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The Flickring of Philadelphia

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By Elise Vider

If you go to Flickr, the online photo sharing site, and search for "Philadelphia," here is what comes up among the 1,381,401 results: myriad picture-postcard views of the skyline, the Ben Franklin Bridge and the Schuylkill River. Lots of buildings -- especially the Cira Centre, the Comcast tower, the Art Museum and City Hall. Philly cops, tattooed guys and gals, founding fathers and more than a few Eagles cheerleaders. Scenes of sophistication and affluence and of utter urban despair. A cake, created for the cover ofFeb Branklin.jpg City Paper and adorned with the skyline, the LOVE statue and other Philly iconography. In short, here is the city, on display to a global audience of tens of millions.

Along with every other way that the Internet is altering life as we know it, Flickr is changing the way we literally see and show off our surroundings.

Just as anyone with a computer can send their musings worldwide via Facebook or Twitter, anyone with a point-and-shoot digital camera can show the rest of us the view through his or her lens.

For many Philadelphia photographers, amateur and professional, Flickr is simultaneously an online portfolio, a social networking site and, significantly, a free platform from which to express their vision of the city.

There are multiple "groups" with Philadelphia-specific content. (In Flickr parlance, a group is a pool for sharing photos and videos and a discussion board for talking about a common interest.) The largest appears to be the named, simply "Philly," a potpourri of nearly 26,000 items and more than 1,500 members.

The Mark of Zorro.jpgThe "Philadelphia: the Charm of the City" group has almost 13,000 photos, 1,500 members and a mission: "This group is for charming architectural details, public art and street scenes that evoke the magic of Philadelphia."

As a counterpoint, there is a much smaller (7,000-plus items, and 200-plus members) "Philadelphia: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly" seeking "the diversity of the neighborhoods, the food, the history, the crime even ... real gritty pictures. Like the people of Philly."

Altogether, there are more than 3,700 groups with the word "Philadelphia" in their title, and another 1,700 with "Philly," portraying every conceivable facet of city life. There are Phillies and Eagles groups, neighborhood-specific groups, groups depicting Philly gardening, Philly Pets, Jewish Philly, Irish Philly, Gay Philly, Philly Murals, Philly Music, Philly Police, the Mummers and Philly Zombie Crawl and Prom. You get the idea. On Flickr, there is a whole universe of Philly.Outside Dirty Franks.jpg

There are so many images, in fact, so many photographers (some skillful and many not) and so many points of view that ultimately, there is no point of view, no defining vision of the city to be found on Flickr. (Maybe we're old school, but it is still best to actually come and see this or any place for real.)

Still, in poring over Flickr, there are images that capture something true about the city, for better or worse. Starting today and continuing this week, Metropolis will profile three frequent Flickr-ers and showcase some of the images of Philadelphia flickering before the world.

 

Read: The point-and-shoot world of Chris Woods

 

Photos:

Masthead: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia by Fen Branklin

Photo 1: Self-Portrait by Fen Branklin

Photo 2: The Mark of Zorro by Chris Woods 

Photo 3: Outside Dirty Franks by Al Stegeman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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