Me at Norwescon 1986
Since the early 1980’s, I’ve been attending science fiction/fantasy conventions. I began doing some costuming and really enjoyed it. I didn’t own a camera, so I almost never got shots of my outfits. Once in a while a friend would take a picture and give me a copy, but for the most part those images are lost in time. This is not to say there were no pictures taken of me. Many people would take my picture, but back in those dark days, there was very little chance I would ever get to see them. As time went on, I would be a bit more diligent and try to get contact info, but it was still film and there was processing and a lot more hassle and expense.
Eventually we had the internet. After a convention, I might do a few searches to see if people had put up their pictures and maybe, just maybe, there might be an image of me or my friends that I would get to see. It was very tedious. I’d usually have to wade through a million pics of them having breakfast with friends and other things that were of no interest to me. I really only wanted to see the costume shots. Few people did any sorting and filing in the beginning. A few places began to do galleries of costume pics from their convention, which was great. They usually only focused on the masquerade entrants, but it was a start.
Once digital pictures were more prevalent, the photos online really took off. No scanning required! There were so many photo album sites that it was a hassle to search for them and then go through them. When I first found Flickr.com, I was ecstatic. A searchable online group of galleries! Huzzah! It was truly useful. You could set up your own galleries and share your photos. You could also set up groups and invite others to add theirs to the group pool. I made a group called “Science fiction/fantasy convention costumes” to try and encourage participation. I was thrilled when one person did actually go and scan in some old masquerade photos from the 80’s. That was exactly the sort of thing I had dreamt of seeing.
I handed out cards to photographers suggesting they add their photos to the group so others could find their pictures too. Unfortunately, most of the hard core photographers already had their own sites and didn’t want to take the time to put them up elsewhere. I can understand that, but I still encouraged them to at least put a link to their sites in the appropriate group. A lot of the younger folks did join in the fun and we had quite a boom.
Now the trouble is that convention groups like Dragoncon have way too many pictures for anyone to sort through. In fact, you cannot look at the beginning of the group for long because Flickr limits how many pages you can search back through.
Me at Chicon 1983
Tagging photos with the type of costume or name of the character would help this immensely, but most people can’t be bothered to take the time to put more than the name of the convention on theirs. In some cases the sheer amount of work it would require is daunting. Even worse are the people who tag an entire group of photos with multiple tags, so the word “zombie” will bring up every photo they took in the batch that contains the zombie pic. Frankly this practice is less than useless. Sometimes, the photographer allows others to tag his work, but not always. Recently, Flickr added the “add a person” function which allows you to tag the person if they are one of your contacts. It’s great but only if you already know them and have them in your contacts.
I just tried to wade through photos from Emerald City Comic Con, but I found it has become a herculean chore. Due to the ease of digital photography almost no one even bothers to edit out bad photos, leading to a sea of similar images. Or they just add every photo; A hundred pics from the same panel of James Marsters speaking. I know that my picture was taken many times, but the only one I saw was my husband’s.
So, we’ve gone from one lone photo we might really want to see being hidden in someone’s photo album in their basement to it being like a proverbial needle in a haystack. I am not sure which is worse. Famine or feast.
I make this plea to you dear reader, if you have some photos from days gone by of science fiction/fantasy convention costumes, consider scanning them and adding them to my Flickr.com group. I am sure someone would truly love to see them. And if you are one of the many happy Flickr users already, please consider tagging your photos thoroughly and correctly so that the person who so nicely posed for you, might someday get to enjoy them.