Photography Online

by Geoffrey Hiller

Two years ago when I thought of putting a Web Site together with some of my photography a Web designer joked, "It's like putting a bowl of candy on the table. If you put your photos out there, someone will help himself." Despite the current debate amongst photographers regarding the value of publishing their work online, the ability to digitize and post photographs on the Web is transforming the medium in new and exciting ways.

Copyright infringement is clearly one of the major concerns facing photographers as they decide whether to publish on the Web. Photographers have worked nearly fifty years to protect their vested interests in usage and in getting credit for their work. As more of them become Web savvy, new tools will be made available to help deter the misuse of their images. The new version of Photoshop 4.0 for example,will include PictureMarc an extension enabling photographers to embed their digital signature on an image, which can later be used to prove ownership.

In addition to these technological advances, photographic content has improved a great deal in the past two years. Take for example Zone Zero, a site developed by photographer Pedro Meyer. At last count Zone Zero featured over thirty portfolios, each with about twenty photographs, from photographers around the world. Meyer, himself a pioneer in digital photography, has created a compelling place not only to view high quality images, but also to interact through email with the contributing artists. Although the emphasis is on work from Latin America, there's a photo-story exploring alienation in Sweden, an extended piece on gang life in East Los Angeles and a series of images from Cuba. To continue the dialogue one can send feedback to a photographer halfway around the world, wake up the next morning and find a reply. This communicative tool alone is nothing less then astonishing.

Meyer sees the web as a powerful medium allowing us to transcend the limitations of space and time. "A printed medium such as a newspaper or a magazine, has a very short shelf life, compared to that of Zone Zero, where we can keep everything there as if it were a library to be accessed whenever the viewer needs or wants to see the material." The Web's ability to reach a larger audience is another factor. Meyer points out that "Photography books are considered very large if they are given press runs of three to five thousand. Compare that with our Web Site where we can get a photographer to be seen by that number of people in the space of sixty days." The time constraints of print too are easily bypassed in digital space. "Who wants to read one year old information when we can deliver that today?