What makes a photograph interesting?

I put most of the pictures that I want to share onto Picasa, but I've been putting a few onto Flickr for a while, mainly because I liked the geo-tagging that Flickr supported - and seeing the red dots littered across the map.  I spent a while this weekend playing with some of the other features that Flickr offers, and came across the concept of "Interestingness".  Serious Flickr users debated this feature years ago but my exploration of it did start me thinking about what makes a picture interesting and why I choose some pictures to share and not others.

The twenty most interesting (according to Flickr) pictures include eight from the Falkland Islands, three from Antarctica, a couple each from various Scottish Islands and Argentina - I don't particularly disagree with any of these choices but I am intrigued about what put these ahead of others in my collection.  These aren't the most regularly viewed pictures nor the ones that others have flagged as favourites - and I must admit I haven't yet gone off to look at the various patents that Yahoo have filed in this area to understand the ranking.

 I put pictures onto Picasa (or Flickr) for a variety of reasons. They're there as my 'been there' flags, pictures that represent the geographic extent of each trip and the "famous" places I've visited on the trip.  Although my visit to Beijing a couple of years ago was in the summer and the visibility was lousy, I was always going to put up pictures of the Great Wall even though if I wasn't particularly proud of them.  I also put up pictures that I particularly like or which evoke strong memories.  These are often wildlife pictures - I got a real buzz out of the whale pictures off Boston in the summer and the bird pictures from the Falklands earlier in the year.  These two reasons are really just reasons why I would put pictures up, but not really reasons why anyone else would want to look at them never mind contribute to any concept of interestingness.

The third reason for putting pictures up is (I hope) slightly more altruistic and potentially more interesting to others - it is to give a flavour of the experiences I've had, the places I've been seen or the people I've been visited.  I think this is particularly true of the places I think of as unusual - I do tend to opt (when given a choice) to go to places that most other folks don't go to, and I see part of my "role" as sharing my experience with others.  Part of my criteria for "interesting" would be to highlight things I want to talk about after the trip.  From the Central Asia trip I felt a real need to talk about what's happening to the Uighur people in Xinjiang in western China, but I didn't want to share some of the people pictures just in case there were implications to my doing this.  My compromise on that trip was to include pictures of the various bits of Kashgar Old Town as they still are alongside the freshly bulldozed areas being cleared by the Chinese authorities in the name of progress.

When I'm enthusing about the places I've been to, I also occasionally catch myself thinking that I don't really want lots of people following me there.  Places like the Falklands and Bhutan are fascinating places to go and visit and I'll be going back to both of them, but part of the interestingness of these places (and hopefully my pictures) is that they are relatively unusual destinations.  However neither of these places has a big tourist infrastructure and a huge influx of visitors would certainly change them.  In these cases I get torn between offering interesting pictures and wanting to keep the secrets to myself..

My 20 most "interesting" pictures are linked below

Interesting Pictures?

No comments: