Hobbyist to Flickr Celeb: Building a Career with Social Networking (Kevin Meredith aka lomokev)

>> Mercy and I are very excited to host this
morning’s speaker. Not only because he’s a fantastic photographer and he’s been an inspiration
but really because he’s helped pioneer a new era in photography, where sharing and the
conversations around photographs, and the metadata that comes along with photographs
are almost as important as the photograph themselves. And I think for me personally,
I signed up for Filckr in about early 2005 and I was looking at my history, and actually
“friended” Kevin about a month after I signed up, so pretty quickly after I joined Flickr.
And I remember that those early days of sort of trying to understand what Flickr was about,
but I think the lights went on when I saw Kevin’s stream and sort of read his comments
and sort of followed him. And five years later, five or so years later, this is actually the
first time I’ve met Kevin, I think Mercy as well, but I feel like I’ve been following
him pretty closely for this whole time and know his life fairly intimately. He doesn’t
really know mine that much but then that’s okay. And he’s been a source of inspiration
and tips and guidelines, and you know, sort of, it’s been an amazing experience experiencing
Kevin’s works through Flickr. So for me, Kevin is a standout in a busy industry, in a world
that takes 60 billion photographs a year. I think Kevin’s definitely sort of changed
the way that the world–helps change the way that people take photographs. A little bit
of Kevin’s bio, then I’ll let him jump in. His photographs have been published in a number
of books, and I’m saying this because I know that he’s not going to say it, a number of
books, most recently in National Geographic. He’s one of the early contributors to JPG
Magazine for those you know that, that was an inspirational magazine. He’s been a judge
on a number of competitions at South by Southwest and in a number of Flickr competitions. He’s
worked commercially for a number of clients. Philips, Doc Martens, and his–you may have
seen his photograph of Imogen Heap. He’s worked–done a bunch of work for her. He’s also running
monthly workshops based on his book Hot Shots, which I would recommend looking up the books
three months in advance at this point. But mostly he’s a hilarious commenter, brilliant
photographer and a terrible speller. So, welcome Kevin.
>>MEREDITH: Thank you. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to take you for a little
brief, little history, and I’ll try and run through it as fast as I can. A little bit
slower than he did, but just to give you an idea how I kind a build up my own following.
So basically, this is the title of the talk, and there’s a little bit of stuff that’s relevant
to Googlers towards the end. But basically, I first I started taking photographs at around
’94. And basically at the age of 18, I was already being employed by magazines to take
photographs of rave parties. Which it was, really good fun, because in those days I was
18 years old, I was getting paid to go out raving and basically I got my travel paid,
I got £50 a night which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re 18, it was. That would
have been about $100 back in ’96. So yeah, no, it was like, I was paid to go out. It
was brilliant. But then that all stopped when I went to university in ’97 to 2000. But I
always carried on photographing. I actually did the graphic design in advertising at college.
And my photography was always something I did for me, I never used it as a sort of college
project. So, it was all very deeply personal, but when my photography really changed is
when I got into something called Lomography or Lomo. So, I found out from reading a magazine
article about this stuff. It looks really bad on the screen there, but it’s got more
contrast if you look behind on the screen behind you. But yes, a special little camera
called the Lomo LC-A. And when I first got it, in about the year 1998, they only cost
£60. Is everybody cool if I’d–if I converse things in pounds because I don’t [INDISTINCT]
and just to give you the idea, like basically they’ve got such a huge following now. They
actually sell between £165 to £250 now, but for me this is like the ultimate kind
of analog camera experience; and it just enable you to get these really rich beautiful colors
in a time before digital compact cameras existed. While most people were using sort of, crappy
film compact cameras, and a few people have like film SLRs, but it was quite rare, even
at sort of creative college. And then what happened is–it’s all like the reason why
the talk is called like a tale of serendipity because certain things happened that I imagine
if they didn’t hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have like, you know,
two books published and a third on the way. One of my friends at the end of college, she
went to London to go and have a portfolio review of the London design studio, and it
just so happened he was the same guy who sold me my Lomo. Because back then, you didn’t
just like buy a Lomo online, because like online shopping, it wasn’t really something
the masses done. So basically, he said to her, “Oh yeah, you know, your friend,” he
was the one who sold the cameras, he said, “Oh, you know, your friend’s stuff looks wicked.
You should give me his address and I’ll put him on my mailing list.” So, they started
sending me lots of invites to competitions and stuff. And one of the competitions I entered,
which these photographs, which are going a bit too fast to be honest, is basically called
the Lomo Olympics. So in the year 2000, I took part in the London Lomo Olympics, where
I basically came second in my country, only due because I drew with one guy, and basically
it was decided the winner was decided on a game of foosball which I’m crap at. So I was
rated second best in England because of that. And then so, what happened after that is like–is
luckily I still won the trip to Japan to go and fight for my country. And–oh, I forgot
to start my timer. Oh dear. So basically, what you’re seeing here is just to give you
an idea, is the Lomo Olympics and it’s kind of like where I based my photography course
on. Is everybody was given a list of 101 things to photograph with three rolls of films. You’re
sent out in three hours, and it means you have to take a picture every three minutes,
and so, it’s really kind of like creatively intensive. And then you have the next day
we did, what’s called a freestyle day where you had three rolls of film, you can shoot
whatever you want. So, and all of the photographs were judged, and the best photographers were
then put into the–sort of the actual semi-finals which kind of like was involved photography,
but more kind of stupidity. So, what you are actually looking here is something called
Lomo Sumo Sumo and basically the idea here is, is you have an opponent, these are my
photographs, and you have to take a photograph of their face as many times as you can. They’re
allowed to block you, while they are trying to take a picture of you, so. Yeah, it was
all very exciting. And other events include Wellington Boot Clay Pigeon Shooting. Do you
know what Wellington Boots are? Like galoshes, yes. So, basically someone throws a Wellington
boot in the air, you have to take a photograph of it. And as soon as the person who threw
the boot hears the click of your shutter they throw up another one and you have to wind
on your camera and take a photograph before it hits the ground. So it was–yeah, it was
bonkers. And what it taught me is like not to take photography too seriously. Anyway,
so after all the fun and frolics of going to Japan, like, sort of–it was only like
a–it’s just–it was two weeks into my new job after university. So luckily I got unpaid
leave when I went to my new job, they were gracious enough to let me go. So, basically
I spent my days working as an interactive developer, sort of making flash websites for
an animation company in London. But while I was doing this, I was always taking photographs.
