February 23rd, 2008



As of this morning, my Flickr photostream contains two new pages. They're images chosen from a much bigger stock of images I've shot in the two weeks since I last "told Flickr about my life". In that two weeks, Yahoo, which owns Flickr, spurned a Microsoft bid to buy it, which means that at least I'm not telling Bill Gates about my life when I post to Flickr. I would hate that, because, you see, the photographs I choose to throw up into my Flickr photostream are mostly designed to show the richness and funkiness of the textures in my life, and I regard Microsoft as an empire built on the notion that sensual, textural richness -- richness of touch and feel, of the senses and of use -- doesn't really matter. It's all about the other kind of richness for them, the money kind, the exchange kind.

My Flickr narrative isn't just structured by my need to tell the world (and whoever owns Yahoo) how rich the textures of my life are. It's also structured by the technical requirements and formatting of the Flickr site itself. For instance, the fact that the Flickr Uploader software recommends that I reformat my photos to a width of 800 pixels (a suggestion I go along with), and that the Flickr site insists that anyone who wants to see the images this big has to have a Yahoo account and be logged in. There are various ways to see the individual pictures -- as a slideshow with or without captions, as individual photos with a comments section underneath and technical information on the right, and as a page of thumbnails three images wide.

No matter how I try to manipulate the final result, there's always an element of surprise when I see the mini-narratives created by this page layout. Here, for instance, you see a slice of three images, "courtesyletter", "goodworks" and "humanalights". I didn't arrange for them to fall together on the page like that; my lower case, single word titling policy creates a little poem along the title line, but more importantly there are complementary colours and perspectives going on which surprise and please me: the pink of the letter paper on the left balances the green of Humana's wall on the right, and the perspective from left to right goes flat, tilted right, tilted even more right. That becomes a new, triple picture plane, something created fortuitously by a combination of my content choices and Flickr's formatting choices. Neither of us "made" these juxtapositions, but we're both responsible for them. Well, along with chance itself, that great composer.

In terms of "the story of my life", the Flickr update says something like: "Nick ate some Japanese food, looked at some improvised gardens, dressed up in silly clothes, hung out with Japanese people and art students, snapped street art, went to the Turkish market, played with his rabbit in the garden wrapped in a blanket, went to a concert by Midori Hirano and Kyoka, went secondhand clothes shopping, saw a friend on the cover of an art mag, ate oysters, took Kyoka to some nice restaurants and cafes in Prenzlauer Berg, and pretended to be Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip on the U8 line home." Business as usual, then.

See the rich textures you're missing by not being me, Bill Gates! You can't even put my me-narrative to work in your Evil Empire by owning my photo-sharing platform. You may be the world's richest man, Bill, but jeez, what a loser! Oh, but wait, what's that it says here? "After rebuffing Microsoft, Yahoo reportedly began discussing a possible Internet partnership with media conglomerate News Corp." Oh fuck. Hi Rupert, I'm home! And what kind of day did you have, dear?