In Focus

In this section you’ll find regular updates highlighting some of the wonderful images to be found around the world. Occasionally I’ll pick my own images, if I feel they tell a particular story, but generally these will be from anyone and anywhere – whatever has caught my eye. There will also be regular features picking out some of the best public and private collections of vintage photographs available online.

If you have any suggestions for inclusion, whether you’re promoting your own material or have seen something you think deserves to be in the spotlight, do drop me a note with details.

Five years of Flickr Commons – a personal review

Unidentified soldier of the First AIF from Australian War Memorial on Flickr Commons

Unidentified soldier of the First AIF from Australian War Memorial on Flickr Commons. 75,000 views, 2,600 favourites, 491 comments

16 January 2013 marks the five year anniversary of the launch of Flickr Commons. At that time I was already an avid Flickr user and had started to share vintage photos from my own personal collection. So the promise of such names as the Library of Congress, George Eastman House and Powerhouse Museum sharing parts of their often hitherto hidden collections was a cause of great excitement.

I’ve been following The Commons ever since, commenting on images where I had something to contribute, eagerly watching as new institutes joined up, and more recently spreading the word via my @PhotosOfThePast twitter account. As a closet hacker I’ve also had a lot of fun playing with the images, and especially the data behind them (more on that in the links section below).

Simply put, Flickr Commons has been amazing.

But it seems a suitable time to reflect on whether it has lived up to that promise, and perhaps more importantly given that the world of sharing photos online has changed so drastically in that five years, ask questions of whether it has fulfilled its potential, and what the future might hold.

The Highlights

Wow, where do I start? Perhaps firstly with some statistics. A few months back I put together a little tool that summarises key statistics across Flickr Commons. As I write this blog post, on the eve of the 5-year anniversary, I can see:

In five years 56 Flickr Commons Institutes have uploaded 243,006 images. That’s a staggering number, an average of over 4,300 from each institute, and over 130 images for each day since the launch.

28,831 of these have been geotagged, and 53,555 have had a ‘date taken’ set. Ok, that probably sounds a bit geeky, but along with all the tags and other metadata this shows just what a rich repository Flickr Commons has become (and also means that it has the potential to make a rather nice map, a fascinating timeline, and the ability to see what images were taken ‘on this day in history’).

Hundreds of thousand of comments and tags have been added by users1 and as a further indication of popularity, 20,173 images have been added to a Flickr gallery.

All the wonderful things that have been done on and with Flickr Commons are too long to list here, but if you want to check out some examples have a look at a couple of my recent favourites – Brooklyn Museum’s geotag Brooklyn project, and the Imperial War Museums’ Faces of the First World War. There’s also been a spin-off Indicommons blog and even an iPhone/iPad app specifically developed to display Commons images.

Keep your finger on the pulse by checking the Flickr Commons group discussions.

A few questions

It has to be said that all of this has been achieved against a rather uncertain backdrop. With Flickr’s acquisition by Yahoo (and some notable departures) there seemed a sense that The Commons was something of an unknown to them. This was then reflected both in a freeze in organisations able to join (thankfully something that finally ended with a new swathe of members in 2011, though worryingly no-one new now since November 2011) but also in the number of images uploaded – the stats show that after 13,547 uploads in 2008, 22,164 in 2009, and a whopping 117,775 in 2010, this fell to 27,001 in 2011. Thankfully 2012 saw a marked reversal, with 61,052 images added. But within this there are marked differences – some institutions appear to have taken a long break, and I sense that not all remain committed and are having understandable doubts over whether to continue, no doubt facing resourcing pressures and issues of prioritising all digital activities. But I hope that I am proved wrong there, and examples like National Library of Ireland, posting images nearly every day and attracting immediate reaction from a band of loyal followers, are leading the way.

But has anything changed n five years, and is Flickr Commons moving with teh times and ready to face the next five? It’s interesting to see the same issues arising today as had been raised right at the beginning. Whilst adding comments and tags is easy for users, translating that quickly and easily into accurate metadata such as geotags remains elusive. Likewise most institutes will have their own collections management systems and even with Flickr’s comprehensive API it seems people are finding it hard to integrate crowdsourced data back into their own systems.