And I always had my little Lomo in my pocket, and I just shot photographs for me. And the
weird thing was I never put them on any websites. The only way I’d ever show anybody is basically
I used to carry books around like this. And I used to–this is like my, “Best of” book,
so whenever I would get–take a photograph I really like, I would go for the book, remove
one photograph and put another one in, and this was like my Flickr. So I was kind of
doing Flickr before it was a website. So, I was kind of–I was ready to rock when this
website appeared on the scene. But then in 2004, I moved to Brighton, which is on the
south coast of England, which is about 52 minutes from London by train. It has been
compared to San Francisco. They call it, “the San Francisco of the U.K.,” which I don’t
think you can really can because it’s tiny. It has got a tech industry, you know, I think
that, you know, they make PlayStation games there and there’s a lot of web dev going on
down there, and there’s a few kind of stars. It’s nothing like this. But there’s a large
gay community, and it’s just a fantastic, very cosmopolitan place to live. So, yeah,
so I moved down there. This is a picture of Brighton, as this is taken from the maternity
ward of Sussex Hospital. That’s where I had my daughter. And basically, when I first moved
down there, I just really got into my sea swimming. So, this is me on the warning buoy
at the end of the west pier. But yes, I was really–then I sort of started doing sets
of things. I really kind of like, because I have lots of spare time, because I wasn’t
working much. I was taking a lot of photographs and really could build down sets. One of the
things I did do was start documenting the Brighton Swimming Club like all the time.
I have to go everyday, I would never be down there without my camera. But anyway, so, how
my kind of photography career really sort of kick-started. It was basically, one of
the women whom I swam with, and this is another bit when the serendipity comes in. She is
actually a sub-editor at RotoVision which is the British publisher for all my books.
And what had happen was, is I would sort of–while I was on Flickr, I would say, you know, “Oh,
I just uploaded some new swimming photographs.” When she looked at them, she was looking at
everything else as well, but I never knew. So I sort of skipped forward a bit there,
but basically yes. So in November 2004, I joined Flickr, and I do attribute my popularity
on Flickr down to the fact that I got in there right at the start. As Simon was saying, you
know, he added me as a contact like a month after he joined. I don’t know how I sudden–oh,
I do, I’m going to tell you how I suddenly became popular, I don’t know why I just said
that. But, I think the reason why people would look at my photo shoot and go, “Oh, wow, it’s
amazing,” is because I was actually uploading a backlog of the sort of past five years worth
of images. So I had like a pool of the best of. So I think, if you actually look for my
Flickr stream, you kind of see it’s really amazing in the beginning and then it kind
of gets [MAKES SOUND] like that, and then it kind of gets better again. So like, literally
the first page of my Flickr stream is like amazing, even if I say so myself. So yeah,
anyway, I took this image–I’m going to see if I’m at the right place, yeah. So basically,
what really propelled my sort of online sort of popularity to dizzy heights was I took
this photograph, I think before Flickr, when I lived in London. This is some posed late
night in the Millennium Bridge when it just opened. If you try now, I’ve been there now,
like five o’ clock in the morning trying to get a photograph of it with nobody on it,
and it’s always just got people, sort of, you know, walking backs and forwards. So this
was like, it’s very rare to get it with nobody on it. So anyway, Imogen Heap saw this image.
And she said to me, “I really want that photograph. But, I want me in it.” So I was like, “Yeah,
cool.” I’ve never even heard of her. And she said, “Basically, I’m self-funding my first
album. I haven’t got much money.” And so she paid me, but it wasn’t a huge amount of money,
but it was good. Oh, didn’t look very good on there. It looks better on that one. It
looks really good on my screen. So anyway, so I took this photograph and when I put her
in there, and we were like hanging out on the bridge at like two o’ clock in the morning
and it was a long exposure, so I had to prop up one of the pedals with a brick that then
have to be Photoshopped out a little afterwards. And yeah, then she was really happy with this,
the shot, and that’s actually on the kind of like, I think as you open the CD on her
kind of first solo album, I think it’s kind of like on the inside bit. But also, when
I was doing that photo shoot, I took this, because the idea was, well, she wanted me
to shoot loads of Lomo stuff of her traveling to and from her studio. So basically her kind
of work went–she basically would leave her flat, cycle to her studio and make her music.
But that was her kind of head-clearing time so she wanted me to document that journey.
And this photograph, I took this of her cycling along, it’s actually the first shot on the
roll of film. Anyway, Flickr saw this, and said, “We’re redeveloping our front page.
Can we put it on the front page, with like in a rotating kind of like random image thing?”
