Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Flickr Fix

My mom told me on the phone yesterday that 'everyone misses me' on my blog. Well, to all fifteen of you that read this on a semiregular basis, I apologize. I won't go as far as to call myself something that rhymes with 'sad flogger,' but I will write a post, at least a quick one.

I actually have two unfinished posts in the queue since my last published one. I get into them a ways, lose momentum, and then never get back to them. One of them was actually pretty interesting from a drama-in-Brazil standpoint, maybe someday I'll get back to it.

So what's been up with me? Well, the family aside, way too much work, which is too boring to write about, and then my latest obsession, which has been to beef up my Flickr presence.

I pay 25 bucks a year for the privilege of unlimited uploads to Flickr.com. I post lots of photos, I participate in various groups, and I submit pictures of my artwork to them whenever I make something new. It's been fun, and I've been at it for a couple years. Because of Flickr I discovered just how much of a global phenomenon the sticker thing is, and discovered wheatpasting and my other current obsession and favorite medium industrial oil stick markers, aka 'streaks.'

But one thing that was starting to really bother me was my Flickr stats. Flickr tells you how many times your pictures have been viewed, how many people call each one a 'favorite,' how many comments you've gotten on each one, etcetera etcetera. They even have some mystical algorithm for 'interestingness' to figure out which are you most... interesting pictures.

To put it bluntly, my stats didn't rate and I didn't like it. I'd look at some other people's pictures and they would have been viewed hundreds of times and have dozens of comments and I was left saying why not me too? So about six weeks ago I set out to try to boost them stats.

The obvious way to do this is, well, to take great pictures I suppose, but barring that you need to participate in the community. So I started adding 'contacts' and 'favoriting' lots of photos and writing 'comments.' This hopefully makes me more visible and makes more people like me and make all those numbers surrounding my images larger.

It's been kinda fun, although a lot more work than I would have expected. I recently broke the 200 contacts threshold, which is a good start, but some of these people have five hundred or a thousand contacts. I would like to get to 500. And I'd like to actually be familiar with the photos and artwork of those contacts. That's part of what's making it so slow- I won't just add a person, I want to make sure they actually take pictures/make artwork that I like, and then I add them. Being somewhat picky, that takes a while. I've gotten into a kind of pattern: cruise one of the many groups I belong to until I spot an image that I like. Then I look at the rest of the person's photos, and 'favorite' a couple of them. Then I decide if I'll make them a contact. Often, the person will then make you a contact (I always do) which is the whole object of the thing- if you are their contact, then they're more likely to see your new pics and make comments and blah blah blah!!

It suddenly occurs to me that all this might be very boring to anyone who isn't into Flickr, or online networking, or anything like that. So I'll try to keep it short and relatively interesting.

I started out adding lots of graffiti and street art contacts, as that was my Flickr entry point. Then I started to get bored of that, so I began adding lots of visual artists working in other media. I'm a firm believer that if you want to be an innovator in one thing, you have to have strong influences from other things. Then you start innovating.

But the best thing about the whole process has been finding all these fantastic artists from around the world, who are making incredible stuff and posting it online for everyone to see. Here's a few of my faves:

  • Binho Martins, from here in Brazil, who paints on canvas as well as making tattoos and street art
  • Enrico infidel D'Elia Righetti De Angelis, from Rome, who does fantastically intricate drawings and bizarre portraits
  • Insane, who is my current favorite graffiti artist, from São Paulo
  • Meredith Dittmar, from Portland, Oregon, who makes fantastic sculptures out of 'polymer clay' (Fimo and the like)
Wait a minute, you are saying, Isn't this Flickr site supposed to be about photography?

And then you remember: Hold on, didn't you major in photography in college?

Where's all the photographers??

Yeah, yeah. Photographers. There's lots of photographers on flickr too. And technically most or all of these other artists are photographers too, unless they're getting someone else to take pictures of their work. But the truth is, I'm not in it for the photography. I'm trying to immerse myself in the other visual arts, and I can find lots of inspiring stuff right here on my laptop.

I started out this whole thing trying to make a parallel effort on fotolog.com, which is the preferred photo community of most of the graffiteiros around here. But I gotta confess- I don't like it very much. It has none of the bells and whistles of Flickr, and is kind of dumb. If you've already added someone as a contact, it still asks you if you want to add that person as a contact. Yo, Web 2.0 people! Let's get with the program! I did however find at least one artist I really like on the site, this guy Mateo who lives in Germany.

So what's the upshot of this whole thing? I currently have 213 contacts, and 143 of them call me a contact. Someone added me as I was writing this post. I have one photo that has been viewed 38 times since I started this six weeks ago.

I'm still getting almost no comments.

And almost nobody is favoriting my images.

Which brings me to the unfortunate question: are my pictures just not that interesting?

Or am I not trying hard enough?

Maybe things will look different when I have 500 contacts.


Troy said...

I looked at your photos on Flickr, and if I must comment, I'd say there is something missing in your photos. Photography is about content, framing and lighting.
The content may be great, I can't really tell, mainly because the context in which you shoot the content almost strips the content of its character. I don't see where you use lighting and shadows to give your shots depth and emotion. That's just my honest opinion but I didn't look at all your photos, maybe I missed the best ones..

markuza said...

gee thanks.

