Image from ‘Flash from the Past’ project, courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.
I was delighted to be asked by PhotoIreland Festival to chair and co-ordinate a panel discussion on the topic of photo-blogging. The discussion took place in a great location: The Back Loft at La Catedral Studios, off Thomas Street, Dublin, last Saturday, 10thJuly 2010. The panel included the photographer, David Monahan whose blog The Lilliputian covers amongst other things his ongoing project on emigration ‘Leaving Dublin’. David has worked for many cultural institutions as well as a freelance fine art photographic printer. I was also joined by Sarah Shiel from the National Library of Ireland. Sarah is behind their innovative facebook project ‘Flash from the Past’ which encourages members of the public to engage with the large collection of archival photographs now available on the library’s website. Sarah has also written about the online presence of Irish museums, see Museum Ireland, Volume 15, 2006, for her article entitled ‘Irish Museums Online: a virtual reality?’
Despite the bad weather, about thirty people turned up to hear what we had to say and to contribute to the discussion. These included photographers, students, librarians and museum professionals. All three of us on the panel were positive about the process of blogging both in terms of the increased audience that it generates and the ongoing feedback that is received in the form of comments. David stated that his blog was more than a portfolio and that it demonstrated how his work was progressing on an ongoing basis. Indeed he mentioned three projects that he is currently working on – all of which were advanced by blogging. He felt that a blog can drive a project as well as promote it. With regard to cultural institutions Sarah stated that the user-generated content was a new departure which offered the public a more active engagement with collections.
Amongst other issues, the group discussed the long-term archiving of blog content, the filtering of comments and the choice of blogging software. Questions from the audience included a query about the possible theft of project ideas . David didn’t feel this to be an issue though all agreed that it may be more of a risk within a competitive academic environment. Indeed, this mirrors issues raised at the recent ‘Blogging the Humanities’ conference run by the Irish history blog Pue’s Occurrences. The matter of blogging awards was also brought up and whilst some of the panel had misgivings a member of the audience stressed the fun nature of such events and the fact that they allowed people to meet up in ‘real life’.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the panellists and audience for their contributions and Antonella Scanu and Donna Kiernan at the Back Loft for their help in setting up the space and making everyone feel welcome. Miriam O’Connor was also kind enough to forward on a very interesting article on the subject of photo-blogging: ‘What does the photoblog want?’ which was published in the journal Media, Culture & Society in 2005. Finally, I would like to congratulate Ángel Luis González, the Director of PhotoIreland festival 2010 and his team. The week was a great success and I am already looking forward to 2011!