But basically because her image was on the front page and if you clicked on it, it took
you to my Flickr page, my–suddenly the amount of hits I just got was like skyrocketed. Interesting
enough I–it’s quite again, going back to serendipity, it’s–that photograph is a complete
fluke, you know, I was actually trying to get ahead in the shot. It’s–it works so well
because the red of her coat is framed on that white bit of brick. You know what I mean?
I couldn’t recreate that, I’ve tried. I can’t come close. But it’s just really interesting
that this sort of thing that really sort of propelled me forward was like basically an
accident. But anyway, and the other thing I think the reason why people really dig my
photography is because I’ve–my mostly used film out of the–I got a figure here somewhere.
I think basically 10% of the photographs on my Flickr stream are digital, the rest are
all film. And the way I see it–this is my favorite film before it kind of went crap
and green. Basically, what I do I do a lot of what’s called cross-processing, which is
where you take a slide film and you basically get the photo lab to develop it as negative.
So instead of getting a slide back, you get a really high contrast dense negative, and
you get these really beautiful sort of oversaturated, very dense, very sort of moody images. And
so, where–when you are on Flickr, and you got all these people uploading lots of digital
photographs, yours are always going to really stand out. And I’m not saying I’m the only
one shooting film there’s loads of us. But compared to the amount of people that are
in digital stuff we’re still in the minority. But I just figured out something so much more
special about film because you have this kind of like negative that’s like analog, and it
can be damaged. It’s not like a digital file that can be, you know, uploaded, backed up
and so it’ll be, you know, special forever. So this is like a–this is like a shot on
the Fuji Instax. So that picture, that’s the only one that exists of it. So if that gets
damaged or destroyed, that’s it, the image is kind of gone, unless you got like a really
good scan. But again, one of the things when it come to is, with the sort of digital technology
now, I mean, I’m a big fan of Hipstamatic, and I have kind of like an analog smartphone
apps, because someone asked me, they said, “Oh, you know, do you think this is going
to kill off the whole kind of Lomo film movement?” I don’t think it is, because when I was researching,
to writing a new book on toy cameras, when I was researching that in the forums in Flickr,
a lot of people said to me, “Well, you know Hipstamatic is what made me want to buy a
Diana. And you got weird things, this is called the–what was it called again? This is called
the–what’s it called? No, she’s just laughing. Is it called the Digital Harinezumi? That’s
it. So, this is a little kind of like Digital Lomo. It’s got a screen but you don’t actually
compose your image in that screen. You have to actually look for this kind of like square
window. It’s really, really basic. But then, it kind of like, what it does is it kind of
gives you the kind of Lomo effect. So this is kind of like a very expensive version of
Hipstamatic. What’s really funny about it is it actually uses batteries that aren’t
rechargeable, that costs $10 each so it effectively is as expensive as using a film camera really;
which I find quite amusing, really. So you kind of get in that canoe as a digital but
you still likely to pay for it. But some of the images you can get with it are actually
fantastic. So, this is something I took the other day on the drive from here, L.A. to
San Francisco. Yeah, it’s a really good–the whole kind of like smartphone apps, I think
it’s going to really draw people in. But what I think film’s really good at, it kind of
makes people shoot differently. So, this is like a negative sheet of mine from the roll
of film. And for the most part I find, when I watch people take digital photographs, sometimes
they’ll take 10 photographs of the same thing, and my kind of [INDISTINCT] is no, just shoot
one photograph, move on and shoot another thing. You might get a couple of crap photographs,
but you get killer ones. And so instead of getting hung-up, you kind of like in a kind
of loop, like a, you know, you’re stuck in a loop, and you just like, you won’t move
on until you perfected this image. But where when you take a filmed picture, you take it,
it’s done, and then you just move on. So when I teach my photography course in the first
day, everybody gets lent a Lomo LC-A and they get given a list of 66 things to shoot on
their two rolls of film. And people like who generally start off with digital photography
finding it a really liberating experience. So yeah, oh, here I am. Oh yes, so out of
the 3,200 pictures I’ve got on Flickr, 12% are digital, the rest are all film. So, this
was the first picture I uploaded of my daughter to Flickr. So a lot of people had said to
me, and they say, “Oh, whoa, you know, I feel I know so much about your life, you know,
I’ve been following you.” You don’t actually really know a lot about me, because I–although
it looks like I put a lot out there I tend to not put it out there because I’m shocked
by some of the things I see. I’ve seen people upload the kind of blue–they photograph the
two blue stripes on the pregnancy test before saying, “Yay, I’m pregnant,” and it’s like,
you’re not meant to tell people that until you’re three months in, so. But we went one
step further. And basically we had the baby, she came home, I took this photograph when
she was like two weeks old, got it developed, uploaded it and it was like–rather than some
sort of substandard iPhone picture it’s like, “Look at this.” And you know the response
was overwhelming. So, yeah,–so, I just–I love film, I just–and also the thing, film
for me is a bit like, you have a digital photograph and then you have to decide how you’re going
to process it. So–but with film is I choose films, and I think, well I always carry about
three cameras with different film types so I know what films to use in certain sort of
times. So, it’s kind of like pre-processing rather than post processing. Did you see what
I mean? Anyway, so I’m just going to talk about what happened when I have the possibility
of writing a book and the kind of like brief history of how I got to become an author.
Just–because I wasn’t even a professional photographer. I was just a guy living in Brighton
and trying to make a living as a freelance flash developer. Well, yeah, it was okay,
I have to travel to London sometimes. But basically I started off and basically I had
images in the first kind of issues of JPG Magazine, as Simon said. And then basically,
they started accepting articles as well, and Derek, the editor contacted me, and said,
“Well, do you want to write an article about Lomo?” And I’ve never written anything professionally
before in my life and I’m dyslexic. And I just went, “Oh God,” you know, “Uh, okay.”