Troy said...

You seem to like to photograph graffiti. Check out this guy, Alexandre Orion (google him). He's and artist and a photographer. He had a neat way of capturing his graffiti in context with the surroundings, making some fantastic compositions. I'm not saying you should copy his style but its a perfect example that illustrates the difference between taking a picture of some graffiti on a wall, and creating photo art by photographing graffiti. I hope you take my comments in good spirit, I don't mean to discredit your work.

markuza said...

Alexandre Orion is awesome- that piece he did with the skulls in the tunnel has to be one of the all time greatest pieces of street art ever - there's a great video about it on YouTube.

Regarding my photos, there are photos of art, and there are photos as art, and sometimes a photo is both things, as you pointed out in the works of Orion. I put most of the pictures I've currently got on Flickr in the first category: photos of art. They don't aspire to be great photos, they are a record of artworks taken with my little point and shoot camera. That being said, I think they are pretty good for what they are.

Regarding photography in general, we could talk about that all day- as I mentioned in my post I did study it in college.

Troy said...

I agree with you 100% about photos of art vs photos as art. I was mostly referring to photography of graffiti. Graffiti exist as a painting on a canvas like all other paintings. However the debate can be made that the wall is not necessarily the canvas, but it's the building, or the street or whatever surroundings that exists within the context of the composition. Hence, photography of graffiti, in my humble opinion, should include some representation of the entire composition to be fully understood. Of course, we're not talking about gang markings haphazardly placed around the city, but carefully placed works. But this is a very debatable topic, maybe you should write a blog about it, lol. However you dohave a good eye for what is considered art.

markuza said...

Context! I love context. In terms of graffiti in general, I think it would be great if more graffiteiros thought more about the context of what they are painting rather than using the wall as any old canvas regardless of what kind of wall it is. I've seen paintings here where windows and such are just painted over and ignored rather than being incorporated into the piece. Of course, that's hard if you've got a drawing you've been working on at home and then go out to look for a wall to put it on, not everyone wants to rework their stuff to suit the wall.

I agree that context is important in photos of graffiti as well- I usually take at least two shots of my pieces- one as a closeup, and one with a wider angle. It's a tradeoff- the wider the angle (the more context) the less detail of the piece.

Are you familiar with the work of Aaron Siskind? He did a very famous body of work of closeups of surfaces that reduce them to shapes, textures, and patterns. They were extremely influential (certainly influenced me) and I even saw a photo exhibit here in Salvador recently where the photographer had done similar works, but they were closeups of the sides of freighters presumably here in the bay. I thought they were great. Unfortunately they were only in a book they had for sale, and not the work on display.

Maris said...

Woah, you do have a lot of photos. I like them. The best thing about graffiti (to me) is that there are no rules, and if there are, you find a way to bend them. I just don't think you should have to worry about being so 'artsy' when taking pictures of graffiti. Oh man! Lets pleeeeeeez not be so serious about graffiti like it's some elitest la de dah art project. Remember, Celadus the Thracian Still makes the girls sigh.
Anyway, I have 2 questions maybe you can answer:
1) How important is it for artists to be anonomous in Brazil. Do they even care about that?
2) How do you make your wheat paste for the stickers? Do you use some special type of paper?

markuza said...

Thanks Maris- you're right, enough about the serious stuff- you may have gathered from my graffiti that it's kind of silly anyways. I had to google Celadus the Thracian - I had no idea graffiti existed before the invention of spray paint! Only kidding.

To answer your questions- I have seen some graffiti artists hide their faces for photos, but I've also seen them write their email addresses next to pieces (and even get work out of it) so I'd say in general you don't need to worry about it at all. That is, unless you are a pichador, which is much more frowned upon. Those guys don't leave their emails, and if they are writing their names I sure can't read what they're writing.

Regarding wheatpaste, that's one of those brilliant simple miracles that makes me happy to be alive. It's just water, flour, and heat until it thickens. There's actually quite a good article about it on Wikipedia, although they recommend mixing flour to water at a 1:1 ratio, where I find 1 flour to 3 or 4 water gives me the consistency I prefer. Which reminds me, I haven't done any wheatpasting in a while- I need to get out and do some more. Along with everything else I need to do.

Justin M said...

I think the distinction about photography of art and photography as art is a good one. It could be both, too I guess. I wonder what your goal is in gathering comments from Flickr viewers. Sharing your work? Postive feed back? Critism? Your standing among the graffiti photographers? It does seem that you have as many and often more photos posted than your other contacts and you do belong to a rather large community of flickr groups. It seems like you are doing quite a bit already in regard to getting your stuff out there.
Sometimes after an outdoor trip I've been on and have shot a number of photos, I do send a link to friends and family via yahoo. I've also set up facebook to show uploads of photos. Unfortunately those strategies don't usually have longevity.
Justin M (Seattle, WA)

markuza said...

Yes, all of the above. Basically, I'm just trying to get myself out there so people know who I am. And that's the crazy thing, and what I was whining about- is why some picture of a dude with his kid at a baseball game will get 60+ views and multiple comments while mine get almost nothing. I'll figure it out eventually- or not.