The Explore Factor

SpeedLimit45, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

A few days ago, back when I was on holiday, I posted a very long-winded diatribe slamming the type of photographers I like to call “gear heads” in one of the on-line forums I frequent. You know these people, actually, they are the people who show up at camera clubs and make disparaging remarks about your equipment. Instead of introducing themselves and being nice, they walk right up to you and say things like, “oh, it’s too bad you can’t afford a BlahBlahBlah lens.” These are the type of people who memorize sharpness charts. I don’t memorize sharpness charts. I’m not that kind of photographer. I have *working* equipment, you know, the kind that actually takes pictures. I don’t care if it gets dinged or dented, and I don’t wear it around my neck to show it off like some kind of photographic “bling;” I just use it to take pictures.

Well, long story short, I’ve always been, and probably always will be, more of a “visual artist” than a photographer. I’m not into the gear, I could care less about which camera brand you prefer or what “series” your lenses are, I’m just into the images. I like to make pictures, take pictures, look at pictures, and the like, and that’s basically what I posted in this on-line forum.

The response has been sort of overwhelming. For starters, the thread I started, which I half expected to be completely ignored, now has over 100 responses. From the looks of things, there are a lot of photographers (ok, “visual artists” if you prefer) out there who feel the same way I do (and some use even cheaper equipment…I bet these people get into more shows than I do. :~) I have gotten private email responses from people in far reaches of the globe telling me not to listen to such snobbery and to just “do my own thing.” And, horror of horrors, some people actually started looking at my work.

An interesting “side effect” of this is that, since I have been cleaning (painting) my house a bit and busy with some exhibition “foo” I have not had time to take (actually upload) many new pictures. Bottom line? The picture that’s sitting on top of my flickr queue has been sitting there for more than a few days now. Since my posting in this forum, and in light of the response I received, my image has now made the ranks of Flickr’s Explore.

Those of you who read my blog probably know how I feel about Flickr’s Explore already, but just in case, here’s a brief summary. There are some nice pictures in Explore, really there are. But, my “goal” if you will, has never been and will never be making it to the pages of “Explore.” It’s just not my thing. At the end of the day, at the time I sit down and push that little “Upload Now” button on each image, I really could give a rat’s bottom about the ranking a computer algorithm is going to assign to my soon-to-be-uploaded image. Though the pictures in Explore are often nice to sort of “flip through,” I just don’t give a bugger about making Explore. I’ve done it before, I’ll probably (somehow) do it again and I really could care less when it happens.

But, there’s an interesting thing that happens to an image once it makes Explore. People start looking at it. If it’s a good image, more people look at it. The more people that look at it, the more its “interestingness factor” (Flickr’s term) goes up, The more interesting it is according to Flickr, the higher it ranks in Explore, and so on. You can probably guess what’s happening here. It starts to become more popular just because, well, because it was popular to start with (an enigma I know, but that’s how Flickr works.) The image in question is now my fourth or fifth most popular according to the Flickr “interestingness algorithm” (or, you know, the Magic Donkey’s secret sauce.)

So now, I’ve posted an image showing how you don’t need the latest in gear, fancy series lenses, or camera “foo” to take a picture, and it’s made Explore and I’m getting all of these comments, from people I don’t know, looking at my picture. It’s odd that, really it is. I mean, at the end of the day, I do feel it’s all about the pictures but, man, it feels a bit weird to be thrust into the spotlight a bit like this (especially with something that was, sort of, well, quite honestly, “average” by all accounts, to begin with.)

It goes without saying really but the image is not really worthy of Explore. It only made it there because of the post. And the post wasn’t anything all that earth shattering, it was just a rant from me, because I was a bit fed up and put off by some snobbery. But, somehow, in some little way, I guess it struck a cord and just sort of snowballed into “all that and more.” It’s a bit odd to think that “Carol’s Little Rant” made the ranks of Explore, really it is, but there you have it. (The Magic Donkey has smiled upon the likes of me.)

I guess what I first said about the image in question still holds true. Cameras and gear and, now too, “interestingness algorithms” don’t matter, people do. Having expensive gear, fancy lenses or making Explore is nice, but it’s just that, nice. It’s not inspiring. If you want inspiration, you have to work for it. That’s not something the silly old Magic Donkey is going to cough up on your shirt. That’s something you get when you go out into the field (or back into the studio) and “click away at” each and every day. (That’s the “blood, sweat, and tears” that go into making the images, not the gloss that’s on the surface for everybody to fawn over.)

At the end of the day, when we lay the camera’s down to rest in their bags, recharge our batteries, and decide what to upload, it’s all about the emotional response-the reaction you get from seeing the image. If it moves somebody, if somebody looks at it enough to favorite it, or comment it, feed the Magic Donkey a carrot somehow, or even send you a private email, then the image has touched somebody and that’s really what photography is all about, I guess. Explore factor or not, if it moves you, if you like it, favorite it, and enjoy it, it can’t be all that bad.

Until next time…


1 Comment

  1. CraftyGuy
    January 6, 2009 / 5:14 pm

    Hear hear!!

    I’ve had a few photos make Explore, only one of which I would even close to the neighborhood of being Explore-worthy. The others? They fall into the category of “I have no steenkin’ clue why people find this interesting”.

    Go figure…

    But definitely, Explore is a nicety only, and not a goal.

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