A few years ago, LabourStart starting featuring a photo of the week (sometimes, of the day), just to liven up its front page a bit. As its editor, I’d see photos of strikes or picket lines or jailed union activists and put them in a little corner of the front page.
As with most things, after a while it became more work than I had time for, so I asked one of our senior correspondents, Derek Blackadder from Canada, to take on the job of ensuring that we had fresh photos on our front page, at least once every week.
Little did I know that Derek would turn this little project into what may be the largest collection of union photos on the web.
As a result of his initiative, we now have our very own movement photo album with over 2,400 photos and some 286 individuals contributing – from all over the globe.
We’re using the photo-sharing service Flickr and the collection is located at http://flickr.com/groups/union/
Anyone can contribute photos, though Derek has asked that all submissions should be photos “of work, trade union actions, and trade union members”. He also invites those submitting photos to let him know if they would be appropriate as a LabourStart photo of the week. (We may have to go daily if we’re deluged with suggestions.)
This week’s photo on LabourStart is typical of the kinds of things we’ve shown recently. It’s a photo of Arab and Jewish women celebrating International Women’s Day in Tel Aviv. In a march organized by WAC-Maan they wanted to draw attention to the 81% unemployment rate amongst Arab women in Israel. They’re carrying a banner reading “Open Jobs for Women in Agriculture”. That’s not the kind of photo you’ll find on the cover of Newsweek, but it’s exactly the kind of image – trade unionists leading the fight for a better world – that we want to see more of.
You might say that getting 286 trade unionists to contribute their photos and amassing a collection of over 2,400 images is not really that impressive considering that LabourStart regularly mails to tens of thousands of people and does huge online campaigns in support of workers’ rights. But here’s the thing – we never publicized the Flickr group to our list.
We never asked people for help. People have been joining the union group on Flickr probably because they have seen our photo of the week and clicked on the little link there. Or maybe they were already using Flickr and stumbled on our group. (After all, millions of people use Flickr for their personal photos.)
In other words, the growth has been spontaneous and unplanned. People want to share their photos, and want others to see – not just read about – what their unions are doing.
A glance at some of the work submitted to the group reveals this deep desire to spread the word using photos. The biggest contributor is someone at the NDU, a union in New Zealand, who has posted no fewer than 692 photos to the group. Another New Zealand union, Finsec, is responsible for some 124 photos. Blackadder himself has contributed 130 photos. And a user calling himself “Karl Marx” is responsible for 153 photos. And no, I don’t think it’s that Karl Marx; this one is based in Taiwan.
The potential of this group is enormous – if without any real publicity it has already grown so large, what happens when we start talking it up? We’ll have at our disposal a fantastic resource for anyone doing trade union work – for education, communication, campaigning. Need a photo for the newsletter, leaflet or website? You’ll find something here.
I encourage all those who read this to check out the group, and to submit their own photos. Spread the word!