the validity of virtual photography

I generally believe that misperceptions, or even conflicts, are not bad. If dealt with in a constructive manner they in fact often demystify things. In this post then, I address the common misperception that “real life” photography is more valid than virtual world photography. I look at some of the criteria that overlap in both. I address the difficulty of some critics to accept virtual photography as legitimate. I talk about virtual photography as the same and as different, and as a means of communication between people in Second Life. I consider that virtual photography, especially as perceived on Flickr, may in fact be a new form of art.

I am not a photographer by profession, merely a novice snapping pictures in the virtual world. But regardless, and again, as mentioned in my Le serpent qui danse May 11, 2017 blog entry, it seems to me a photograph is a photograph whether it is taken in real or virtual worlds. If not, would someone please explain to me what is actually the difference?

One of the reasons that I care about the meaning of virtual photography is because I am getting fed up with it being thought of as second best to “real life” photography. It just doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, there are many criteria that overlap when it comes to virtual and “real life” photography. There are virtual images that are of better quality than others, just as it is the case with “real life” photography. The question of what is art pertains to virtual and “real life” photography alike. The thinking involved in the creative process of virtual and “real life” photographs is the same. And so on.

Probably certain critics of virtual world photography, and of SL Flickr, have a hard time consolidating the fact that virtual photography is legitimate because they experience it as a threat. In their minds, this kind of photography must not be real because these days any novice has access to editing tools required to produce an image. But isn’t that great? Why condemn people who experiment creatively with photography? Shouldn’t we be open to creativity in all its forms? Why so frightened of the new and the undefined?

I firmly believe that a virtual photograph is just like a “real life” photograph. But I also believe that it is much more than simply an image; it is a tool for people in Second Life to communicate with each other about their virtual experiences in a virtual community space (Flickr). When we are part of a virtual world like Second Life, we communicate in-world via IM, voice, poses, profiles, and with our choice of avatar appearance. A big part of our communication with each other is also expressed creatively with our photos on Flickr. There are virtual photographers on Flickr who I have never met but I feel I know them because I know their photographs. They have become familiar to me.

Lastly, and boldly, I would go as far as suggesting that virtual photography as we see it and experience it on Flickr is art. So while the virtual photograph is just like the “real life” photograph, it is also not. It represents a new form of art with categories and criteria of its own. I will not go into this too much here because it is something that Tutsy Navarathna and myself discussed at length in the past and even considered putting together a publication about. We may still. It was during these discussions about virtual art and Flickr that Tutsy cleverly coined the term Flickrism.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that a virtual photograph is the same as a “real life” photograph. In addition it also serves as a communication tool for creative people occupying the virtual world. And we may want to start considering virtual Flickr photography a new virtual art movement in its own right. Virtual photography is not only the same as “real life” photography it is also different. Different is a usually a good thing, at least in my book.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

A Non-Violent Protest Using Pictures: Love Trumps Hate

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We are starting a Flickr group as a means for people in SL to process experiences regarding the current political situation in the US. Feel free to join, here is the information:

A Non-Violent Protest Using Pictures: Love Trumps Hate

This Flickr group is a non-violent protest against Donald Trump as President of the United States. Only one week after the election, we are already witnessing a trickle-down effect of his inhumane executive orders all over the world. We will not helplessly stand by and be silenced by this wave of injustice and offer the group as a Second Life forum for us all to use our creativity as a means to process and reflect upon the current world crisis and express our experiences. Second Life people of any nationality and from any country are encouraged to submit photos.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

flickr and art

flickr-and-art

Now and then we notice in our Flickr community commentary about certain photographs not being art. Some of these comments are nice, some are not so nice. These comments generally posit that images of nudity and sex are more popular and as they are thus favored more often and get more comments they must then not really be art. I will not get into here what is art and what is not art, but just suggest that images posted on Flickr are both and neither. Flickr is a unique modern phenomenon that is hard to define. It is a platform for creativity and some photographs are clearly better than others. It is also a community, a place where we exchange and express our experiences in the virtual world. Flickr has different meanings for different people. Personally, I like Flickr because others inspire me; I learn from them. I post my photos for feedback and it is unimportant to me whether or not my images are considered art or not. It just doesn’t matter that much. Many of us get excited when we see an image we like and can relate to and we give it a comment and a star. Why is this perceived by some as being so wrong? It has perhaps something to do with the strange phenomenon that the images created by people who consider themselves artists usually get less stars and less comments. I don’t know why some of the more artistic pictures get less attention on Flickr and I have wondered about it myself. Could it also be that some virtual world artists feel frustrated by a general lack of recognition, not only on Flickr but also inworld, and are in fact envious of some Flickr photographers getting more attention (i.e, Flickr stars, comments, followers) than they themselves do? Just saying.

