Friday, October 1, 2010

Virtual Friends are Some of the Best Friends I Have

Christine 11, 2010

The online world has been a real godsend for some of us. I know people who only came alive when the Internet made it possible for them to find the only other person in the world who thinks like them. Sure, they had friends before. But from the standpoint of shared interests, geographically local connections were sometimes few and the potential for social isolation was high.

My friend Wally Torta, for example, had no one but the servants in his luxurious harbor view penthouse to talk to before the world wide Interweb made it possible for his art and humor to be enjoyed by a wider audience of people. (He won’t say how many, but assures me it’s now more than seventeen people.)

When Fotolog and Flickr came along, connections started to be made. Those of us pursuing photography in obscurity got to know other people who were pursuing photography in obscurity. Over time, we formed informal networks of friends. At the outset, virtual communities like this are often formed around shared interests, e.g. people who like pictures of dogs or lighthouses or whatever. Over time, though, the knowledge derived expands. When you look a person’s pictures every day for a few years you start to know more about the person behind the camera. You can tell when they're up and when they're down.

That’s as far as some people wish to take it. But for others of us these virtual communities of like-minded souls have become lifelines. The nice thing about digital social media, in either case, is that you can turn the friendship volume up or down, depending on your comfort level.

The first time I met someone from Fotolog in person, we agreed to meet at a coffee shop in Brooklyn. I didn’t expect it to be an uncomfortable meeting. After all, the person I was meeting was someone whose pictures told me enough to feel confident that I wasn’t meeting a creep. Still, I asked my daughter, who showed me how to get to the meeting place, to hang around in case I needed an excuse to get out.

Looking back, that was pretty silly. That first meeting was a great success and was the first in a long string of “real space” meetings with people around the country I’ve met through the Fotolog and Flickr communities. A nicer bunch you couldn't find.

In 2007, I was in Providence, Rhode Island, for business and was able to meet Christine. Some of you may know her as “CA” from Flickr. We had a wonderful lunch, after which she gave me a quick tour of her favorite parts of town.

Business took me back to Providence again earlier this week. This time Christine introduced me to a great French restaurant. The night was foggy. A little rain fell here and there. After dinner, most people would have said their farewells and gone home. But being dedicated Flickr-ers who have never seen a foggy night we didn’t like, Christine and I instead went on a photo ramble along Benefit Street on Providence’s historic College Hill.

Two photographers taking pictures in the same place will invariably be drawn to different things and wander off in different directions. But we made sure to start with pictures of each other taken in the light of Christine’s favorite lamppost. I like this picture of her there because it’s captures the spirit of a friend who’s always looking up.

Christine 3, 2010


  1. Not only has this medium made it possible to connect with others across the globe who share similar interests, it has also enabled me to see familiar sights from a different perspective. I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have been enjoying your photography and your thoughts.

  2. Beautiful Chris. And true for so many of us. I remember dragging Lydia with me to Norfolk for protection...from you guys. Which reminds me, I think we need another meetup soon. Lovely shot.

  3. Out of all of my on-line connections, you are the one I'd most like to meet. But because I think so highly of you, I'd probably be too nervous to ever make it happen. I mean, what if you found out what a dud I really am?!

  4. I love all the internet connections...
    especially that my dog(correction - your dog) drawing is in your house :)
    When are you in NYC again?

  5. A few months after my accident left me retired early my wife informed me that if I didn't find something to do she was going kill me so I decided to try my hand at photography. A web search on the subject not only led to tons of information on the subject, it got me involved in blogging as well. I've formed friendships with folks from all over the world and learned a lot about my new hobby, as well. Now, between daily "photo expeditions" and blogging I no longer get on her much......and all I have to worry about is keeping her from finding out how much I spend on photography equipment. If she finds out about that she'll kill me.

  6. Someone else who likes lamp posts.. I always search them out in any city and LOVE it when the town planners (generally of days gone by) put in something artistic and wonderful, despite "only" serving a functional need. I love the lamp posts on rivers especially, where for some reason they always make more of an effort.... e.g. The Thames in London has beautiful Fish/dolphins frolicking at the bases. Kyle always laughs at me for taking pictures of Lamp-posts, now I can assure him I'm not the only one. Thanks Chris & Christine.

    As for internet friends... that's how I met my husband; well kind-a ;-)

  7. What a lovely tribute to your friend Christine. I agree--I've "met" some of the nicest folks through the internet. Some of 'em right here, commenting, for that matter! Great photo of Christine, too!

  8. Beautifully described and felt. Making art is a lonely business and it is nearly always something to be offered for a response. To have a place where it can be seen and responded to - often immediately- by such discerning viewers, supporters and friends is a real source of restoration and comfort. Fills the well so we can keep on keeping on. You put so much in for us to see, think about and appreciate. And you gamely and generously feed the hunger all of us who post have to have our work considered with your keen eye and observations. Thanks always, Chris.

  9. We (my husband and I) cannot imagine a world now without the internet. Chris, great post and luv the photo of Christine!

  10. this is a wonderful capture and shared space betwixt two friends of "cyber space" meeting in "real space" - a great terminology for that experience.

  11. Wonderful post Chris! This one plays well my feelings!
    Well, I confess ... I also on my first non-web meeting prayed my younger brother to "look at my shoulders" :-)

    You never can know who really there is on the other side ... but everything well, I have met always very nice people!