Do you ever go back and curate your Instagram or Flickr feeds? Do you just leave photos up forever?
For many years I did.
I joined Flickr back in 2006. Since then I’ve had countless cameras, camera phones, smartphones, and with them all a combination of formats, aspect ratios, resolutions, filters, workflows and processing. I’m posted via the Flickr uploader, mobile app, through Instagram and IFTT. It’s only in the last couple of years that I have a consistent process of choosing, editing, titling and tagging each chosen photo to say and mean something to me and the viewer.
Today I had some free time and took on a long overdue project and culled just about any image over 10 years old. It started because I wanted to find older images that were untitled, untagged and hadn’t been shared in any albums or groups. For many years “post to Flickr” was the extent of my efforts. There are hundreds of photos sitting with bad editing and no context to give the viewer any idea what they are looking at. Most of them had been viewed, if you can trust Flickr’s statistics, just a handful of times.
Perhaps I could have updated the metadata for all the older photos, but that didn’t feel right. I’m a much better photographer today than I was a 10 or 20 years ago. Adding a caption that says “shot in 1997, scanned in 2007, captioned in 2021” wouldn’t have done the images justice nor provide any real value to the viewer seeing them for the first time next to my more recent work. I’d also see all the image flaws or opportunities for improvement so leaving the image but updating the data would left me frustrated.
Instead I deleted them. Gone, at least from Flickr.
Of course they aren’t gone forever. High quality JPG, PSD or TIFF versions still live in my Lightroom catalog. I’m sure, when the mood strikes and I’m bored with more recent work, I’ll go back to revisit and re-edit the images using the techniques I’ve learned and then share them into the Flickr community and here with the hope that seeing them with new eyes will let them find an audience again.
Should we limit our online libraries even more closely? What’s the point of posting 1000 pictures when they all aren’t really good, and if not the best work then why post them at all? The value of the photography book isn’t just the high quality of the images or the convenience of the format. The value comes from the choices the photographer and editor make in presenting the images as a body of work.
I don’t think I’ll ever force myself into a hard limit on the number of photos online, either here, Flickr or Instagram. However I do expect to go back again and make another culling with an eye towards not just a high quality image or a wittier caption, but to those images that really do mean something to me today and not just those that were “cool” in the moment.