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Why I stopped taking photographs almost altogether

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The Columbus Metropolitan Library (HQ pictured) contributed 335,000 images, but this aerial image was contributed by drone hobbyist Joseph Jessee

Photography is not only one of my favorite hobbies: it's also a way I feel proud to contribute knowledge to other people, by sharing these photos on Wikimedia spaces. Recently however I've been glad to slow down and nearly stop, and below I'll advocate for people in other urban areas to as well.

The reasoning relates to collaborations and digital archives. For one thing, I've been able to simply take ahold of the copyright reasonings at Com:Hirtle Chart to upload countless works from Google Books, HathiTrust, JSTOR, USModernist, NARA, newspaper archives, and more. And many digital archives hold photos of cities already listed as in the public domain, like the Library of Congress, New York Public Library, the Internet Archive, and [Insert your local library name here], all of which are generally easy to reupload on Commons.

Another immensely beneficial project came about by searching for free images of my city of Columbus, Ohio. I found hundreds on Flickr that people had already licensed for use on wiki spaces. One of these people, Warren LeMay, became one of my closer online friends, and we talk about things relating to our shared loves of history, architecture, and urbanism often. LeMay's works are remarkable enough in their own right: he's photographed in every U.S. state, now with 200,000 images of historic and architecturally-significant buildings across the country, all free to use. And though he's always only used a cell phone to photograph (since the time he created his account in 2011), his resulting images nonetheless are typically the best-quality works in any building's Commons category.[N 1]

Hall of the Columbus Public School Library contributed through the DPLA effort

From there I had to wonder if other photographers would be up for sharing their photos on Wikipedia. So I sent Flickr messages to several people over time, and almost always heard back with a "yes". So now I have hundreds of good photos of historic Columbus school buildings, thanks to Aaron Turner (Oldohioschools), a huge amount of beautiful Victorian house photos thanks to Christopher Riley (Pythaglio), and of downtown Columbus landmarks thanks to Eric (oxfordblues84). I am glad for all the contributions, and so very glad that some people are even willing to take photographs of places I request, buildings that are poorly photographed or have no photographs online. This was especially the case for Joseph Jessee, who is one of incredibly few photographers using a drone and making his works free to use, and who was simply sharing these photos in a neighborhood Facebook group until I asked to use them. And many or most of his photos are places I asked for shots of, and it's so cool to see these incredible places at heights you'd never usually see.

The DPLA images include a ton of house photos like these, which I've grouped with modern photos to create plenty of satisfying befores-and-afters. This house's category is here, and a modern-day view is seen here.

Which brings us to one of the biggest impacts, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). DPLA is a national network of libraries that aggregates digital collections, and provides services to their members—one of which is a pipeline to Commons for institutions' open access digital assets. I got to know User:Dominic, who works for the DPLA and coordinates with the Ohio Digital Network to have Ohio libraries and archives contribute their content to Wikimedia Commons, which by the time he emailed me in September 2022 had a collective total of 301,000 images on Commons. He told me that the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) could also contribute to the collection, and that I should email and find out if they would like to. I emailed Angela O'Neal, who I had met at a Columbus history event, and who was instrumental in even digitizing and organizing the historical images CML has. She approved the image uploads for non-copyrighted items, and surprisingly over the course of weeks, a total of 335,000 images were uploaded to Commons. This makes it one of the largest image collections by a GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) in the world, and it doubled the size of Ohio Digital Network's contribution to Wikimedia. DPLA has already uploaded about over 3.7 million images to Commons from over 300 institutions in the United States, so check if there are any from your local area—or else feel free to get in touch with Dominic about how you can reach out to an institution you'd like to see contributing to Commons like I did.

I can still be glad for all Wikimedians taking photographs in rural areas, and of short events, Wikimedia culture, hard-to-access places, hard-to-find items, and other subjects that are rarely available as free images. And I still commend Commons's pro-level photographers who take stellar photos, but I myself no longer see much of any benefit in taking photos in places like Columbus. Many better photographers have captured the places I've been as well as the places I want to go. I thankfully get better results with much more ease with Flickr messages and emails than I do taking photos out on the street.

  1. ^ Why? Well, he uses some of the newest cell phones (currently the iPhone 11 Pro, which takes great photos and has software to automatically improve them too). This, together with skills in composition and choosing days with good lighting and skies, leads to beautiful photographs better than even similar shots with older cameras or entry-level DSLRs.
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The thing you have to remember is that even stationary things like buildings and monuments change over time. You have to think of a photograph as not just an object, but as an object-at-a-point-in-time. So if there's been no photograph for the past 5-10 years, I'd say it's still valuable to have a photograph at this point in time. What about during various times of day, or particular seasons? These are all valuable records. So don't be so easily dissuaded from taking photographs. - kosboot (talk) 17:44, 15 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, places change, but when every place on my list is being photographed by others, and some of them are even taking requests, I don't ever need to tackle that work myself. If I could expect or notice any changes, of course I could request another photo or seek one out myself. My efforts are better spent doing things others won't, like this new article: Frederick W. Schumacher mansion (among scores of others!) I can see the same thing happening in most other cities, and especially all cities larger than Columbus, if Wikimedians connect with photographers like I have. ɱ (talk) 18:40, 15 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]
User talk:Ɱ: The Frederick W. Schumacher mansion all of the citations are bare URLs, and most of them are dead links because they were dynamically generated for a logged-in user. A double uh-oh. Maybe they still work for anyone with the proper credentials? If not, the cites are unverifiable because they lack metadata and would thus necessitate deletion per WP:V, making nearly the entire article unreferenced, and thus vulnerable to deletion at AfD. Or, same issue in the future if the links stopped working for logged-in users (inevitable with time), without proper metadata, they are unverifiable. Highly recommend addition of {{cite web}} including |url-access=registration or similar. -- GreenC 04:47, 16 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]
GreenC, I'm still writing the article. Cool your jets. ɱ (talk) 05:17, 16 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]
Done, and I have emailed NewsBank in years prior, asking for a more friendly URL. They don't want to do anything, they view it as a database needing a login, not something to integrate into the larger web. Hopefully someday they'll see the value in the latter idea. ɱ (talk) 17:43, 17 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]
The article does also read quite a lot like [the author's] city of Columbus, Ohio has a 2020 census population of 905,748. 1234qwer1234qwer4 14:06, 31 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

I like this, contributing in a way that leverages for the greatest good. It is very efficient and scales well, one person can make a bigger impact. Also this idea of pictures through time is interesting. It's hard to sustain when only one person is the photographer, but community effort could keep such a project going indefinitely, and for many places. -- GreenC 04:58, 16 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Just wanted to leave a quick note thanking for you writing this article and bringing this method of contributing to Commons more to my attetntion. Take care. —The Editor's Apprentice (talk) 20:17, 18 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

We don't often get as good a discussion of Wikiphotography as this one. Jim.henderson (talk) 23:24, 22 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Yes, and the future Commons:Flickypedia are awesome projects to migrate photos to Commons. Especially with the new limitations added by Flickr since 2019 that automatically delete older images, we have to hurry with these migrations. Taking photos yourself can be expensive and time consuming, migration provides an easy mechanism to contribute lot of photos of various places and topics to Commons in short time. - Vis M (talk) 20:32, 23 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]

Yet there are most likely too many such images worthy of inclusion for this process to be fully performed manually, and if it somehow was – that is, if somehow enough people decided to volunteer for this job –, it would seem like quite a waste of editors' time compared to the possibility of using bot imports. 1234qwer1234qwer4 14:04, 31 August 2023 (UTC)[reply]


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