why i stopped using flickr

looking towards millenium bridgeI was an early adopter of the photo sharing site Flickr. At the time, it offered so many things; the ability to upload many images per month without fear of running out of space, an open platform for sharing your images with a stable URL, and the ability to post images to your blog. All fantastic stuff. And it also gave me the extra bonus of making me part of a community. Many communities in fact, as we got to start and join lots and lots of groups. And the ability to comment on people’s images and also see how many people looking towards st. paul'shad viewed your images and made them favourites. It was pretty good and for a while it was pretty perfect too. I paid to become a member and loved it. For me the highlight of the day was logging into Flickr to see who had “faved” your image or how many hits you had gotten overnight. But then after a year or two I began to realise that this yearning to see who had said what about my pictures had become somewhat of an obsession. It became the first thing that I opened in the morning, even before I read my email or the news. And that obsession carried on throughout the day, st. paul'swith me checking back again and again to see if I had more fans. I seemed to be more interested in what people thought of my pictures than I thought myself.

The next problem occurred for me when I realised that there is a “Flickr style”, a type of photo that gets “faved” again and again. You probably know the sort of photo that I am taking about – heavily saturated,  high res, or “Lomo” and cross processed. I found that I was unconsciously trying to make my photos conform to a certain style, just so I could get hits and faves. looking down to the turbine hallThe moment I realised this I was horrified, but found by then that I was too addicted to stop. I really wanted to experiment with my photography, and whilst getting feedback is always a good thing, sometimes the rule of the mob isn’t what you need when you are trying things out that might not be so popular with everyone else. I had to stop this spiral, or I would forever go on making images to make other people, my peer group of online “friends”, happy, instead of making images and exploring avenues that were of interest to me.

small peopleThe other two nails in the coffin. I realised that someone was stealing my photos and re-uploading them on Flickr and claiming them as their own. I soon put a stop to that but it left a nasty taste. The the cruncher. One morning I opened my mail inbox and there was a comment from somebody I had added as a friend a week or so before. It simply said “You are the worst photographer in the world”. That’s it. Nothing else. No reason why they thought that. Had I upset them? I checked back through my comments to them – nothing. I realised that it was someone’s idea of the turbine halla joke, but I didn’t find it very funny.

The only way that I could see of breaking out of this was to stop using Flickr altogether. It was a tough decision, as I had lots of contacts from all over the world, and it seemed like I was losing all of that. But I had to stop. It was helped by the fact that I ran into financial problems and it was a frivolous extra  – still is. But stop I did. In fact, for a while I stopped taking photos altogether.

Now, on the other side, I am just starting to take photos again, and this time I am being much more careful. I am taking less photos. I am thinking about what images I want to make.  The images here are amongst the last few photos that I uploaded to Flickr before I stopped. Anything after this point will be very different.

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9 thoughts on “why i stopped using flickr

  1. That is really deep. I had no idea things/groups/people were into it like that. I just use flickr to store pics about what’s going on in my life, so I rarely get comments on my pics.

    I agree with you about the ‘flckr style’ but occasionally someone will post a really great natural shot. I like those kinds of pics, alot 🙂

  2. Pete, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience and your choice. Of course, you must do want you need to do for yourself and your art. But, as one of your Flickr contacts, I’ll miss your presence.

    I can imagine myself getting to a similar situation and perhaps, then, making a similar decision, but as for now, Flickr is working for me, providing me a way to focus my daily art production within the narrow confines of my limited time.

    The community has been enjoyable for me. Flickr, like a pub in strange neighborhood, offers a place to connect with others for only as long as I want to connect. If the others become boring or troublesome in the pub, I would start talking to someone else. On Flickr, I could delete their comment or remove them as a contact or turn off comments. Having to leave the pub or leave Flickr is an obvious option. No harm done, there’s always more pubs or communities. No fault, no blame.

    But, I do want you to know that I, for one, will miss your pictures. I’m glad for having seen them and hope to see images from you again.

    I came to this post thru a tweet from Stan (Toonerstan). He and I had an exchange years back on another forum about the nature of art and the reasons for doing it. Relevant to your post in that my understanding was and is that art is essentially communication, that without a viewer, it is not art or is only potential art.

    This understanding of art doesn’t preclude the need for an artist to create in isolation, without viewers, as a strategy to focus the creative process. And while in the that mode of working, it does us no harm to consider that we are making our art “for ourselves”.

    But, when the strategy has been successful and the work has been done, it would then, be time to focus on art as a communication, whether those others are present or distant, whether or not we ever know them.