These issues don’t mean that there’s a fatal flaw, it just suggests that it’s not working as well as it could.

The future

I think Flickr Commons is due a second lease of life. I sense that Flickr itself is escaping a little from the suffocation that arose from becoming part of a multinational and it’s finding its feet again. But in an ever changing digital space it still has a long way to catch up against the Instagrams of the world.

But Flickr has some wonderful communities and a loyal group of highly engaged users, and Flickr Commons epitomises this.

Flickr Commons is simply too good to throw away. At least I think so, and I hope Marissa Mayer does too!



My ‘hacks’

5th anniversary articles (please submit any other suggestions in comments)

Older reviews of Flickr Commons


1. It is not possible to get a figure for total comments from the API unless you are the account holder. But just to cite one example, National Library of Ireland recently reported that their 1,071 photos had had an astonishing 14,871 comments!

New Flickr Commons tools – ‘on this day’ & interactive map

I’ve been having a play with some new tools to help people explore the wealth of images that exist on Flickr Commons.

Flickr Commons 'On This Day' screenshot

Flickr Commons 'On This Day'

The first one is a gallery which allows you to view images from certain dates, and not just from specific dates but also things like ‘on this day’ which displays images from a specific day and month in any year. You can also look for things like ‘all images taken in January 1896′ or even just all 1896 images, or all January images. So go ahead, check your birthday, you know you want to!

Flickr Commons World Map

Flickr Commons World Map

The second one is a new version of the interactive map, which takes work that I had done previously putting Commons images on Google Earth and the smartphone-based Layar augmented reality app and delivers it in your web browser, using OpenStreetMap (an open source alternative to Google Maps). You can browse around the world and zoom in to specific locations, and it will display up to 250 of the most ‘interesting’ images at that location. Some great places to start exploring are Dublin and New York.

Respecting copyright of old photographs – the good, the bad, and the ugly

I regard myself as ‘custodian’ of my collection of vintage photographs – after all I didn’t actually create the images – and the joy of sharing them online is to see the comments and to find the images (or most often simply links to them) on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia etc. I release almost all of my vintage images under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial licence. This means that as long as any use is non-commercial and credits the source of an image (typically with a link to the original) then that’s fine with me.  The result of this approach is that I see lots of people viewing them on Flickr (just over a million views to-date), with many coming from such sources.  Assuming the people that actually click through are just the tip of the iceberg then it confirms that lots of people are enjoying the images. I like that thought.

Yes, on occasion they will be exploited and that is not right, but the only real alternative is to never share them at all and I couldn’t bear just hiding all the images in a cupboard or on a hard drive never to be seen. It’s also of note that I have certainly made more income (albeit trivial sums) by sharing them under an appropriate license and then people contacting me to ask, than if I had never put them out there at all.

There will always be thieves, but as any corner shop shows that’s no reason to put the tastiest chocolate bars out of reach where people can’t easily grab them.

Anyway, I have seen three things lately that have made me think of the issues around sharing old photographs online, and the ways that people might use, and abuse, those images.

The Good

Unknown sailing ship

Unknown sailing ship, used properly under license

A couple of days ago I started seeing a number of people coming through to an image I have of a sailing ship. They were coming from this page. At first I couldn’t quite work out why, but then saw that all the sources that made up the composite are listed and linked, and the sailing ship shown to the back right was taken from my image.  So the artist has taken a range of images that were available under a suitable license, applied their own creative skill, and then when they published their work they have linked to the source images. Perfect. (Though ironically there’s no copyright information on their image so I don’t know if I’m allowed to share it here!).

The Bad

Hari Dasu, India. c. 1900?

Hari Dasu, India. c. 1900?

I’ve long been aware that some of my most popular and notable images on Flickr had found themselves being quite widely reproduced across the web. Not in itself a specific problem, but as you might imagine not everyone was respecting the license, especially the attribution part.

I’m not sure whether it’s a good or bad thing that there are now a few tools to help you find these things. The two most notable ones that I have used are TinEye and Google‘s image search feature (click on the camera) that both let you drag and drop an image into the search, or paste in an image url (web address). TinEye now allows you to just paste in the address of a Flickr page and as long as you have a little bit of patience it can return some interesting results (though it seems to find far, far less than Google). If you want to try them, here’s an interesting url to try – – almost certainly my most plagiarised image.

