My new best friend, flickr

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I was introduced to flickr, the beta site for sharing and storing photographs by my good friend Chuck P who I’ve known since college days in Madison and who has always been, in my book, a photographer extraordinaire, even though he’s not shown his work outside his circle of friends. (image is “Circus Parade 80” taken in Madison)

Chuck and his family were up from New Orleans the other weekend for the high school graduation of their son, Alex from the George School and when he mentioned flickr and how great it was, we fired up the computer so he could give me the tour.

Chuck has several groups of photographs on his page at flickr. I must have seen some of the work, which dates from the late 1970s and 1980s, but to see it in what amounts to an online exhibit laid out in the wonderful professional fashion the site offers was thrilling. You can see photographs at thumbnail, mid-size, and high resolution. It’s the best possible interface to see art. And it’s free, fellow travelers! And the software at flickr sizes your images for you. You just upload it at your highest resolution and they do the rest.

As I looked at Chuck’s wonderful black and white street shots and people shots, all with the artist’s wide-eyed point of view asking “do you believe this — ain’t it great?” I was thrilled. Here, at last, is a public venue where Chuck’s work will be seen — and has been. Chuck is huge in the flickr community (a kind of friendster without the hookup vibe). People love his work and leave him mash notes and testimonials like crazy. It’s no wonder. Chuck’s work is humanist with touches of humor and social commentary. He’s in the Garry Winogrand tradition of street photography with heart. (image is “Spidey 79, also from Madison, which shows a kid who’s larger than Spiderman hugging the petite masked one.)

I’m waiting for him to put up the series of satellite dish photographs he told me he started taking when they first moved to New Orleans. This was before the advent of the modest-sized dishes that sit demurely near your second-floor window and back when your dish might be almost as big as your house. But the guy’s got a backlog of undeveloped film sitting in drawers and closets and so I’ll be patient. But I do wish he’d get a grant from someone to help him free up time to print those pix and get them up and out and in the world for I feel a palpable need for more. And in fact I’m not alone. The comments Chuck’s been getting on his work (you can read them at the site) show that people think they’ve tapped into a treasure chest here and they’re hungry for more. (image below is “Wall Street 77” showing an ambiguous transaction of some sort. I love the dramatic light which casts the whole thing in the realm of theatre.)

The flickr community, for that’s what it is, is very group-friendly. Check out and see if it’s for you. You upload your pictures, title them, group them into thematic sets and send them into the cyber world. You can make them private so nobody but an anointed few can view them, or, and this is so much better, make them public and they go up with everybody else’s in a photo-array reminiscent of the great democratic free for all exhibit “Snapshot” that perched at Arcadia University’s art gallery in 2001. Here’s my review of Snapshot in the Weekly.

There’s also groups you can join if you have time or interest for such. My favorite is the Macintosh group — which has pictures of computers — because really, do you know any group of people more obsessed than Mac users?

flickr is for the obsessed. People put loads of junk up but you know it’s their world and they love it. Just like in “Snapshot, flickr’s photostream has images of cats and dogs, babies and families, birds, sunsets, trees, and other stuff. It’s a new kind of family of man with stuff. Upbeat and ebullient, it’s democratic and offers people a chance to connect over the beloved imagery. (image is “DC Mall 82”)

You know I’m obsessed, right. So I, too, have a flickr page. I’ve been spending too much time with it and, unlike Chuck’s page, mine feels like a random image generator — which it is. But I’ll whip it in shape in time, getting some photo sets that make sense and discarding the dross.

Flickr is my new best friend and right now we’re having a great chat about photography.

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