. It’s a gamification process that works much different from the way that Facebook and Twitter do.
While it makes sense, I don’t always feel it fosters good work and I feel it gives even less value to photographers. I mean really, are you going to put on your resume that you were featured on an Instagram page? I personally wouldn’t; and if someone submitted that to me in a pitch, I’d chuckle. Nevertheless, you need it to show your work to people in the same way that every serious photographer needs a website.
This is a big reason why I’m returning to Flickr: it’s a community just for photographers. Let me repeat that: it’s a community.
Flickr has always been a dumping ground for some folks who use their iPhone as a backup, but it’s also still a fairly vibrant place for photographers who truly care about their work and showcasing it amongst a community of other photographers. It’s like an in-person real-life photography collective or club that you join. The creative energy is given off and people just feed off of one another in a positive way where ideas are traded and there is symbiotic learning. Though some of the message boards aren’t as busy as they used to be, there is still interaction and commenting. The comments aren’t so spammy either.
Does everyone remember something along the lines of:
“Great photo! Follow me!!!!”
We all got those, and they were incredibly annoying. But you’re more likely to get them on Instagram now. Instead, the trolls have left Flickr and what’s left is just people delivering more of their solid and refined pieces.
Now this goes hand in hand with the fact that analog photography is really, truly coming back. Head into any of those groups and you’ll find some very good work. Some of them have over 20K members and people still submit. Then there are groups like Hardcore Street Photography, Strobist, etc.
For many photographers, we’ve turned to specialized Facebook groups where we can discuss our work, receive feedback, and genuinely figure out if our images please people. It isn’t a hashtag battle: instead it’s judged by people who are genuinely passionate about the same thing you are.
Flickr is like those Facebook groups, though it’s arguable that those Facebook groups can see much more interaction for the sole reason that you’re on there anyway.
This is something I just could never get with 500px. The Editors’ tastes in imagery just never totally aligned with mine personally. Some of it is fantastic; some of it is just weird.
I was also one of the first indie photo blog editors to throw my weight behind EyeEm. It’s not a bad place, but changes on the platform just kind of irked me. With their announcement of their algorithm that finds “good work” I’m not exactly sure I can support a souless algorithm telling me my photos are good. Call me old school, but I still get excited by showing someone one of my images and watching their jaw drop or listen to them inhale as they widen their eyes in awe of my creation. An algorithm can’t exactly do that no matter what recycled email you send to me.
But someone’s comments and likes can: which you’re much more likely to get on Facebook groups or Flickr. You can also surely get them on Instagram, but the only way of curating images is through hashtags: which is a major letdown.
If you’re a photographer genuinely interested in the art form, then I’m positive you’re inclined to agree.