In line – on line

Over the last few days there have been a couple of news stories that have brought attention to online photo-sharing. Yesterday the BBC had news story that linked in with the report on the US airline pilot who manged to miraculuosly ditch a plane into the Hudson River without any loss of life. The link story looked into the photograph of the ditched plane that was put onto the onlineĀ  photo community Twitter by a person on one of the ferries that went to the planes rescue. The man in question took the image and posted it online immediately using his camera phone. Within the hour the image had been seen all around the world while news agencies struggled to find their own images for the breaking story.

In another (all be it, less urgent) story, I read that the Prado have created a link on Google Earth where you can click on the gallery through googles stunning software and see a selection of the Prados masterpieces in close up detail.

All this highlights how we interact with images in a very different way since the introduction of the internet, we may not realise it but our relationship with images is constantly changing.

I decided to investigate the Tower of London on Google Earth and had a look at some of the images that have been tagged to the location by visitors. The way this works is pretty simple – you go somewhere take some pictures and then using a picture sharing site called Panoramio upload those images and then tag them to a map of where you took them and (if they pass Google’s selection process) they are attached to Google Earth for all the world to see. The image below is from Google Earth’s image of the Tower of London – the blue squares are image tags.

The Tower on Google Earth

The Tower on Google Earth

As I have mentioned before, the Tower gets over 2 million visitors a year, all of whom take pictures – so it makes sense that Google must control what they put onto their online representation of the Tower. Here is their list of what will stop your images being selected for worldwide online access:

Not selected photos in Google Earth include:

  • People posing, portraits or persons as main subject. Exception: photos where people are an unavoidable part of the place
  • Car, plane or any machine as the main subject. Same exception as above.
  • Pet or animal as the main subject. Exception: animals in their natural environment showing the background.
  • Flowers and details of plants. Exception: forests, big trees and photos that show the background.
  • Close-ups: details, inscriptions, signals…
  • Underwater or aerial photos similar to the satellite images from Google Maps
  • Events: exhibitions, concerts, parades…
  • Interiors: everything under a roof is usually not accepted. Exception: photos with a wide perspective inside churches, mosques, train stations…
  • Text: large copyright notices and advertising text / URL. Exception: very small and discrete copyright notices are OK as long as you are the author.
  • Frames: only very thin and simple frames are accepted.
  • Too small photos under 500 pixels in height and width are not selected. For example, 640×240 and 800×600 are OK for Google Earth, but 480×240 is not OK
  • Low quality photos; extremely blurred, under 100 Kb size, too dark…
  • Not real photos: paintings, logos, digital images, collages…
  • Photos taken from the interior of a car.
  • 3D photos
  • Photos that don’t fit with the general Photo Acceptance Policy of Panoramia

Having read this I realised that my work as ‘Official Photographer in Residence at the Tower of London’ would not actually be accepted by Google Earth. A lot of my images are interiors (oh dear) and the one below is outside but of a machine (I think a siege engine still counts as a machine). I posted them anyway and will tell you if I am successful or not in the near future.

You can see the 4 images I uploaded onto the Panoramia site here



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