Building Community with Photography

I'm noticing more and more of my images showing up all over the web -- in blogs, on mailing lists, on news sites, in presentations, and inside multiple social networks. That's very cool. I tag my images with the Creative Commons license, so I specifically want people to use them in new and interesting ways.

Before I started taking photographs at community events a few years ago, I hadn't realized the power of an image to cut through language and cultural barriers. It's quite efficient, actually. Every time someone puts one of my images into a Chinese or Japanese or Spanish (or whatever) blog and links back to me it literally introduces me to that community in their native language. And, in many cases, I've met new people I would have never met before in countries I've never been to. All from an image. Now, this happens with text all the time, of course, since I've been communicating on one forum or another in multiple open communities for years now. But it's a very different experience with photography. Images are so much faster at making personal connections across barriers. You don't have to translate. It's easy. You just look. It's instant. In some ways, images actually transcend language while still communicating something of value. I'll have to take more pics and write fewer words.

Jim, as an alumna of Eastman Kodak I have struggled with the concept of the Creative Commons license, feeling guilty about being allowed to download someone else’s picture (besides the gov e.g. NASA) to use, for example, for my desktop background or whatever. This story you tell helps unfreeze the grip of old ideas and embrace new ones. Thanks.

Keep writing the words, too. They are good words! :-)

Posted by Carolyn on December 24, 2008 at 11:49 AM JST #

When I was taking pictures in Tokyo I was told several times that no one expects my images to look like Jim G's. :)

I absolutely agree regarding cutting through cultural barriers. My impressions of Japan were directly impacted by your photographs. Instead of going there with the normal American stereotypes that Japanese are all short, serious, terse, etc, I instead saw them laughing, drinking a beer and relaxing with friends. With that in my pocket I found it much easier to accept and acclimate into their culture. And it s a great culture.

Posted by benr on December 24, 2008 at 06:04 PM JST #

I'm following you at your Flickr. Always amazed by your beautiful photos.
Is great that you also use Creative Commons tags in your photos. That eases a lot the use of your images. I already used some in blog posts.

Thank you and happy holidays.

Posted by Silveira Neto on December 24, 2008 at 11:46 PM JST #

To James G and Mate
i am up for you good words any day.
However as you say, the photos add a major
instant dimension immediately. and,
to share these, gah , the internet is rad!
Peace and Joy be with you at this time and always,
Marg and Ralph Gerwing, Vancouver Canada

Posted by GerwingR on December 25, 2008 at 12:15 AM JST #

Your images do not only reflect a description of an even. They let communities and people to show themselves in the real moment, doing what they like. I used the pics you took to me in my blog, facebook and other sites. Those pics are better than any other pics I had, because they express what I was doing in that moment and that it's exactly what I wanted people to see. I know what carrying always a camera means. Thanks for the pics at Tlug!

Posted by Pietro Zuco on December 25, 2008 at 04:53 AM JST #

Carolyn ... thanks. :) The best way to not feel guilty is to just contribute. It`s easy. Open Source licenses empower people. Give it a try.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 25, 2008 at 04:48 PM JST #

hey, Ben. Sorry I missed you while you were in Japan. I`m glad the trip went well. :) And, yeah, there are a lot of odd perceptions about Japan coming from the west, no question about it. It`s a very different place here, so it takes some time to learn all the subtle shades of grey. I learn every day, actually.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 25, 2008 at 04:53 PM JST #

Silveira ... excellent!

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 25, 2008 at 04:54 PM JST #

GerwingR ... thanks for the best wishes. And I`ll keep writing, but I have to be honest: I`m getting tired! :) Seriously, I have been blogging for 4 years or so now and I think recently I`ve really felt exhausted lately. Perhaps I should just take a break for a bit or slow down ...

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 25, 2008 at 04:57 PM JST #

Pietro ... yah, I like hanging out at TLUG. Great group. Great mix, too. Lots of energy at the events to capture as well. See you at the next one (10th I believe).

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on December 25, 2008 at 04:59 PM JST #

I've always followed your photos, Jim, and love your sense of framing and colors. It seems that you're a fan of the 50/1.4 lens :) It's a great bit of glass. Do you generally do any sort of post-processing?

Posted by Dale Ghent on December 25, 2008 at 08:40 PM JST #

hey, Dale. Thanks. Yah, if I shoot in RAW with my 30D I post process for exposure, white balance, and contrast every time. Then I may go to back and white and layer red/yellow filters to bring out skin tones in low light conditions.

Posted by jimgris on December 28, 2008 at 08:02 AM JST #

If it weren't for my photoblog "All I've Seen" (, my archive of images that go back to the mid 60's would just be sitting under my desk, seen only by friends and family (maybe).

But now I'm able to show my work to people all over the world. So far, three images have appeared on CD covers (I got paid for those), and some have found their way onto other websites and even stranger places. One image just recently got picked up for use in an English language reader for Danish high school students .. my picture of Greenwich Village in the 70's will illuminate an essay on the counter culture (and I got paid for that one too!).

Still, almost every day I get an email from someone somewhere in the world commenting on a picture. Nothing like this was ever possible before. Some have asked for prints, which I've sold (cheap) ... the idea of someone I don't know someplace I've never been having one of my pictures on their wall is quite a kick.

But best of all, a painter in Ireland saw one of my New York City pictures and rendered it in oils! That's the best!

I recommend creating a photoblog and posting images almost daily. One possible site you can use is

And you can join the photoblogging community at and see what others are doing.

The exposure (good word) has been great, and I've got a small circle of people who regularly comment on my images. Now I feel I have an audience to take pictures for.

Posted by Richard Friedman on January 02, 2009 at 09:18 AM JST #

Richard ... those images are beautiful. I used to swim in Walden Pond every day in the summer, by the way. :) I`ll check out those sites. You don`t recommend flickr?

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on January 02, 2009 at 11:41 AM JST #

Hi Jim!
Well, while I do have a presence on Flickr,, I found that creating my own photoblog that I can control was much more effective. (I'm using Wordpress currently, but before that Movable Type, which is why the website is broken into two "editions". I'm trying to find a way to bring the two closer together.) Also, I'm not sure that Google searches find images on Flickr as easily as they do with photoblogs like mine.

There are thousands of people now running their own photoblogs, some with parallel streams on Flickr. And, of course, a number of websites that aggregate photoblogs, like

What I find amazing is that there are some really good amateur and semi-pro photographers out there. And none of this would be possible without the advent of digital cameras and the web.

By the way, that picture of Walden Pond from 1965 was probably one of the first "real serious" pictures I ever took. I was 21.

One of my favorite photoblogs is by Joseph Holmes. He takes street pictures in New York City. His photoblog, Joe's NYC, , is what inspired me to create my own. However, my photoblog combines pictures from my past with new ones.

Most people seem to be more interested in my images from 30 years ago .. nostalgia rules, I guess.

Posted by Richard Friedman on January 02, 2009 at 08:32 PM JST #

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