Flickr: The Book

I’ve learned so much about online communities and interaction from the Daily Post’s Flickr group. I’ve written about it before and I’m fairly sure I will in the future, as I think Flickr is a wonderful example of collaborative story-telling.

But the reason I’ve been immersed in Flickr this week is because a group of us are working on a new book featuring the work of the group. It’s being designed by Trinity Mirror’s SportMedia department, and will feature several pages of work by the Post & Echo photographers, followed by substantially more pages of seriously wonderful images from the Flickr group.

The aim is to capture the essence of European Capital of Culture Year, and all the usual suspects are there (La Princess, the Tall Ships, Brouhaha, Macca at Anfield) but the UGC element gives it more depth, more… heart.
I think the difference is that the Flickr photographers weren’t running to a tight schedule, covering the event for two papers, up against a deadline and with another job to get to. They were immersed in the event, spectator and recorder (sometimes participant); they were capturing the essence of the performance, rather than faithfully portraying an event.

So we have, for example, a beautiful shot of a Tall Ship sailing past the Liver Building taken by a Post & Echo photographer whose brief was to show readers what was happening.
Alongside it is a Flickr photo of a father and his young son, grabbing a five minute sit-down amid all the excitement of the day and sharing an ice cream. This image was uploaded the Flickr group and sat amid other photos of flying pennants, the Mexican ship’s maharishi band and throngs of visitors. It was a part of a multi-dimensional tapestry that comprehensively depicted an exciting day on the Liverpool waterfront.

The Flickr photographs are not better than the professional photographers, nor is the reverse true; they compliment each other. We use Flickr photos in the paper every week, credit the photographer and link back, but the book feels different. We couldn’t have done it without the co-operation of the Flickr members, and that makes it special.

The book will, I think, bring pleasure to a lot of people and – perhaps more importantly – raise money for our Liverpool Unites charity. We contacted the Flickr group for permission (via a posting on the discussion board and, once photos had been selected, individually) and the warmth of the responses to the idea was really something. Interestingly, everyone chose to be bylined under their ‘real’ names, not their Flickr names.

For me, this project has offered some clue to new, exciting ways newspapers can work with communities to create something new, lasting and valuable for readers. We could have produced a book of 2008 using staff images only and it would have been a quality publication. But collaborating with the Flickr group to tell the story of a special year feels so much more satisfying and is, I think, a more appropriate tribute.

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About Alison Gow

I'm a journalist, particularly interested in story-telling, networks and digital innovation.
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4 Responses to Flickr: The Book

  1. sarahhartley says:

    Hi AlisonI think this book project sounds great – look forward to seeing a copy.Interested in how you contacted all the photographers too – thinking maybe we should all develop a code of conduct for our dealings with groups in this way. I always contact people on the MEN’s flickrgroup too but I’ve been a bit shocked at times to hear that some people still believe these contributors should be “grateful” to be included in their local paper!Keep up the good work šŸ™‚

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  2. Alison Gow says:

    Hi Sarah, David Higgerson posted this on the group’s discussion board: (I’ve cut it a bit for brevity)<>Hello everyone,I just thought I’d tell you about our Capital of Culture: Year in review guide we’re about to start producing. We’d like it, in part, to be a showcase of all the pictures we’ve already used in print and some of those we haven’t. These will sit with pictures taken by our staff photographers over the year.It goes without saying that every picture will have a credit (ideally, using your real name rather than flickr handle if you’re happy with that) and, building on suggestions from the group following our summer Flickr supplement, everyone will receive a posted copy of the guide. If you’re happy for this to happen, please let me either by personal message on Flickr or on my work email. Look forward to hearing from you.<>People who didn’t get in touch following that message, whose pictures we wanted to use, we contacted directly via Flickrmail – took less than 24 hours to get a response in every case. Do we need a Code of Conduct? That’s a really interesting question; certainly the idea of giving credit/linking/sharing needs addressing though training. My mantra to reporters involved in the Flickr group is: “It’s a conversation! If you’re using a photo, let the photographer know; give feedback, ask for feedback, invite ideas”. Newspapers need to grasp that we don’t own these networks, even if we created the groups; they are owned by everyone using them.

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  3. David says:

    First off, how dare you cut my prose for brevity. Secondly, and this is my serious point, perhaps I’m fortunate never to have heard the “grateful” scenario which Sarah describes, other than perhaps just when I was starting out on weeklies in the 90s. I think the quality of the photography from the group throughout the year has impressed everybody. Throughout the year, the photos have more than punched their weight for inclusion in the print product – and some have generated news stories in their own right. For me, the challenge is to ensure the photographers continue to want to be included in the future. As long as it is a conversation with the photographers, and we tell people when we use their photos, hopefully that will continue. So, in terms of a framework or voluntary code, I’d say:1. Make it clear in the group pix may be used in print.2. Ask people if they prefer to have a Flickr handle or a real name in print3. Tell people when their pictures are used4. Offer them a copy of the publication if they want5. Always maintain a two-way conversation on the group.6. If someone says no, respect their decision. Of all the Flickr pictures, only one person said no to the book, and that was for commercial reasons (he was contracted elsewhere)

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