A few weeks back I blogged about the latest Flickr feature, galleries. I’ve been using and making galleries now for a few weeks and thought I’d take a second to record my follow up observations after my initial post on the launch. I’ve been making one new gallery a day since Flickr launched the service.
Conceptually I think the idea of allowing users the ability to curate galleries of images on Flickr super interesting — one of the more interesting ways to use the service actually. Practically speaking though I think that their are some serious flaws to how this service has been designed and I think that it could be significantly improved.
Problem #1: Flickr will not allow either moderate/restricted images or secretly NIPSA (not in public site areas) censored material to be put into galleries.
Flickr has three ways that they censor your images. The first is simple. If they don’t like your image they just delete it (and maybe your entire account along with it).
The second is a less harsh public way. Either you can voluntary mark your own images as restricted or if you don’t they might. When they do this your images are marked “moderate” or “restricted” on the image and you are made aware of the Flickr act.
The third way is a secret more nefarious way. Flickr uses a method whereby they will secretly mark your image NIPSA. Sometimes this happens even while to your face they will let you know that your image has been reviewed as “safe” by Flickr staff. You have no way of knowing which of your images have been secretly marked NIPSA and which have not. For a while Flickr had my entire photostream marked as NIPSA.
Whatever the case, neither moderate/restricted content or secret NIPSA content can be included in galleries. This is too bad. As a curator I should not be precluded from making galleries of whatever content I’d like.
Recently I made a gallery of images of Photo Realism painter Chuck Close’s painting “Mark” that hangs in the NY Met. If someone wanted to make a similar gallery of say Photo Realist Painter Mel Ramos’ work, they could not included two of my images of a painting of his that hangs in the all ages gallery at the Oakland Museum of California. The reason why? Flickr has marked these Ramos painting images of mine as “restricted.” It sucks that something that can exist in a real life gallery in an all ages major metropolitan museum gallery, cannot exist in a virtual gallery on Flickr.
This problem would be easy enough to fix by simply attaching a “restricted” or “moderate” rating to any gallery that held “restricted” or “moderate” images. There is no reason why if you’ve opted in to view this material that you should not be able to both create and view galleries that include this material. Precluding them prevents me from making a kick ass gallery of images by one of my favorite photographers Merkley (for instance). Even though Merkley had a real life gallery showing of some of his work at 111 Minna, a physical gallery. I cannot create a comparable virtual gallery of his work because Flickr won’t allow it. Flickr has a method whereby users can opt in to view material that is rated moderate or restricted.
Problem #2: User Created Galleries largely languish in obscurity. Once you go through the work of making a gallery there are no easy ways for other people to get to them. The people whose images you include in the gallery are notified of this fact on their recent activity page so they come and visit. But other than them, people largely don’t visit galleries. These are the last five galleries where people have used my own images. Plug1 (0 views), mannequin (0 views), Swoon worthy B&W (23 views), Galactic (2 views), and Cocktails (8 views). These galleries will likely have more views when you look at them, but that’s largely because I’ve posted links to them in this blog post. If someone goes through the work of curating a gallery it would be nice to see other ways on Flickr where people could access them.
The only method that Flickr has for promoting galleries right now is through a handful of galleries on the mostly stale gallery explore page which appears to be hand-curated by flickr staff, mostly, it appears, on the basis of whether or not flickr staff likes you or decided to include you as a user in the beta of the feature.
Problem #3: How can I see my friends/contacts galleries? At present there is no easy way to view the galleries of your contacts on Flickr. You are not notified when they make a gallery (unless your image is in it). There is no page like the “your contacts” photo page where you can go to see them. Without the tedious method of digging deep down into their photo page to find if (and most don’t) they even have galleries you’d never know that they exist.
I believe that these three problems above could easily be corrected. The first problem is easy. Simply allow any images to be included in galleries, rather than restrict publicly or privately censored images. There is no good reason why Flickr should not do this. It might not fit into staff’s vision of community shaping or moderation or whatever they call it, but prohibiting good users like Merkley from being included in this feature sucks.
In terms of the second problem, Flickr needs a central place where users can explore galleries. The page should be repopulated with new galleries as they are created every day and should rely on objective data around the interestingness ranking of galleries (rather than if Flickr staff likes your or dislikes you — they already have the flickr blog for that).
The third problem would also be easily solved by creating a tab on an explore gallery pages that featured all of the galleries created by your contacts/friends and family. If friends of mine create galleries, I want to see them.
Galleries on Flickr has enormous potential. Curation is an incredibly significant discipline that all artists ought to consider pursuing. But as it stands right now, the new service from Flickr feels half-baked. I’m still going to make a gallery a day on Flickr for a while and continue promoting my galleries elsewhere than Flickr on the web, but Flickr needs to consider that as it stands now the new feature lacks serious teeth, which is too bad because the feature does in fact have so much potential.
Here are the galleries that I’ve created so far on Flickr:
The Owls are Not What They Seem
LJ’s Skid Row Photography
Tears of a Clown
Your Perfect Skin
Cash for Clunkers
This is Mark
Recent Favorites from the Lightbox
Bowling for Neon