The Ugly

I have to confess that even in the above examples, almost all of them are non-commercial and not exploiting my images as such, and generally I suspect any issues with lack of attribution are based on poor awareness amongst authors. Likewise there have also been some concerns raised about services like Pinterest, but in most cases that I’ve seen the source has been credited (though annoyingly if someone ‘pins’ an image from a site which does give proper attribution, it still cites that secondary site as the source).  The bigger issue is how easy it is to ‘Pin’ images that are marked as all rights reserved, something that generally doesn’t apply to my images.

But one example has just come to light that exemplifies how little regard some companies have for copyright and attribution, even when they should know better. As I said on TwitterIf someone fails to credit an image source that’s one thing, but when sites like @imgur don’t even let people do it, that’s out of order“.

The site in question is, which I found when my cousin posted a link on Facebook to a gallery of interesting historic images. I find so many things wrong with this site, things that collectively amount to the worst case I’ve ever seen in terms of lack of respect for the rights holders of historic images:

  • none of the images are attributed
  • even if the images were used under license there’s no way for users to acknowledge that
  • you can’t see who uploaded the image, let alone contact them
  • you can’t comment on these images
  • they provide code for anyone to embed the gallery elsewhere, which in turn has links to view and download the original resolution images
  • anyone can download the original files for the entire gallery in a zip file in one easy click (it even emails you to tell you when the download is ready)

Yes, if whoever uploaded these images took more care and ensured that they didn’t upload images that they weren’t permitted to then there wouldn’t be a problem. But the truth is that even if, like with my images, they did have a suitable license the site simply makes it impossible to honour the requirements of proper attribution.

As a slight side story, I was intrigued by whether any of those images were definitely protected by copyright. I took the example of the haunting image of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc – The original image was taken in 1963 by Associated Press photographer Malcolm Browne, who coincidentally died just a few weeks ago. The image is currently listed on the AP website and is clearly still in copyright. There’s an extra twist though. The image displayed on Imgur is colour, whereas the original was black & white. This version it turns out was created by Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway who has taken a whole series of classic black & white images and created colour versions. I wonder what permissions she got to use these original images? On the other hand, that doesn’t take away from the fact that these images will be her copyright. That’s one for the lawyers I suspect!

And talking of lawyers, what of digitised versions of images that are definitely out of copyright? The considered opinion (thanks to @copyrightgirl on Twitter for bringing me up to speed on this) is that for a copy of an old image to have its own copyright protection it will depend on how much “originality, skill and judgment goes into the digitisation process”. This has been established in the US by the Bridgeman case, but is totally untested in UK law.  So, whilst I like to think I have put a certain amount of skill and judgement into the digital versions of my images, maybe I don’t have any rights with them anyway? But doesn’t it all just boil down to plain old common decency in the end?

Ealing’s Victorian photographic studios and early photographers

I am starting to pull together all the information I can find about Ealing’s early photographic studios.  This is just a first attempt – very much work in progress – to share this information with others who may be interested and especially for anyone who may be able to contribute.

Cabinet Card by Wakefield, 1 High Street, Ealing, early 1900s

Ealing is a suburb about nine miles due west of the centre of London.  I have lived there, in four different houses now, for nearly 20 years so it seemed an obvious topic to cover!  For the purposes of this article I am restricting ‘Ealing’ to the areas of Ealing Broadway, South Ealing, North Ealing, and Northfields.  I will probably also include Hanwell and Boston Manor, as that is where I live, and then in time look to expand it to cover areas such as Acton, Brentford, Greenford and and Southall.  By early photographers I mean pre World War 1.  And by their nature, most of these studios were portrait studios, so most examples are of unknown individuals rather than old views of Ealing itself.

Photographic studios

Here’s a first stab at a simple list of all the Ealing photographic studios I have found, and a summary of what I know about them so far.  Initial  sources are:

1. Photographer listings on
2. Items seen listed on eBay
3. Items shared by other users on Flickr
4. My personal collection as shared on Flickr
5. Miscellaneous sources

Note that I have not yet consulted the excellent (but not free) which I am sure will fill in a lot of gaps and answer many questions, especially in relation to dates.  I will also try to undertake some genealogical research, and have made contact with the Ealing Local History Centre where I will aim to look at local trade directories, maps etc.

