I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with photography in my life. We discovered each other in college, and like many young loves, we burned bright for a while, exploring the streets of Boston, then burned out.
She’s an expensive habit, and developing roll after roll of film and making print after print (yes, I’m dating myself – now get off my lawn, whippersnapper) was tough to do on a young reporter’s salary.
We’d have brief dalliances now and then – on a vacation to St. John, we spent a steamy week with huge starfish and the ruins of sugar mills. In Alaska, we had a close encounter with a bear.
During those dark ages (pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter), I actually had to be in the same room with people I showed my photos to. That usually meant that any feedback I got came with something of a grain of salt – most people are generally kinder when you’re face-to-face with them, and these were people I knew.
When it comes to art – I often end up thinking of myself as more of a mechanic than an artist. That’s mostly because of experiences in the real job – making things run smoothly and on time is a valuable trait.
But two things have let me explore my artistic side more – buying a digital SLR, and discovering Flickr.
I’ve only scratched the surface of Flickr, even after four years as a pro member. There are so many groups, so many discussions and so much knowledge – it’s an almost overwhelming source of inspiration and knowledge. It’s a social network without (most of ) the obnoxious political commentary and with a lot more mind-blowing brainwork.
Using Flickr to plan trips has been invaluable – some of my favorite images from Banff and Maui came from inspiration I found on Flickr – seeing where people have been and what ideas they had, wondering how I can build on them, and reading how people dealt with different situations.
And, being able to bring my photos to a wider audience has been tremendously rewarding. I’m sure this is the same for users of Picasa, Smugmug, and other services – but I’ve used several of these, and I haven’t found one that matches Flickr for ease of use and breadth of community.
I’m going to mark 50,000 photo views this week, and I can’t imagine sharing my photos with that many people without Flickr.
It also offers a good dose of humility – no matter how great a photo I think I’ve taken, I know there’s one photo that will be more popular.
Allow me to explain.
I’ve never met Amalie Benjamin.
I’ve seen her on TV, of course, and have read her work for years in the Boston Globe, first covering the Red Sox then on different assignments. I follow her on Twitter for her observations about the Boston sports scene. She’s a rarity – a Boston sportswriter who doesn’t overindulge in hyperbole and sarcasm.
The one time I saw her in person was at a Red Sox game against the Rangers in Arlington – she and then-NESN TV spokesperson Heidi Watney were doing a pre-game segment.
Armed with my shiny new DSLR, I was taking pictures of the players in pre-game workouts. I took one frame of Benjamin and Watney together and threw it up on my Flickr account with the other photos from the game.
It’s not anyone’s definition of a great photo, and it’s not particularly flattering to either subject – I thought it was just something different to add to the pregame shots.
It’s gotten almost 5,000 of my 50,000 photo views.
Humility, thy name is Amalie.