Photo 2.0 — Online Photographic Thinking with Andy Adams, Creator of Flak Photo

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We have talked with cutting-edge professionals about Web 2.0, Museum 2.0, and Art 2.0 and shared their thoughts with you here. Now we bring you Photo 2.0, as understood and explained by the leading figure in the 21st-century, digital photography discussion. I spoke with Andy Adams, the creator and producer of Flak Photo, about Photo 2.0, communicating contemporary photography, the online art space, and 21st century image-making and sharing. According to Andy on FlakPhoto.com, Flak Photo is

“… an online photography channel that presents the work of artists, curators, bookmakers and photo organizations to a global audience of people who are passionate about visual culture. The site's main feature is The Collection, a digital archive of contemporary photographs which is updated five times weekly. Since launching in 2006, I've expanded my program to include a Galleries, Books, Features, and Motion section.”

Read on as Andy and I discuss the potential of FlakPhoto.com for arts administrators, the role of Photo 2.0 in expanding the reach of the photographic medium, and the future of photography in a Web 2.0 world.

EQ: What is Photo 2.0? How are Web 2.0 and Photo 2.0 shaping our online experience, our expectations, and the way we view photography?

AA: I suppose the biggest change is this dramatic shift toward looking at images on screens. Photographs have certainly “dematerialized” in the last ten years. Physical exhibitions are still held in very high regard by most photographers and photobooks are more popular than ever, but I think the loss of inherent photographic physicality has made a lot of people pretty uncomfortable. At the same time, Web 2.0—“The Social Web”—has empowered many creative people to collaborate with each other and share ideas from wherever they are in the world. And that has significantly impacted the way we discover and experience new photography.

Photo 2.0 is a concept that refers to this marriage of social media with photographic practice. Not surprisingly, many photographers have flocked to social networking sites to share new work, ask questions, and support each other. Social media provides an unprecedented opportunity for image-makers to publish and promote their projects and more of them are using the tools to independently develop audiences for their work. So while traditional institutions are still very important, this online ecosystem is fostering a global community of passionate people who are coming together to further the medium on entirely new terms.

EQ: Tell us about Flak Photo. Who does it serve and how does it serve them?

AA: FlakPhoto.com is part of this vast, interconnected online photographic community and it serves different audiences in different ways. The website has roots in traditional publishing and arts exhibition and I collaborate with galleries, museums and presses to produce online features that promote and support their offline projects. Flak Photo’s audience is international, so the artists I show there have the potential to be seen by lots of people in various parts of the photo industry. I’m always hearing stories from contributors about editorial jobs or exhibition opportunities that come out of their being seen on FP, so it’s clear that editors, curators and publishers are watching indie photo websites like it for inspiration in their work.

EQ: How does Flak Photo serve arts managers/professionals and arts venues?

AA: The site is a wonderful tool for arts professionals looking to make connections with contemporary image-makers. Its main feature is The Collection, a digital archive that I maintain and update five times weekly. Each photo entry is accompanied by a short biography with links to the artists’ website, so readers are encouraged to learn more about the people who make these images. I promote and distribute those pictures via email, RSS, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and those posts are available for public subscription wherever internet is available.

I also host the Flak Photo Network, a Facebook group focused on conversations about photography. Since launching the group in March 2011, it’s grown to more than 4,000 members from all corners of the photo business, each of them contributing to a vibrant community hub brimming with ideas. The FPN has become my go-to place for photography news and extended discussions and it’s a wonderful resource for learning about 21st century photo culture.

EQ: For curators, what does this mean in terms of advancing their careers?

AA: I’d like to see more curators embracing digital media to talk about their work and champion the artists they’re passionate about. Most photographers have blogs, websites, Facebook pages, Tumblr and Twitter accounts and institutional curators should too—either hosted by their archive or museum or published independently. The online photo/arts community is thriving and professionally trained curatorial voices should play a more significant role in fostering conversations about photography in that public space.

EQ: Digital exhibitions vs. physical location exhibitions? What is lost and what is gained through digital exhibitions?

AA: The online realm is an ideal venue for telling stories and presenting image content, but the physical exhibition is where we celebrate the craft of the photographic object. More museums and galleries are producing hybrid analog/digital exhibition experiences—as they should—and institutions must invest the time and resources to ensure a robust online footprint for future audiences to learn about exhibitions that occurred in the past. I spent several years at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Visual Materials Archive, so I’m keenly aware of the risks that digital-only practice poses to the historical photographic record. It’s still crucial for archives, galleries and museums to collect physical photography in order to preserve it for future generations. The formats complement one another.

EQ: Between Facebook albums, Pinterest, Google Images, Google Art, and online image searches -- is the constant stream of images jading viewers or shaping expectations about the speed, size, and placement of viewing art?

AA: I don’t think so. If anything, social media is helping us discover artists and images we might never otherwise know about. My social media news feeds are vital to my process and those social networks connect me with colleagues and collaborators every day. Clay Shirky said it best: “It’s not information overload. It’s filter failure.” The constant stream of images can be overwhelming but understanding how to tame it and benefit from it is part of being literate in contemporary Internet culture. People love physical photography and don’t want to see it go away. Social nets aren’t going to change that.

EQ: Any “best practice” advice for curators or arts administrators?

AA: Challenge yourself to think differently about how you do your work. Embrace the tools and find creative ways to move photography forward using digital media. Keep an open mind and explore new possibilities. This is an incredibly exciting time for people who care about photography and even the smallest organizations can find audiences who will appreciate and support their work. We’re just getting started and I can’t wait to see where things are heading next.

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Want to get to know Andy better? Here is a little biographical information on the creator, founder and publisher of Flak Photo:

Andy Adams is an independent web producer + photo publisher whose work blends aspects of digital communication, online audience engagement, and web-based creative collaboration to explore contemporary ideas in photography. Recent projects include The Future of Photobooks, a cross-blog conversation that considered the impact of internet culture on photographic production, exhibition and distribution and 100 Portraits — 100 Photographers, a digital exhibition of contemporary portraiture that has shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Australian Centre for Photography and numerous festivals in the U.S. and abroad. In his spare time he publishes FlakPhoto.com, an online art space that promotes the discovery of artists, bookmakers and photo organizations from around the world. More about him on his website at AndyAdamsPhoto.com

Be sure to connect with Andy on Facebook or Twitter if interested in further information, collaboration, promoting a photography project on Flak Photo.com...or if you want to engage in a forward-thinking, inspiring conversation about the future of photography and Photo 2.0. Thank you, Andy!