If you make it possible to build, they will come

Photography nerds + some web geekery = inspiring photography project

My favorite flickr group is Utata. Yes, 365 days is important to me, but Utata is my peeps — it’s my home on flickr. It also happens to be a great example of the kind of community projects that are possible with an open social software ecosystem.

See, every member of Utata has a flickr account. (I don’t know the number, but my sense is that the vast majority of the now 11,000+ strong group have paid accounts.) Utata has its own website, but flickr hosts all the photos displayed on it. Thanks to flickr’s API and tagging capabilities (including machine tags) pretty amazing feats are possible. Think for a minute what might be possible if, say, facebook were this open… but I digress. This post is really about kickass photos.

Most of the folks in Utata aren’t professional photographers, though you might not realize it browsing through the tribe’s most recent project, The Utatan. It has six different sections, and this is just a taste based on my clicking around earlier today. I’ve just started exploring it — I have a feeling I could write this post again tomorrow, and pick a whole new set of examples. It’s that good.

The Utatan





Photo Journalism

  • Tim Mitchard’s the sea forts is irresistible if abandoned structures, the sea, or hulking bits of rust intrigue you
  • Malcolm Matthews’s powerful hurt, grief, and flickr will probably make most people who read it cry; I did


  • Greg Wolkins’s portfolio contains six images that, in some way that I can’t quite put my finger on now, relate to each other and caught my eye
  • You might not expect members of an online photo group to shoot film, but you’d be wrong — Sara Eigen shoots film

Writing an artist’s statement wasn’t a project requirement, but it was something we were encouraged to do — and I’ve been waiting to read what folks came up with. I love the way Gwen E. Sprague includes the sentence, “Since I can find interest in the most mundane of items, it leads to an eclectic collection of photographs, currently not adhering to any definitive style, all of which could probably be titled ‘Something Cool I Saw Today'” in hers. Lori Hale Williams (aka getthebubbles) talks about her day job as marine biologist and where she’d like to go next with her photography. Pam Ullman left the business world to write, and tells us how when she lost her creative edge, photography gave it back her.

It makes something in me sing, knowing that these women — none of ’em “professional” photographers — took the time to write artist’s statements. The reason I decided to participate in the big project was the challenge of writing one: I didn’t think I could do it. Okay, fine, my real debate I was whether or not I should write one. Being a bit mean, it’s flaky, you don’t need to, you aren’t an artist are the kinds of things I told myself when I thought about writing my statement in the beginning. Eventually the fuck that, you love doing this so talk about it side of my brain won out.

It’s worth spending a lot of time looking at the photographs in The Utatan — you probably can’t go wrong if you start anywhere and just click on the next or random links on each page. If you are curious to see what I did (and what I wrote), here’s my project page.

And that equation again? Really, all the buzz-worthy and not-so-worthy web 2.0 stuff boils down to is folks having the means to find, inspire, and connect with each other. Pretty simple, really — and Utata manages to do it with or without a thousand words.

6 thoughts on “If you make it possible to build, they will come

  1. Wow – these are amazing! Thanks for sharing, and as always your stuff was great – LOVE the portfolio pics

  2. Hey thanks for your comments on the Sea Forts….. Ithink the whole of UTATAN has been amazing…. heres to the next one.

    tim mitchard aka doctor.boogie

  3. Thanks so much for your comments about my portrait photos – I loved shooting Carole Pope at this year’s Pride and this whole Utata grand project was a blast. It really made me assess my work as a whole. There are a lot of talented people in Utata and I’m still going through all the portfolios.


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