So I wrote this article. I had friends kind of proofread it and stuff. They really liked
it and they published it. So that was my first bit of published writing. And then what happened
after that was is this was the first kind of version of Hot Shots. So, the publisher
came to me and said, “We want to do a book review, we want to call it the Photographer’s
Visual Index,” which is a really catchy title. And basically what they did is they showed
this sampler out in the book fairs and it didn’t get taken up, it didn’t get accepted.
And then–so that was that, so the book was over. I didn’t really get excited. So, don’t–I
don’t tend to get excited about things that don’t actually happening. I kind of like,
you know, and people can contact me and say, “We want you to shoot this job for BMW” and
I’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, okay.” I won’t get excited until I’ve actually kind of signed
the contract or I’m on a plane going to do something. I’m kind of like I’m very levelheaded
like that. So, I just carried on doing my thing, my Flickr popularity was still escalating.
Flickr asked me to judge a photography competition. And part of the bargain of looking at 3,000
photographs, which took about two and a half days, was they flew me to New York to a party
where even the winners weren’t going to be there because of some really weird law, where
you can’t fly competition winners from outside the U.S. into the U.S. if they win something.
But like judges, it was okay. So, yeah, it was pretty cool. And then, yeah, just things
sort of started escalating from that point so moo.com. Do you all guys know what MOO
is? Yeah, moo.com contacted me and they said, “We want you to be a MOO designer. So, we
want people to be to able come on, if they don’t have photographs they like themselves,
they can use your images.” And then I got a job with Doctor Martens, shooting their
shoes. But what was really nice about it, it was in L.A. and then six months later;
again it was in San Francisco. And basically, it was really simple, there was no models
involved, I just have to take photographs of shoes in different locations around the
city. So, we sort of produced this little book out of it. So, and so, I’m starting get
a lot loads of commercial work. Yes, it was going good. But anyway, so, what happened
was, is a little while later I got contacted by the publisher saying, “We really want you
to do this book now.” And it was like, “Wow, this is going to happen.” But it was like
about two years after it originally been proposed. And they completely redesigned it, they haven’t
told me. So I got this phone call saying, “Yeah, do you want to do it? We can start
soon.” And then I started producing the book. So, this is my first book, slightly a different
color to the American version. Now interestingly enough, I actually looked at this. My book
is on Google Books. Is it Google Book Search? But it’s not actually scanned. You can’t look
inside it so I’m quite disappointed by it. I don’t know what my publisher would think
of that. But I’m sort of like all up for this kind of stuff, although some people aren’t.
But then again, the same thing what I did with my baby is I never actually blogged or
wrote about the process of writing a book. I basically–I just suddenly, two weeks before
it came out, I went on to Flickr and said, “Right, it’s here. I’m having book launches.”
And because I don’t want that whole thing is where people kind of drag things out, and
saying, “I’m working on this, and it will be out in a year. And I’ve just done, like
written another article and blah, blah, blah.” I just–I think that bores people to death.
So, I’m just like–I’m like–I like what Steve Jobs does, it like, “Yeah,” bam, “We’ve got
this new thing, come check it out.” And so, here are the two–that’s the two–that’s the
U.K. and the American cover. I actually prefer the U.K. cover. And then, so this year–now,
just my new book has come out and I think the British publisher, kind of shot themselves
in the foot because they insisted on having a different title. So the American version
is called Photo Op which is quite catchy, it’s easy to remember. Whereas, 52 Photographic
Projects, is a bit of a mouthful, and there’s plenty of books with photographic projects
in the title. And also, it is really funny working–I’ve come from the world of like,
you know, I worked in the Internet as a Flash developer in a lot of colored like London
design agencies. So everybody’s quite forward thinking about the Internet. But it’s really
weird to being a publisher and they just like–they make books and they don’t think about these
things at all. I tried to explain to them until I was blue in the face. I’m saying,
“Look if you have a different title, when an American blog’s about the new book he’s
got or mentions it on Twitter and an English person goes, “That sounds interesting. Oh
look at that, on amazon.com, your name doesn’t come up,” you’re losing a sale. But they were
like, “No, we want to differentiate ourselves from the American publisher,” and you’re like,
“You’re mental.” And honestly, this went on for ages. I was, yeah–and the funny thing
was is the whole–all the books are going to be called 52 Photographic Projects. The
Photo Op was my idea and the American publisher took it on. And the British ones were like,
“No, we going to stick with what we got.” But yeah, well that’s their lookout. So, well
interesting enough with this book, going back to sort of like the Internet and the Flickr,
is that basically most of the contributors came–because I didn’t write it all, I only
wrote half of it. Basically, the 23 contributors I found them through–six of them were like
friends from Brighton, but they’re friends I know from Flickr. The other three were who
I know from Photcamp, which I just told you about earlier, which Mona Brooks is here from
Photcamp. She wrote an article in this book. So yeah, if you want to buy a book, you get
her to sign it as well. She actually wrote it as well. And then also, Cody was at Photcamp.
