Finding out about Found Photos

Jellyfish at the New York AquariumThis month Ground Control is all about images and in that vein I’m going to write about my photoblog Found Photos. I should start off with a bit of an explanation of what and why it is ( and is not). The what is fairly straightforward. It is a personal photo blog where I share  original photos I have taken. There are only a couple of self-imposed guidelines I follow: I took the photo; it is not of my immediate family; the photo is interesting in some way or has a story behind it that is interesting in some way. This leaves me open to posting photos I’ve taken recently or ones I find browsing through my collection.

I also feel compelled to add the disclaimer that I am not a professional photographer by any stretch of the imagination, not even an accomplished amateur. I took a class a couple of decades ago and have just happily dabbled since then. No exhibits, contests or anything like that.

The more interesting parts are the questions, the whys.

Why a blog at all?

Sometimes in the midst of life’s demands I get the urge to do something creative that isn’t tied to some kind of commitment or deliverable (I teach digital media arts like web design and multimedia programming) and photography has been one way to satiate that urge. At some point I felt like I wasn’t getting out much to do photography and that my skills had kind of flat lined for a while. With two small children and a busy schedule joining a club seemed reaching so I thought of a blog. By opening my photos to the world I thought I might be inspired to do more and better work.

Why on the Commons?

The key question here. While the jury is still out on whether my photos are any better but they have reached a bigger audience. One of the reasons I put my blog on the Commons is that I knew I would have an audience and one that would actually look at my pictures and comment on them. If you make your blog open to the general public like I have there is no guarantee against trolls (there should be little spam), but I have found the comments to be positive and supportive. Even when people poked a little fun at my only alarming picture it was appropriate and good natured.

Another reason I chose the Commons was the simplicity plus the great new Woo Themes that were added. I found  photoblogging theme, Aperture, and a few clicks later my blog was ready. The only thing I added that was not part of the configuration options that cam with the theme is the FoundPhotos logo (featuring the wonderful Museo font from exljbris (some weights are free to download). It took me a minute to figure out how to enter the text and pictures in the way the theme wanted so that it would show up properly but once I got that sorted it became really easy to add pictures (the theme even resizes the photos appropriately).

There are some other great photo related blogs on the Commons like the always surprising Pictures of CUNY and the wonderfully edited Moment: Un Revue de Photo. I hope to see more as we continue to grow.

Why not my family?

There is of course the privacy concern, which is important but alone, not enough of a reason not to post those pictures. The main reason was to try to break myself out of the habit of only taking my camera out to document a family event. I have literally thousands of those pictures. That’s met with mixed success. I should have spent this last weekend making a photo for my blog to help introduce this post. Instead I took a few hundred pictures of my daughter’s fifth birthday party (and of course forgot to try to snap a few that could fit by blog guidelines). As the weather warms up I hope to get out more.

Why only my photos?

From the start this was a more personal exercise that I hoped would help me grow as a photographer and take more pictures of different subjects (than my family). My outlook has changed a bit since starting. While some photos, like my shots of Newark’s lights (one and two) from the train and the jellyfish accompanying this post, are more purely visual, I’ve begun to realize that I’m probably most interested in ones that have a story with them or, as in this post, evoke stories. The story is something I’ve only minimally focused on and will, hopefully, do more so in the future. In that light I would probably be open to another person’s pictures on the blog if they had an interesting story to go along with it. I would also like to include more pictures of people like this shot of NYC street photographer Louis Mendes.

I’m still have a lot of growing to do, I’m still having fun and I’m still going to do it on the Commons.


  1. Lookin’ Sharp | Ground Control - March 10, 2012

    […] and the process of excavating CUNY’s analog and digital archives for photos.  Chris Stein talks about why he decided to share his photography with the Commons community and how he goes about picking […]

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