Bell, Edwin

Reverse of carte de visite by Edwin Bell, 31 Denmark Villas

Reverse of carte de visite by Edwin Bell, 31 Denmark Villas (click on image to view front)

Listed as a photographer living in Ealing in 1881, 1891 & 1901 census records. Formerly assistant with Lock & Whitfield. [1a]

Exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society in 1881 and 1887. [5]

Examples: Cabinet cards [2, 2, 2]

Bridge, E.L.

There is no mention of EL Bridge on [1]; the only reference to this studio I have found so far is from the carte de visite that was listed on eBay (see below)

Examples: Carte de visite [2]

Hopgood, E.

Edwin James [Jas] Hopgood b1862, or father Edward (both photographers).  Check comments in source link for further location info, provided by Flickr user Paul J Hilton [3j]

Neither Edwin nor Edward Hopgood is listed on [1]

Sandringham Studio, High St [3k]

Examples: Carte de visite [2, 3v (6 images)]

Lock & Whitfield

Unknown woman by Lock & Whitfield, The Common, Ealing

A well known and sizable studio, first based in central London and then opening a branch in Brighton.  I am not sure as yet when the Ealing studio opened, but I suspect it was around 1880.

Samuel Robert Lock and George C Whitfield [3s]

“printing establishment moved from Kensington to Ealing March 1869; still in operation 1908.” [1b]

When sold in 1908 address given as Burlington House, Uxbridge Road, Ealing Common [1b]; this address, assuming it to be the same, is now a council run care home and is situated as you leave Ealing Broadway heading east (into London) along the Uxbridge Road, just before Ealing Common.

Also at 178 Regent Street, September 1856 – 1894 [1b]; shown on cabinet cards – see examples below

See also George Carpe Whitfield, in Additional Names section below – I now believe that this is the Whitfield related to the Lock & Whitfield studio.

Examples: Cabinet card [2, 2, 2, 2, 4c]; unknown format(CdV?) [3u]; Woodburytypes [3t (many images)]

McLanachan, J.L.

Likely John Lorimer McLanachan; b. 1845 Ayrshire [3b]

2 The Mall [3c]

It is suggested that he may have only been in Ealing for a couple of years c. 1881 (possibly after which EC Porter took over at 2 The Mall) – see comprehensive comments from Flickr user Paul J Hilton[3b]

There is no mention of JL McLanachan on [1]

Examples: [3w (5 images)]

Muir, Samuel John

78 Uxbridge Road [2]; 78 Uxbridge Road, Ealing 1895 – 1904 [1c, 3n]

In 1891 he is recorded as living at 67 Eccleston Road, Ealing (I suspect far too small to run any sort of business – I used to live at 84), and then in 1901 at the studio address at 78 Uxbridge Road [1c]

Percy John Muir, Samuel’s son, is listed in 1901 as a  photographic assistant living at 78 Uxbridge Road, Ealing [1d]

Examples: Carte de visite [3n]; Cabinet card [2]; Real photo postcard [3p]

Unknown woman by EC Porter, The Mall, Ealing

Porter, Edward Cecil

6 The Esplanade [3e, 3i, 3m]
2 The Mall [3g]
20 The Mall [2]

Census records show him at 2 Cumberland Terrace in 1892 as an artist/painter, then as a photographer at 2 The Mall in 1891, then 20 The Mall in 1901.

Kelly’s Directory for Ealing records (accessed via
1889-90: 2 The Mall
1893-4: 20 The Mall and then states “photographer (Holcombe)” which I’m not too clear on the meaning of.
1907: 21 The Mall

There are several records of the surname Porter on, but none for Edward Cecil. The most notable is Mary Ann who was a photographic mounter living on Windsor Road in 1891 and 1901 – I have a feeling she will be a relative of Edward [1e]

Examples: Carte de visite [2, 3f, 3h, 3l, 3o, 4a]; Cabinet card [3a, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3d]

Unknown lady, by Alfred Raines, 7 Queens Terrace, Ealing Dean

Raines, Alfred

The only record I currently have of this studio is a single cabinet card that I own.  Raines is not listed on  There are however records on which I shall have to access.