But he didn’t write in my book. But he works at Google. So, yeah, that’s my new book. At
least a bit of a beast and it took us a lot time. Now, I just want to now talk about how
I used Flickr. Oh no, I’m going to talk about how I use other social networks, not just
Flickr. Obviously, Flickr is my kind of main thing I use to promote myself. Now I don’t
how it is over here, but the kind of the new buzzword is social marketing and all these
kind of stuff, and I’m always getting people contact me to talk about it and there’s like
training companies. There’s a training company in Brighton that sort of does social media
training courses. And my whole thing is the way I built my kind of popularity on Flickr
is a kind of organic process. I started it as for fun and I still do treat it as a fun
thing. I know it’s kind of like it’s very important to my career now, but I’ll still
have a laugh. I’ll still sort of swear and there’ll be some, you know, sort of funny
things that go on there. It’s not like all truly professional, I try and keep it not
very serious. Now, I know there’s a lot of people really getting in social media. They
try and like be active on lots and lots of social networks. And what I tend to do is
just kind of like a thing–I’m just going to go for a few, you know. And I think you’re
far better off concentrating on a few than spreading yourselves too thinly. I use Facebook
a bit. Although I do admit I hate it. I think, I just–I kind of like had, I used to use
Upcoming but now no one uses Upcoming anymore. If you start a Facebook event you invite people
to come. They say, they’re coming and then they don’t turn up. Will they just ignore
the invites? It’s all, you know, very strange. And I think what’s really interesting for
me is I actually do trend-spotting for a magazine where I take like pictures of people in the
street with their clothes. And all these young people, you email them and they never get
back to you. And you phone them up and then they say, “Oh, I never check my email.” They
actually use Facebook as a form of communication, like email is like so last century to them.
But they’ve–unless you’ve sent–and the other thing I’ve learned about them as well. Anybody
under the age 20, unless you text them about something, that’s when you’re really trying
to say, “Come to this event,” you know. They won’t come. So, yeah, young people, it’s crazy.
I do feel old now, when like kids don’t answer emails. I’m just going to sort out my paper.
Sorry. So basically, I mean, the most important thing for me is Flickr. I mean, this is my
website and it’s proper basic. It’s just WordPress. I’ve got a really basic theme on there that
I’d slightly tweaked. And I do–I do want to sort of sort it out but I do realize it’s
not the really most important thing. And I think to be honest, although I did a graphic
design degree, I do think content is king. Because I think most people probably read
this and there are RSS readers anyway, they never actually see this. And you know, I kind
of like–I don’t–it’s not like I get a huge amount of visits. I think I get about 5,000
unique visitors a month, I think. But then, when I look at like Google Reader and it says
that like 200 people subscribe to this and you think, “Well, how many people are actually
reading it?” But I never actually know about it because they don’t actually go to the website.
And that’s just Google Reader, and there’s lots of other readers. I’d love to–I’d love
to know, but I suppose I can’t. But it’s good to know that your stuff is out there. But
the way I do things, you know, as Simon said my spelling is terrible, I’m dyslexic. I think
my personal website I actually have loads of administrators on the blog. So if I write
a new post, I will email my friend and say, “Can you spell check this for me? Can you
proofread it?” And he has to get a train to London at five in the morning. So, he was
going to edit it on his iPad and then by the time I get up, it’s all perfect and posted
and it’s all there. Whereas when I put stuff on Flickr and Twitter I kind of don’t really
care. I actually–you may notice, when I do Twit–when I do Flickr, when I write everything
on Flickr, everything is all lower case. And I’ve always done that. I don’t know why, it
just kinds of happens that way. And when I give presentations, I always use background
it and I never capitalize anything but it’s just kind of something that just developed.
But–so what I’m going to talk about now–I’m sure I almost covered everything–is–oh,
yes, of my use of social media, just going back to talking about my book–is when I first
had my book launch I ordered 100 books from my publisher. And they were like, “Are you
sure?” And I went, “Yeah, why?” And they’re like, “Well, usually our authors only take
15 books to give to friends and sell to a few family members.” And I’m, “Okay, I’m a
bit different,” and they’re like, “Really?” “Well, yeah, because I’ve got, you know, I’m
going to put it online, I reckon I’ll be able to shift 100.” So then I gauged the kind of
interest before the launch in Brighton, and I think, “Oh, I better get 100 more.” And
they were just like, “Are you bonkers? You know, these are going to cost you a lot of
money.” I’m like, “No, no, I’m going to have them. You know, it’s going to go off.” And
basically, I sold like 150 in Brighton and then I ordered like a shit load more for London.
And they were actually astounded. And now, I just like every few months I buy like 100
of them because I sell them mail order. It’s kind of like a good cash cow for me because
what happens is–this is the other weird thing. They basically, the print-run runs out and
it runs out and then they decide to do a reprint. And I’m like, “What?” Surely they get an extra
10% and then order the reprint but it’s just a weird way of doing business. But anyway
that’s like the way the publishing works I can’t do anything about it. Then anyway, so
I’m going to talk a bit about how I gained Flickr, because I sometimes I see people use
Flickr and I’m so like, “What are you doing?” So, now this is an example. So, what I was
saying earlier, if you look at the beginning of my photo stream, you can see that there’s
always really amazing photographs that are in quick succession. Well what happened is,
and I see people do this now and I kind of learnt from mistakes, is I went to the Labour
Party Conference. It was on in Brighton and everyday there was a different protest. I
think there was a protest in the morning and in the afternoon, and there was a, Ban the
Hunt protest. So basically, fox hunting is banned in the U.K., so that meant all the
really kind of like hoi polloi posh people came out on there horses with their beagles
and just really protesting and making trouble and basically dumping a dead horse in the
middle of a fountain in Brighton and dumping like truckloads of manure. It was amazing.
