Today, millions of ordinary people have the tools and the role models to become amateur producers. Some of them will also have talent and vision. Because the means of production have spread so widely and to so many people, the talented and visionary ones, even if they’re just a small fraction of the total, are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Don’t be surprised if some of the most creative and influential work in the next few decades comes from this Pro-Am class of inspired hobbyists, not from the traditional sources in the commercial world. The effect of this shift means that the Long Tail will be populated at a pace never before seen.
(Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail“)
My impatience never allowed me to have a serious hobby rather than reading and watching movies. No red socks — attempts to knit ended with one ugly scarf. Baking ended with dirty kitchen and wasted products. Any of my new interests lasted maximum for several months. Until one day, when I became so miserable that I needed something to focus on constantly. I started photographing. It lasts for more than two years by now.
Photography is not something really new. Wiki suggests that long before the first photographs were made, Chinese philosopher Mo Di and Greek mathematicians Aristotle and Euclid described a pinhole camera in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. I suggest that people started thinking of photography even before, when they loved the cave engravings and could not find enough words (or sounds ) to describe them. That is perhaps when the long tail of photography started.
The long tail photography for thousands of younger generation photographers started in 1985, on the day National Geographic published Steve McCurry‘s Afghan Girl on its cover (I saw it later, because I was three-year-old by then.) McCurry‘s girl from a refugee camp with her heartbreaking green eyes impressed millions of people and those, who could not forget those eyes, chose to become amateur or professional photographers, focusing on photojournalism. To talk about different people, problems, lives through their lenses just like McCurry, who wordlessly screamed to the world about the tragedy of the Afghan nation with his single shot. Forever. That is a real long tail. This photo inspires.
Since I have seen the legendary Afghan Girl photo, I try to capture human stories in my photographs too:
Tail of photography became even longer with the start of budget photo cameras’ mass production. People love keeping their memories using these pocket-size photo cameras. With the era of Internet, possibilities to get the photos out of the family album increased. You just go online and download photos to huge photo websites and blogs such as Flickr. Moreover, you can discuss them with other photographers, sell your photos or have them picked up for different publications. One of the best photography communities I like is Your Shot community of National Geographic. Any professional or amateur photographer can download their photos, discuss them publicly and have them voted by other photo lovers. Website’s photo editor Susan Welchman’s makes selection of photos, which will be published monthly in National Geographic magazine. Another outstanding photography community is Photo Net with highly interactive tools. Dailybooth (24,000,000 registered users) and Fotolog (20,000,000 registered users) are large sites for sharing pictures through online photo diaries or photo blogs in North America and Spain. Livejournal‘s photo community is very popular in post-Soviet area, specifically in Russia.
Connecting millions of photo lovers would have been difficult in the pre-web era. Clay Shirky analyzed the role of Flickr in Here Comes Everybody and emphasized in the following statements: “Flickr isn’t just for photos of dancing mermaids, family reunions, and the effects of that third margarita; it also hosts photos of broad interests. Flickr provided some of the first photos of the London Transport bombings in 2005, including some taken with camera-phones by evacuees in the Underground tunnels. Flickr beat many traditional news outlets by providing these photos… The basic capabilities of tools like Flickr reverse the old order of group activity, transforming ‘gather, then share’ into ‘share, then gather.’ People were able to connect after discovering one another through their photos…”