7 Queens Terrace, Ealing Dean [4b]

Examples: [4b]

Wakefield, Frank

21 The Mall, Ealing 1897 – 1901 [1f]
1 High Street, Ealing 1902 – 1904 [1f]

Unknown man & woman (groom & bride?) by Wakefield, 1 High Street, Ealing

The census records show him in 1901 as a photographer living at 24 Oxford Road, Ealing [1f]; his three sons also worked in the business – Edward Arthur, Frank Graham & George Hamilton Wakefield; he had worked until 1880 in the City in partnership with Henry Holden Bray

Examples: Cabinet card: [4a (7 images)]; Unknown format [3q, 3r]


see Lock & Whitfield

Additional names

I have come across several other names of photographers who at some point lived in Ealing.  These may all warrant further research, but for now I shall just list them.  All information is sourced from unless stated.

Atkinson, Arthur Woodcroft – 1901: photographer living at 65 Warwick Road, Ealing

Bagley, Arthur John – 1881: photographer living at 4 Coningsby Road, Ealing

Bradshaw, Alfred Herbert – 1901: photographer living at 92 Park Road North, Acton.

Bradshaw, Charles Frederick – 1901: photographer living at 92 Park Road North, Acton

Bulley, Herbert – 1881: photographic assistant living at 20 Princes Road, Ealing

Bullingham, Henry – 1891: photographer living at 8 Heathfeld Road, Acton.
1901: photographer living at 40 Avenue Road, Acton (studio was in Kensington)

Burow, Ralph – 1901: photographer living at 9 Churchfield Road East, Ealing (studio in Regent Street)

Edwards, Benjamin Joseph – 1901: photographic chemist living at Greylands Lodge, Castle Bar Park, Ealing (not a photographer as such, but I have included him as the photolondon listing shows many fascinating looking photographic patents against his name, and his firm moved to Castlebar Works, Ealing Dean in 1905)

Fleming, Mary – 1891: photographer with father Lewis Baldwin Fleming, living at Norwood Villa, High Street, Hanwell

Foxlee, Edward William Michael – 1881: photographer living at 1 Gloucester Villas, Acton. 1891 & 1901: photographer living at 22 Goldsmith Road, Acton.

Garratt, James Philip -1901: photographer living at Wooden Cottage, Warwick Road, Ealing.

Gay, David – 1881: photo enameller living at 2 Shirley Villas, Hanwell. 1901: retired, living in Ealing.

Gill, Sydney – 1901: photographer living in Ealing.

Glasse, Thomas Allan – 1891: photographer living at 30 Arlington Road, Ealing.

Hall, William Henry – 1881: photographer living at 18 Coningsby Road, Ealing.
1891: photographer living at 7 Shakespeare Road, Acton.

Hyatt, James Hallett L – 1891: photographer living at 1 Hamilton Road, Ealing.
1901: photographer living at 3 Kent Villas, Kent Gardens, Ealing (studio in Great Russel St, Bloomsbury)

Lewis, Stephen Charles – 1881: Autotype printer living in Hanwell (studio at 3 Ealing Terrace, Uxbridge Road, Hammersmith 1888 – 1889)

Martyn, Frank – 1901: photographer living at 12 Argyle Road, Ealing. Also artist (earlier, studios in Islington and Westminster)

Mason, Frederick G – 1891: photographer living at 25 Coldershaw Road, Ealing.
1901: photographer living at 8 Holly Park Terrace, Hanwell

Parker, William Edward – 1901: photographer living in Acton.

Praetorius, Charles B – Employed at Autotype Establishment, Ealing June 1870. Studios in Kensington 1872-1891

Sawyer, John Robert Mather – 1881: photographer living at 51 Windsor Road, Ealing. 1884: photographer living at 3 Windsor Road, Ealing.  In addition there are several mentions of companies, patents and bibliographic references relating to printing processes, including autotypes.

Sisman, Thomas Limbird – 1891: photographer living at 1 Broomfields, Broomfield Road, Ealing Dean.
1901: photographer living at 37 Broomfield Road, Ealing Dean.