So, I went took photographs of this, and. But what I did is I just uploaded 30 photographs
all at once and wondered why no one was looking at them or making comments and stuff. So,
I’ve actually–and also this is the other thing is like–it’s what I’m saying about
metadata and stuff. When I now upload a photograph, I’ll spend at least 10-15 minutes just like
adding the geo-tag, which can be a bore-like because of Yahoo Maps. You can only go in
so fast. So, sometimes I go to Google Maps, find where I want to go. Get the longitude
and latitude, copy and past it into Flickr. I’m just thinking, why can’t Flickr just use
Google Maps, which I realized is not going to happen. But yeah, so, I’ve now I’m sort
of like definitely I sort of put metadata on everything. I’ve got a special [INDISTINCT]
type in there where I could just type shortcuts. So I can type like FL Lomo and it will just
fill out all my lomo text like Lomo, Lomo LC-A, Lomography and so basically I’m very,
very quick at it. But metadata was very, very important. And so what I learned from this
experience is only upload one photograph at a time. Because basically it’s like your Flickr
folders are like drug addicts. You got to kind of like–you don’t want them to OD. You
got to like slowly drip feed them, keep them coming back. And because what you got to realize
is when people are looking–and this is the same from Twitter as well. I hate it when
you look at Twitter. And someone’s like posted like ten tweets in a row. Whenever I tweet,
I just let you all tweet and then I’ll leave it like five minutes to tweet again. How am
I doing for time?>>You have maybe 10 minutes or something.
>>MEREDITH: Of course, right. So anyway–so this is–when people come to Flickr, this
is there first port of call and basically you will appear in this kind of like–that,
where that says your contacts, that’s where your photograph will appear. So, if you upload
30 in a go, basically only the top photograph is going to show, it’s like a deck of cards.
So, it’s really, really, important to just upload one at a time. That’s how I kind of
gamed the system. The other thing is well–it’s like people do weird things. Is anybody here
a Flickr user? Have you seen like the gif invites and–it’s really weird. It’s like,
if I get a comment, I want it to be like a real person saying something. If I post a
picture, I want it to be relevant. And there’s this whole thing of like where people put
such importance on comments and phase that people start-up these groups like, if you
join this group, you have to–if you go into the group, then you have to comment on 500
people photographs. It’s basically like Flickr pyramid-selling scheme. And it’s absolutely
pointless. And then you get this beautiful animated gifs, as well. And I think that C.Q.
actually stands for quality control, which is a bit of a conundrum in itself. Yeah, and
then also Explore, which is kind of like Flickr’s page rank. Some people put so much importance
on it. There’s actually groups on Flickr that are dedicated to kind of like finding out
how it works, much as there’s a whole industry like SCO, finding out how, you know, how to
sort of game Google and it’s just like, “Just create good content.” It’s just that simple.
You know, that’s my SCO advice there. Yeah, so I get like some kind of commission for
that, you know, it’s bonkers. But it’s also as well as I like, I don’t do a thing like
some people like Stephen Fry when he was first on Twitter, he added everybody who added him
as a follower he then followed back. But it gets to a point when you can’t do that. It
becomes pointless. So I don’t–I used to do this thing where actually when I used to go
through people who’d add me as a contact. So I will actually look at their photographs
and decide whether I like them, decide whether I want to add them and then if I didn’t want
to add them, I didn’t. And now what I do, and this is a bit of luck, a bit of wha-haha
action, I don’t know, it could be against the terms of service, I don’t know, but I
do it anyway. Is every time someone adds me as a contact, I click on new contact now and
then Flickr will mail them back saying, “Oh, hi. I see you’ve added me as a contact. You
know, if you like what I do, you can check out my book and my Twitter or my Tumblr.”
So I give them all these links to look at, so it’s kind of like–I’m kind of like unsolicited
mail, but it’s not because they’ve added me as a contact. I wouldn’t ever do it to someone
who hasn’t added as a contact. I did a similar thing with my first book launches where I
looked at my contacts who’s added me as a–who’ve added as a–so you can look on Flickr you
can look at your contacts and you can order it by location. So I went to the London bit
and just flickered out everybody from London. It took about three hours, but quite a few
people turned up because of that. Anyway, going onto it as well, how I kind of like
game the system sometimes is you–sometimes I upload provocative photographs and you think,
“I can’t wait to post this just to see the reaction.” So this photograph here–the amount–I
think it’s my most commented photograph on Flickr. And some have said to me, “Yes,” they
say, “It would be interesting if you tell some kind of like stories about this, sort
of like interesting comments you’ve got,” and I started looking at the comments from
this last night and it was just like, “Oh, my god.” And like, a lot of the comments averaged
about 300 words, but I think my wife summed it up. Where she just said–what did she say?
She just went, “Can of worms.” But, yeah, I mean, it has had–I mean it’s not–when
you compare it’s like YouTube, it’s not huge, but like 157 comments. I think in Flickr,
that’s quite a lot. And the other kind of like interesting stories is sometimes I’ll
take a photograph and add a story to it. So this is like a stone I found on a Brighton
beach and it had someone’s MySpace address written on it. So I said, “That’s interesting.”
So I post it Flickr–no, I didn’t post it. What I did is I contacted her first on MySpace
and I said, “Oh, I found a stone on MySpace. It’s got your address on it. Isn’t that weird?”
And she just accused me being a pervert and being weird and said, “Are you being a creepy
old guy?” And I’m like, “No, I honestly did find the stone.” So then I sort of like I
wrote about the story and I posted it under “I hate MySpace” on Flickr. So obviously,
everybody on Flickr who’s used to looking at a quality website was–found it hilarious.
Similar things as well, when I pasted–posted my baby photo–my first baby photograph, I
got hell of a lot of comments and feedback. And now that I’ve got a baby and I’m working
really hard–five minutes–I haven’t actually checked my Flickr activity for two months.
This is the longest I’ve ever left it, but I still plan to go back there and read all
those comments and reply to stuff. So, I’m just going to go over some few things, as
I kind of like a professional photographer now, things that I sort of do and don’t do.