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

MoVember Exhibition

Movember 2015

Today, Sunday, November 15, between 2 and 3 PM SLT, is the opening of the MoVember 2015 exhibit at the Club LA Gallery. This event is organized by my friend DaisyDaze (aka daze) and Fuyko Amanto and I blogged about it a few weeks ago here. MoVember is an annual event involving the growing of mustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as depression in men, prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities, spearheaded in Second Life for the second year in a row by daze. Lot’s of fun images on display, head over and take a look!

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf

The Flickr Fave ★

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The meaning of the Flickr Fave is bewildering to me and perhaps to others too. I will try to decipher it here as best as I can. This is not an easy task since the favoring system doesn’t really make sense. But it seems to me that the most apparent and purest meaning of the Flickr Fave (or any social media Fave for that matter) is that it is being used to express that the photograph is liked. However, to complicate things,  the reason to like or dislike is subjective and varies tremendously. In my humble attempt to make sense of it all, I have come up with a list of categories for people who favor photographs on Flickr. The list is by no means complete or exhaustive and I welcome comments and suggestions for additional categories.

  1. The Fave Addict: This individual is repeatedly and compulsively checking his or her own Faves and also the Faves of others. The quality of the photographs posted by this person may in fact be great, but the main purpose is not to share creative work but rather to gather as many Faves as possible. This category overlaps in part with the Fave Collector.
  2. The Fave Bully: This person does not favor a photograph even if it is outstanding simply because they dislike the person who posted it. The reasoning behind the not adding a Fave is purely subjective and at times a friend may even be recruited not to favor also. This is when feelings of dislike of another person interferes with appreciation of art.
  3. The Fave Catcher-Upper: This person favors many, many images of one photographer at one time because he or she is simply too busy to regularly check the Flickr People postings. There is not enough time in the day to favor photographs individually, however, he or she still wants to be part of the Flickr experience. This person will check in now and then when time allows.
  4. The Fave Collector: This individual Faves most photographs whether he or she likes them or not. The reason for liking someone’s photograph is simply to get as many likes back as possible. There is a great deal of planning invested here, like adding photographs to hundreds of groups to get as many Faves as possible. Collecting Faves becomes like the thrill of a game.
  5. The Fave Forgetter: This is the absentminded person who simply forgets to Fave a photograph on the spot when they really intended to. He or she may remember months later when seeing the photograph again and Fave it then. This individual is then left feeling like he or she has perhaps “missed the boat.”
  6. The Fave Ignorant: This is the individual who could care less about getting Faves. He or she also doesn’t care about giving Faves. This person is solely invested in posting and sharing photography for the sake of displaying their creative work.
  7. The Fave Purist: This person will Fave a photograph simply because the image is appealing and he or she genuinely likes it. His or her reason for liking a photograph is purely objective. This is the true Fave giver!
  8. The Fave Socialite: This person Faves the photographs of friends generously, not because the photograph is great, but simply to support the friend. These individuals are not really that invested in getting Faves back, but merely interested in using Flickr as a means of social communication.
  9. The Fave Supporter: This person Faves a photograph in order to provide support. He or she will liberally give Faves and sees positive elements in most photographs. This individual is someone who offers encouragement and positive reinforcement whenever possible (provided by ~ Cody Zaytsev ~).

Most of us can probably identify with several of these categories. Some of them overlap. So what is really the meaning and importance of the Flickr Fave then? Is in our checking for Faves on our photographs perhaps simply reflected an innate need that we have as humans to be liked? And most confusing to me, what about the stellar photographs that barely get any likes and the mediocre ones that get hundreds?

Addendum: This topic ended up becoming a meaningful discussion between a few Flickr members, take a look here!

Photograph by Kate Bergdorf