Spencer, John Alexander – 1874: photographer living at Brownlow House, Ealing Dean. Joined Autotype Company in 1870

Taylor, Joseph & Harold – father & son; 1901: both photographers living at 18 Alacross Road, Ealing

Vidler, Frederick William Wilson – 1881: photographer living at 5 Avenue Road, Ealing (later, studios in Willesden)

Watson, Edward Ellis – 1901: photographer living at Burlington House, Uxbridge Road, Ealing.

George Carpe Whitfield – 1881: photographer living at 14 Sandringham Road, Ealing.  Several business interests and mentions of printing, especially Woodburytypes, and also as the founder of the Paget Prize Plate Co and patent holder for Paget colour plates. However, other sources typically list this as G S Whitfield, and I have since discovered that in 1891 he worked with a George Sydney Whitfield (relationship unknown).  I now believe that  George Whitfield is linked to the Lock & Whitfield studio.   [3s] gives the names as Samuel Robert Lock and George C Whitfield, and I have also found many excellent examples of  Woodburytypes by this studio [3t].

Whiting, Charles Rowland – 1881: photographer living at 14 Denmark Villas, Ealing. Lodger.
1891: photographic operator living at 48 Denmark Road, Ealing. Studios in Camden and Shepherd’s Bush various dates 1866-1887.

Wilkinson, William Thompson – 1881: photographer living at 1 Bloomfield Place, Broomfield Road, Ealing Dean; bankrupt in 1882 then studio in Kensington 1883-4.


Just compiling this overview highlights a few things of note:

- a number of photographers used the studio at 2 The Mall

- most of the records and examples found date from c. 1880 or later.  This may be no coincidence, as it was at that time that Ealing expanded rapidly with teh arrival of the Metropolitan District Railway (now London Underground’s District Line)

- I am fascinated by a couple of mentions of Ealing in the Additional Names section above, especially the many mentions relating to autotypes and one of the “Autotype Establishment, Ealing”.  I have not pursued this line of enquiry in any depth, but a quick search found information about the Autotype Company which moved from Brixton to Brownlow Road (in what is now known as West Ealing) and at one point employed 70 people – see  Furthermore the company that acquired Autotype, MacDermid, has a page about the history of the company and a photograph of the Ealing works.  It also states that they moved away from Ealing by 1978 and “There are currently no traces of the old factory in Ealing as the site was used by the Ealing council to provide social housing” – see

- likewise through George Carpe Whitfield and George Sydney Whitfield I have discovered that the Woodbury Permanent Photographic Printing Co was at Kent Gardens, Ealing until moving in 1897 – see

1901: photographer living at 92 Park Road North, Acton.

Mapping Flickr Commons

Update 6 Oct 2012 – I now have a web-based map up and running

Did you know that Flickr Commons, home to some of the finest images from many of the best public collections in the world, currently has 181,247 images of which 17,456 (9.6%) 218,514 images of which 27,343 (12.5%) are geotagged? (data updated 6 Oct 2012)

In a review I wrote about websites and services for displaying vintage images on maps (and in mobile apps for that matter) I mentioned that there was no such thing, as far as I was aware, for displaying Flickr Commons images.  Well, I felt I ought to fill that void, so I’ve spent a little time reminding myself how to write code, and learning a few new tricks along the way. Still very much work in progress, but the results so far are:

Flickr Commons on Google Earth

Flickr Commons on Google Earth

Flickr Commons on Google Earth

Google Earth is a very neat bit of software that allows you to explore the whole world in 3D.  It has lots of built in stuff you can display, but you can also add your own things, through a format known as kml.  So all that was needed was something that would use the excellent Flickr API and convert it into kml, and then a tool to just display what was in the current view and stop overloading everything with over 17,000 images at once.

How to view Commons images on Google Earth

First you’ll need to make sure you have Google Earth installed. Then you simply click on this link – – and make sure you open it in Google Earth.