I mean, you may have heard that Getty’s done this deal with Flickr, to license people’s
images. I don’t want any part of it because for me, if someone who’s already getting licensing
deals from companies, I basically would lose out massively. I just licensed a load of images
to Dell, to use at point of sale worldwide and I got quite a good payment out of it.
If that happened through Getty, I would have got a fraction of that money. And also for
me, it’s quite nice because I actually get to negotiate with the client. Well, it’s sort
of a kind of design agency. And also, I don’t do credit commons either, because although
I quite like the idea of it, there are certain non-profit organizations whose [INDISTINCT]
I don’t agree with. Do you all know what a credit commons is, where someone can take
what you do. I just think–I’d rather people just ask. And people ask me to use my images
all the time for free and I let them. And this is protecting your work against theft
as well. It’s like a real hot topic of a lot of Flickr users. And people would say, “What
do you do to stop people using your work and like taking it and using it without your permission?”
I’m like, “Well, nothing.” You know, people are going to steal it. You put stuff on the
Internet, people are going to take it, end of story. It really doesn’t bother me so.
But people have developed a few kind of strategies to deal with this on Flickr, and they kind
of shot themselves in the foot. One of the obvious ones is, only up your–upload your
images at 500×500 because that’s how Flickr displays them, therefore people won’t be able
to steal the larger versions. The trouble is, when Flickr changed their design layout,
now all the little pictures appear like this and they’re not going to look as good. Conversely,
when you look at the slideshow, you just get these little images flowing in the middle.
And the thing is, is Flickr is going to be around for a long time. And basically, as
we sort of move in to the era of like high resolution screens like what’s on the iPhone
4, this kind of old contents is going to start to look very crap. So, my whole thing is,
“No, upload your images in as high a resolution as you can and just don’t worry about it.”
And also, the other thing is, and one of more real bug there, is people who watermark their
images, so you think that image would have been as popular if I’ve done that to it. And
like you–sometimes you get people who just like put it across the image but you’ve actually
just wrecked. You’ve actually just wrecked it. It’s like–I don’t know, it’s like having
the Google homepage and then putting a diagonal thing across it in red going, “Copyright of
Google, Inc.” It’s just like it’s bonkers to me. And I think I’ve actually managed to
get through my talk all in time. So basically, what’s going to happen now is we’re going
to do a Q&A, I think. And there’ll be a slideshow in the background so I hope I didn’t speed
up too much towards the end. Oh, do I recognize you? We met before. No, the guy in the brown
fitting? You, yeah. No, we haven’t met? Okay. I just kind of recognized your face but obviously,
not.>>Okay, so we’re going to take Q&A and we’re
going to use the mikes, so everyone can hear and we’re also videotaping this as we’re going
to upload it on Vixen, for those who might have missed the talk. Does anyone have a question?
>>So, you talked a lot about Flickr and, you know, how you use it. So, what features
on Flickr would you like to see most improved or you would just like mostly improve?
>>MEREDITH: I’d like to see the user list improved because…
>>What’s the user list?>>MEREDITH: Yeah, it don’t exist. That’s
what I’m saying. You know how on–I’m sorry, on Twitter where you have like lists, that
would say you can basically, I can make a list of Brighton people, I can make a list
of San Francisco people, I can make a list of photographers, I can make a list of clients,
and I do that on Facebook, as well. But with Flickr, all you’ve got is: Contacts, Family
and Friends. So what I do is I use Family as people I’ve met in the real world so you
will be added to that now, and if we have a chat later, some of you. Friends, people
who I really like their photographs and Contacts is just kind of other. Though I admit you
got to go through that and color a bit because there is some sort of like chaps that needs
removing. But yeah, definitely, lists. Facial recognition would be nice as well because
I religiously tag everything. I geo-tag it. I tag it with people. That was a great feature
as well, I remember when that was introduced. But it would be nice. Now that I’ve drawn
boxes around people’s faces, if somehow you’d go through that and go “All right, this person
is Sara Meredith, my wife.” The next time I upload it, it would go, “This is her,” and
it could go through the top. I realized, obviously going through the billions of photographs
Flickr’s got, that would be quite computationally heavy, even with my limited knowledge of these
things.>>Have you ever tried the facial recognition
on Picasa?>>MEREDITH: No, I have not. But I heard it
does it. I did go to–the thing is it’s like I’ve learned a lot. And I think terms of service
can sound really scary especially the part about, “We get–have the right to redistribute
your work worldwide.” But you have to because you got website and you are sort of, you know,
redistribute your stuff to the–the Picasa terms of service scared me a bit, so I did
not upload stuff. But I think I should and I will start getting into it. But, yeah–and
how much is there a community with Picasa?>>[INDISTINCT]
>>MEREDITH: Yeah, does is quite like…>>[INDISTINCT]
>>MEREDITH: Yeah, but I haven’t really checked it out for ages. But as far as I understand
it, Picasa is kind of like an application to organize your photographs and then the
other half of it, it’s then–it has this column like, it puts everything online and it’s visible
if you want it to be so, whereas Flickr it’s kind of the other way around.
>>Does anyone have a question in the audience? What do you see?
>>MEREDITH: [INDISTINCT]>>That was good.
>>What’s your favorite photograph?>>MEREDITH: Like, of mine or of other people’s?
>>Yours.>>MEREDITH: Oh, god. I don’t know, you know,
because it’s so–I’ve got–I don’t have one particular–actually, I do. There is one,
the Lug Wormer. Have you seen that? I just–I’ll just show it in a minute. I could just show
you. Lomokev nobody loves me. So I think that is one of my–probably one of my favorites.