    I think Stan posed the question something like this: if he worked in isolation without expectation of others being aware of his work, would what he created still be art? And I believe that it would be accurate to consider the work as art only when someone discovered and appreciated it as art. This is how I understand Duchamp’s proposition that “the viewer makes it art”.

    I discussed this recently with a few or my familiar and respected commentors on my Flickr image: http://tinyurl.com/5922jr

    As I concluded there, I’ve grown a weary of the question and think, now, that it really belongs to the last century’s concerns, since now, all human endeavor seems to clearly be communicative and art is represented as a valued quality of artfulness.

    Now, it seems pointless to differentiate between art and craft, product and development. Nothing valuable can be accurately said to be complete, objects seem to be states of a creative flow.

    Stan’s “tooning” software is as much a piece of art as the images it creates. My shooting photos, the pano stitching software uniting them, my developing the qualities I see in it thru processing, posting to Flickr, reacting to those who comment, my commenting on their images – all that being the essential value, the creative flow.

    All the while appreciating the miraculous hardware / software collaboration created by past and present millions of artists in every field of endeavor from mathematic theory to assembly and operational engineering making it all possible.

    I wish you well in creating your images and in your other work and hope you enjoy your participation in the creative, communicative flow however you manifest it.

  3. p0ps
    That was a difficult decision to make, as Flickr was an important part of my life for over two years. I really can’t see myself staying away from it for ever, especially after reading your kind comments here. I did need to take a 6 month break from it however, and as that is now coming to a close I am thinking about returning.

  4. Thanks – It’s an image I took last year in the Centre in Bristol. It’s a reflection in the water so you can see the fountains, although they are switched off. The large structure reflected is a sculpture that is intended to evoke the memory of sailing ships. The area that the fountains are sat on was once a dock for sailing vessels that came right up into the centre. It was the basis of Bristol’s trade for many hundreds of years. In the background is an office block. Since the decline of the docks for trade Bristol has become important as a financial centre with many large organisation moving their head offices here. So the image contains all of the major elements of Bristol’s past and present.

    The fountains are unkindly called by locals “eight old men pissing in a pool”. When they are switched on I tend to agree with them!

  5. Very interesting post. Although I have a flickr account, I’ve never actually used it. What I’m wondering is if the popularity that flickr now has, and hence creating “flickr style photos” that then go on to influence other flickr photos is at all avoidable?

    I would say that Etsy is in a similar predicament with the type of pop craft they feature. I suppose from Flickr and Etsy’s point of view it’s not a bad thing.

    Is it possible to have a site with such diverse styles and artists? All of which are popular and well received within the site. Deviant art is another example, there is a certain manga theme running through the site, which has worked great for them.

    I run a community site too and I would love it be a place where artists can come and share their work irrespective of style, somewhere to be inspired rather than influenced. However, I’m not sure it’s in my hands – or even should be?

  6. I have felt the exact same way as you stated here.
    I haven’t given up my addiction because I have this
    overwhelming desire to document my life. For me
    it is the journal I never kept but wished I did.

    Travis

  7. Hi Pete,

    While having your art or photos in a public place seems to have us all looking over our shoulders, I think the point most artists (I consider photographers a part of the “guild”) try to make when posting their art, is that they want you to “think.”

    We all come from different places, and our arrivals are all different, as well. I discovered “you,” during the quest for information, as I build my family a home out of shipping containers, in South Mississippi (a bigger armpit there never was! LOL!).

    But as an artist (I paint) all I care about is that you think about what you see. If it inspires a single conversation, I’ve accomplished what I set out to.

    So, some numb-nuts commented, after he “thinks” about what he sees… that you’re the worst photographer ever. Guess what? YOU WIN! You made the idiot think. You also made him identify himself publicly as having no taste, or even common sense. Hoo-rah! You win again!

    First rule of art, my friend… Don’t listen to the idiots. If you waste any time on them, you won’t get anything done. And that will deprive US of your vision.

    Ronin

    PS You can’t be “the worst photographer in the world.” I’ve held that title for years! LOL!

  8. Hi Ronin,
    Thanks for your comments, Makes me realise I maybe have been too sensitive about the photography. It’s probably because I’ve only been doing it for a while. I have no such worries about my illustration work, probably because I have been doing that a lot longer and have sold stuff before. But you are right, that shouldn’t matter, as the point as you say is to make people step out of their little worlds and grow a bit. You have inspired me to start posting again to Flickr and not care what others think.
    Pete

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