Once it’s loaded you’ll get the latest 100 images from the area on view. Pan around and zoom in and out, then when you stop it will display the 100 images for that region – just give it a few seconds to fetch them. Try zooming (or ‘flying to’ as they call it) Paris, Sydney, London, New York …

Have a play and see what you think.  There are also a couple of ‘hidden’ features in my code that allow the more technically savvy to filter by keyword and by Flickr Commons member institution.  For example here are all the war images (just add ?q=war or whatever search term you wish), and here are all the images from the National Library of Ireland (add ?owner=47290943@N03, or the userid of one of the other 50+ Commons organisations you want – find them all in this xml)

Flickr Commons on Layar

Flickr Commons on Layar

Flickr Commons on Layar mobile augmented reality browser

Because 90% of the work was already done, I’ve created a version that displays Commons images in the Layar augmented reality mobile phone app. Wherever you find yourself you will be able to open up the app on your smartphone and browse around you for the nearest Flickr Commons images.

I’ve submitted it for approval to Layar, and all being equal it should be available publicly in the next few days. Update 19/12: the Flickr Commons Layer is now live – If you open the link on a compatible smartphone* it should take you straight to the layer, or prompt you to download the app if you don’t have it installed.  Any user with Layar already installed can also search for it within the public library which comprises thousands of layers worldwide.

*You’ll need a smartphone, and to install the Layar app, which is available for iPhone, Android, Symbian (Nokia) and Blackberry.

Flickr Commons web map

Map of Flickr Commons images

Web-based map of Flickr Commons images

Still work-in-progress, but I have now developed a web map using OpenLayers and OpenStreetMap which displays Flickr Commons images on a map in your web browser.

For posterity, here’s also an earlier prototype version based on Google Maps – see

It’s very straightforward to also display the kml for Google Earth in Google Maps, giving access via a standard web browser.  You just go to Google maps and paste in the address of the kml file – like this.

The user experience leaves a lot to be desired though, and I personally find it almost unusable as it jumps around a lot, and the info windows suddenly disappear.


These are very much ‘work in progress’ – if you spot any issues, or have any suggestions, then please leave a comment or drop a note to me.

If there are any developers with mapping experience reading this who’d like to lend a hand getting these into better shape then I’d love to hear from you!

Some Fathers and Sons for Father’s Day

Mystery man (and medal) and son, both in uniform

Work commitments and a manically busy schedule have stopped me posting for some time, but hopefully I’ll get back in the swing now things are calming down!

It is Father’s Day here in the UK today, as it is in many countries of the world (but not all), so I’ve pulled together a quick gallery of pre-1900 images from Flickr of fathers and their sons.

It was actually remarkably hard to find that many, reinforcing a theory I have that pictures of mothers and their children were far more common in the 19th century.

There’s an image from my own collection here, but do make sure you see the full gallery of other people’s father and son images on Flickr.

In focus: Lickley-Dunlop Victorian Family Album

52 Unknown family, Glasgow mid 1860s
Family Group, early 1860s, by Downie, Jamaica St, Glasgow

I stumbled across a wonderful Victorian album on Flickr today. It is so typical of family albums assembled during that era, with images ranging from the early 1860s (including some real gems like the family portrait shown here) through to the 1880s or even 1890s. I have a few of these albums myself, just not of my own ancestors, only strangers.

It must be a real treasure to have something like this preserved in the family, but it’s great to also see it shared online.  If anyone can help with any dating or identifications I’m sure Don would be very pleased to hear from you. (more…)

In focus: Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. 1846

As seen on Flickr

Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. 1846
[Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front] (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress
Click on image to view original on Flickr

This wonderful image, a quarter plate daguerreotype, is currently the oldest image in my Dated Vintage Photographs group on Flickr.

To me this image underpins the real joy and true value of Flickr, and especially Flickr Commons – famous public institutions (in this case the Library of Congress) can reach mass audiences, extending their reach beyond their own websites, yet sharing the stage on equal terms with individuals who hold small private collections. As you can see from the comments, it’s also much appreciated.

In focus: Vintage Photograph Groups on Flickr

I administer a number of groups on Flickr, some of which I’ll no doubt feature and promote in due course. But for starters be sure to check out the Vintage Photographs [Directory] group. Like other self-proclaimed meta-groups on Flickr (there’s the History Directory for starters, and lots more) the main aim is not to be an active group with huge numbers of photographs, but to bring together structured links to anything and everything that falls within the category.