You can’t–that screen doesn’t do it justice whatsoever, neither does that one actually.
My laptop will actually get on there. If you Google “lomokev nobody loves me” and then
you can see the image. I think that one. That is–I wouldn’t–I still wouldn’t say that’s
my favorite.>>What’s that about?
>>MEREDITH: I don’t know. That was really bad, isn’t it? I just really kind of catches
a moment in the scene of a landscape. And it’s got kind of this level of people look
at it and go, you know, “What’s that guy doing? He’s digging in the sand with his bare hands.”
And you can’t really see that that’s a beach. I mean, it could be an estuary. It could just
be like some really wet sand. This is sort of like–if you don’t know whether it’s also
in the background, which you can’t actually see, there’s like a wreck of a pier. And then
I’m not one this kind of like really conceptual photographers. That’s the thing is when I
was talking about the Lomo Olympics, it’s not. My whole thing is, this is all just for
fun. And, obviously, for a lot of people photography is really deadly serious and, you know, I’m
going to–as Monica is driving down, she’s documented a guy who was having his brain
tumor treated and I’m just thinking, “Bloody hell.” You know, “I just want to go and take
photographs of burning men.” Yes, so–yeah, my photography tends to be a bit sort of lighthearted.
I think actually, the cover, one of my favorite photographs, is the cover of my original book
which has got my wife’s photograph on the front, so I can’t remember how to get to that
one, but yeah, the portrait of my wife when we basically–we were–we were just friends
at that time, but she would come down from London to see me all the time and we would
spend days together. And yeah, I just think it’s a really kind of like it just sort of
sums up “fun times” to me. So basically, what it was is we were just having, we were having
fish and chips on the beach. But it was like really, really windy so you can actually see
her whole hood is being blown by the wind, but we’re still sitting there, in the rain,
eating fish and chips. So that to me kind of like summed up this so wonderful moment
about that slide. That was years before we sort of started going out or anything and
years before we got married. But I think that as well. That’s one of my favorite. So it’s
like a real kind of like, sort of emotional kind of connection, that one.
>>What’s your favorite photo, period?>>MEREDITH: Oh, god. Oh, probably…
>>Or photographers?>>MEREDITH: Yeah, that’s a really good–I
think Martin Parr is one of my favorite photographers of all time. I’m actually really bad at remembering
names. And I have this kind of like whole sort of bookshelf at home of like sort of
like my favorite photographers. But like, definitely Martin Parr is one of my favorite
photographs. And there’s a really–this is really bad. You probably know–I should know
this stuff, but there’s that photograph of a guy jumping across a puddle. Has anybody
ever seen this?>>Bresson. Cartier Bresson
>>MEREDITH: Yeah, what should I Google to get out?
>>Cartier Bresson.>>MEREDITH: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t
matter. Google will fix it. Google will fix it.
>>Cartier, like that.>>C-A-R-T-I-E-R. There you go.
>>MEREDITH: All right, Cartier. There we go. I’m lucky Google Images has changed. When
did that happen?>>It was launched about two weeks ago.
>>MEREDITH: And Google–and I noticed Google Mail changed last night at like one o’clock
in the morning, I was there. I went, “Oh!” Yeah, it won’t get that bigger. Yeah, you
can all see at that. I mean, it’s just for me, it’s kind of like the Imogen Heap moment,
but I think he kind of planned for it. Or I don’t think he did. But it was just like,
he’s literally–I mean, bear in mind I don’t know when this was taken, but he’s just got
in just literally at that kind of point of hitting the water but he’s not, so the two,
the reflection and the man is not connected, that you can’t really see it on that screen.
But on mine, I can see that there’s a man there and I think that is an incredible photograph.
>>I have one more question. So I noticed you do not store image from Google Search,
the very last image.>>MEREDITH: Oh, yeah.
>>How do the traffic comes from outside of Flickr from Google. The searches…
>>MEREDITH: I can get my stats if you want to have a look.
>>Yep.>>MEREDITH: I’d be needing these, too. A
lot. Yeah, a lot comes through Google Image Search. Click. Now, hang on a minute. And
the other things is I do, is I make all my passwords like really impossibly long and
difficult because I’m paranoid. If anybody ever got into my Google account or my Flickr,
it could like ruin me. So, let’s say it–well, so yesterday, 78% from Flickr, traffic-wise;
3% from Google Image–Google–3% from Google Images, but it’s really interesting to see
what people search for. So consistently, if I don’t upload photographs, you can see what’s
like really photographs people will always look at. I don’t know why but “Vagina Art
Car” seems to be a favorite. And also, if you Google–I think it’s, “Swedish Girl.”
Oh no, it’s not there. Oh, did I? I have to spell Swedish the right way. And it’s gone.
I used to have a–I had a photograph of a Swedish girl. Oh, there she is. She used to
be much higher. But yeah, I have weird things that are like get top in the Google rankings
for no discernable reason. But so like I think as well there’s like–if you Google, “Hell”
or if you do an image search for–this is really sort of sad for me to sort of know
this stuff. I think if you do a Google Image Search for “Hell,” one of my images is quite
high or “Entrance to Hell.” So it looks like a lot of heavy metal fans sort of googling
that. Yeah, it is quite a lot, ooh, oh, ahh. There we go. Yeah, see that’s my sort of “Entrance
to Hell” photograph. Yes, I do get quite a lot of traffic that comes from Google. It’s
quite interesting. You see how people sort of find stuff.
>>Well, Kevin, thank you very much for joining us.
>>MEREDITH: It’s all right.

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