Introducing The Flickr Book
Well, it’s not here yet, but it’s one of the best ideas I’ve come up with yet, I think.
One of the best overviews of great photography that I’ve seen is something called The Photo Book published by Phaidon. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out you definitely should. It’s a great primer on the world’s greatest photographers. The idea is pretty simple, 500 photos by 500 photographers. The great ones are all included: Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, more modern greats like Andreas Gursky as well as important historical photo journalism like that of Eddie Adams and his Pulitzer prize winning photograph of the 1968 image of the execution of a Vietcong guerrilla in a Saigon street. The book is modestly priced at around $29 which is a huge bargain compared to other art photography books out there.
So what does this have to do with Flickr? Flickr should publish The Flickr Book. Similar in style to Phaidon’s The Photo Book it would also highlight 500 photographs from 500 photographers on Flickr. The kicker is that all of these photographs would come from Flickr’s Explore selection and would be selected by a panel of editors at Flickr (Stewart, Caterina, Heather, whoever else, etc.). The quality of the book would be high and the price modest — also like The Photo Book. A “The Photo Book” Flickr mashup — very cool.
Ok, and here’s the really, really, really best part. All profits from the project could go to one of two places.
First Flickr has already been very supportive of Creative Commons and this is great to see. I license all my photographs via Creative Commons and it is a wonderful way to be able to share your work with the world while still maintaining some degree of control over your images from a commercial sense. This could be a great project to raise additional funds for Creative Commons.
Alternatively, and I actually like this one even better, profits from the project could go to Kids with Cameras, a non-profit organization that teaches the art of photography to marginalized children in communities around the world. I picked up my first SLR when I was about 14 and learning photography as a child has had a profound impact on my life. To be able to provide the tools of photography to poor kids around the world who can’t afford them and allow them to use this medium as an outlet and way to explore their world is tremendously empowering from a self confidence and self reflection perspective and provides tremendous emotional value to the disadvantaged.
So what’s the downside to this project? Well first off Yahoo! could spend the money to publish a truly fantastic quality book and then nobody buys it (well you probably get at least 500 people and their family who buy it but no one beyond that). I’m not sure on the cost to publish a book like this but I would think it could be a small price to pay for the tremendous amount of publicity that this project would receive and the goodwill directed towards both Yahoo! and Flickr over the project. Yahoo! of course does advertise and could direct people towards the book. They could also provide html code to put an ad for the book on people’s blogs or Flickrstreams and get a boatload of free advertising for the book and the project (and for Flickr and Yahoo!). Even if the book failed, they would not lose.
So what’s the upside? Tremendously powerful things.
1. The very, very, very most important thing, the book becomes an absolute success, a top selling book on photography, Yahoo! recoups their publishing cost and thousands of poor children are introduced to the world of photography (or funds are raised for Creative Commons). Wow. To think — 500 mostly unknown photographers could help children in such a profound way.
2. The book becomes successful and publicly promotes these 500 mostly unknown amateur photographers to the rest of the world and helps break some new photo artists out into the art world. It is picked up by blogs as well as the mainstream press and Flickr is heralded as being a new place for tomorrow’s great art photographers to be found and discovered.
3. We all get to see 500 stunning photographs leap from Flickr’s screen and onto the printed page in a very professional printed book. The world is made a more beautiful place because another beautiful art photography book has been made and we all are that much more enriched by it.
4. The world is made that much more aware of Flickr, and more importantly that Flickr is not only a place to share photos, snapshots, family photos, etc., but that it has become a place where great art photography is also showcased. All of us have been completely impressed and overwhelmed by the quality of what is showing up on Flickr. What I see on Flickr frequently is on par with what the great art photographers of the world are shooting and I think it’s important to get that message out to the rest of the world.
If the book becomes wildly successful (and it certainly could) you also have the 500 photographers each supply their print to the project which then tours the U.S. in galleries or museums, or public venues, etc. You could also do both an actual and online auction companion for these prints that raises additional money for the designated non-profits. The power of an online auction combined with a traveling physical show has many prints sell for thousands of dollars and goes to further validate the artistic skills of these artists.
The way I see it, there is no downside for Yahoo! on this project. Perhaps you might get some jealously or hurt feelings from photographers that didn’t make the 500 photo book, but we’d have to understand that not everyone could — and if it was successful you could always do one the next year and the next year and so on (raising even more money for charity). Whether the project was only mildly successful or a home run, either way Flickr and Yahoo! get a ton of publicity over this. It’s a total win for them.
As all of the photos would come from Flickr’s Explore feature (which interestingly enough is 500 photos a day) this could really be a great way to promote this feature on Flickr. You might even want to print in the book that as of date X, this was the XXX ranked photo in Flickr’s interestingness Explore stream. Of course if you chose CC as your charity you’d most likely want to only include CC photos in the book to add to the power of this message.
All of the photographers would need to agree to be in the book but you wouldn’t have a problem with this. We are all pretty charitbly minded in the Flickr Community and if someone didn’t want to participate you could always just choose someone else.
Phaidon could object to the likeness to their project, but as it would be helping kids and giving them free publicity I doubt they would. And even if they did, then you just make the project distinctly different enough to cover the copyright issues.
I think you put Heather Champ in charge of the project as she’s on Flickr staff and also has had some experience putting things like this together with JPG magazine. Although her husband Derek Powazek is not a Flickr employee, he would be a natural person to oversee the project with her.
I really think this is a fantas
tic idea, one of the better ones that I’ve come up with recently, but I’m coming up with crazy ideas every single day and there may be many reasons why this wouldn’t be such a great thing to do. What are your thoughts on a book like this? Do you think it would create the buzz that I do for Yahoo! and Flickr or do I have my Flickrblinders on and people wouldn’t buy/promote it. Would you buy a book like this for $29?