Currently the group has amassed over 150 (yes, one hundred and fifty!) vintage photograph related groups, under such diverse categories as Military, Natural World, Photographic Techniques and Styles, and even a bit of Risqué.  Which are your favourites?  For the sleuths amongst you, I’ve found there’s no better way to get mystery images identified than finding a related group and sharing your images there.  Plus of course you get the chance to help others and share your own knowledge.

You’ll need to head on over to the group description on Flickr (follow link and scroll down) to get the most up-to-date list, but to start the ball rolling I’ve copied the current (31 Jan 2011) list below. I’m especially keen to fill in some of the gaps in the geographic regions as I’m sure their must be vintage photo groups on Flickr for places like Africa and the Middle East.


In focus: A father and and his children. 1867

As seen on Flickr

A father and and his children
A father and and his children

Image by Crafty Dogma
Click on image to view original on Flickr

This has to be one of the more unusual and strangely captivating early carte de visite that I’ve seen on Flickr in a while. The card style and photographic studio setting tie in well with the 1860s date, but the pose, and indeed the subject of what we assume is the father and his three children, is something quite out of the ordinary for that time. Photographically it is rather an odd composition – the empty space top and bottom, the chair leg and frame that creep into the right-hand side, and the slightly clumsy imbalance between the small boy with face almost toughing his father’s whilst his eldest sister is more removed – but somehow that just adds to the charm.

Head on over to this wonderful image from Crafty Dogma on Flickr to comment, and be sure to check out some of the other fascinating images they have.

In focus: British Postal Museum & Archive photographic collections

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See more BPMA images:
- on Flickr
- collections catalogue

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series of articles featuring collections of vintage photographs that have caught my eye.  I’ll especially aim to focus on lesser known collections – not just public ones but especially some of the amazing personal collections that their owners have chosen to share online.

Today I chanced upon a post from Martin Devereux of the British Postal Museum & Archive talking about Digitising the GPO Photograph Library. It gives an introduction to this lesser known treasure trove of images and is illustrated by a rather teasing selection of three lovely images from the first half of the 20th century.  According to the blog post, the collection contains about 99,997 more.

Intrigued, I set out to see what I could learn.

Photographs from the Powerhouse Museum Collection

The Powerhouse Museum has just launched a plugin for WordPress (the software that this blogs runs on) which allows you to easily embed images of their collections in your own blog. Below is a selection showing some of the wonderful images that they have to offer. You can also see a great selection in the Powerhouse Flickr Commons account.

  • H6786-3/1 Daguerreotype in case, young man, metal / glass / wood / leather, attributed to Thomas Bock, Launceston, 1848
  • Studio portrait of a man
    A4116-1 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of a man, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer unknown, Australia, 1850-1865
  • Daguerreotype of Mrs Wyly (attributed)
    H6653-6 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of Mrs Wyly (attributed), silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer James Beck (attributed), America, 1850-1860
  • Daguerreotypes, various photographers, 1848 - 1855
    H6786 Photographic positives, daguerreotypes, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, various photographers, 1848 - 1855
  • Photograph of sketch of Hargrave family outside their home at Keston, Kent
    P2903-9/1 Photographic print, black & white, mounted on board, pen sketch of Hargrave family standing outside their home at Keston, Kent, United Kingdom
  • Daguerreotype of unidentified man and woman,
    H7930 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of unidentified man and woman, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer unknown, Australia, 1845-1855
  • Portrait by Thomas Bock
    H6786-3 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of unidentified young man, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer Thomas Bock, Launceston, Tasmania, 1848
  • Studio portrait of a woman
    A4116-2 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of a woman, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer unknown, Australia, 1850-1865
  • Photograph of sketch of Hargrave family outside their home at Keston, Kent
    P2903-9/2 Photographic print, black & white, mounted on board, pen sketch of Hargrave family standing outside their home at Keston, Kent, United Kingdom
  • Portrait of John Brown
    H6786-2 Photographic positive, daguerreotype, studio portrait of John Brown, silver / copper / glass / leather / wood, photographer Richard Beard, London, England, 1849
Random selection of daguerreotypes from the Powerhouse Museum (more…)

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