Back when photo-sharing site Flickr launched in 2004, Rosemea de Souza Smart MacPherson was all over it. But she wasn’t just another obsessive uploader of pictures from her daily life. The 57-year-old Northern Virginia attorney had a photographic eye that won fans from the online photo community—they voted her images best on the site in 2004. SMITH spoke with the Flickr favorite member via email. —Rich Knight
SMITH: How did you first get into Flickr?
Rosemea: I started on Flickr because I used to publish my photos at Fotolog. I still have an account there, but I don’t have time for it, so I seldom publish. I had started on Fotolog was because my niece had an account there and I just wanted to be a part of her life—just chat and see her face. But Fotolog had too many technical problems and Flickr started about that time and a lot of people from Fotolog moved to Flickr.
What kind of camera are you using?
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT 350
- Sigma: macro, 50mm.
- Sigma 70-300 mm.
I just bought a Nikon / Coolpix S10 because it has lithium battery and substitute the Nikon Coolpix 2220 because I needed to keep changing batteries. I still have it and post old photos that I took when that was my primary camera.
Have you ever done photography full time?
Photography is just a hobby. Even so, it has taken over my life in many ways. Full time, I am a researcher/attorney/writer, but wife is my favorite title. And right now, I’m enjoying my life more than pursuing a career at this stage in my life. But yes, it would be fantastic to be a professional photographer and get paid to just have fun!
Say somebody read this article and decided that they wanted to take your title away and have the best photos on Flickr. Would you feel the urge to compete with them?
Flickr has many other popular people and sites, and I am personally friends with many of them, such as Gary*.
But I think my popularity has to do with my sense of humor and creativity. One has to be willing to visit other people’s sites and be fair on the comments and give favorites with fairness.
I am the best that I can be, and that is all that I can do. Other people can be the best of who they are, but I don’t compare myself with other people, and people shouldn’t compare themselves with me. And let it be known that I didn’t choose the title: The best pictures on Flickr. But I am very flattered and humbled by it. Mostly because there are a lot of very talented people on Flickr. A lot.
But there is also a lot of friction about who has the most pictures on Explore, and people fight all the time to be in the top four in different groups. Personally, if I feel a hint of hostility, I quit the group and remove all my pictures. I am on Flickr to have fun and laugh with my friends—and not to compete.
Would you say you’re obsessed with Flickr?
I used to be obsessed with Flickr. I’ve read your piece on eBay and think Flickr is just as addicting as eBay. I am less and less obsessed about Flickr now, but more obsessed than I would like to be. Flickr is more than pictures. I get hundreds of emails, and people share their personal problems with me. Sometimes I feel like a therapist, and that takes a lot of time. But Flickr is a community very similar to a family. Now, I’m not saying it’s a perfect family, but it is a family, nonetheless.
Do you use Flickr as a way to tell personal stories?
That is not my goal, but sometimes I tell personal stories. If I think I have a funny story to tell I will share it. And when a photo reminds me of a situation, a line of music, or a famous line from a movie, I’ll use that, too. I have a self-depreciating sense of humor sometimes, and I usually laugh when I am writing something I feel people will also laugh about.
How do you use Flickr to document your life?
I try not to use Flickr to document my life at all. Actually, I try to avoid it. But photos do tell a lot about who we are, places that we’ve gone to. I love the change of seasons, like Christmas, and in that way, a lot of my life is revealed through my pictures.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I was born drawing and painting, and I get my inspiration from the same source. Sometimes, I might see a shadow on the wall while I’m eating breakfast and it will result in a creative picture with good composition. I feel that taking pictures of famous mountains, or rivers, or buildings is not as creative as a macro, a reflection, or a shadow. Because anybody can see a mountain, but not everybody notices reflections.
Also, my husband and I go out taking pictures over the weekend. I love where I live, I love my surroundings, I love life. I don’t even think much when I’m taking pictures. I can take over a thousand in just one afternoon and not even notice it.
Was there a photo that you ever wanted to take but got away?
Yes. I have been involved with The James Redford Institute for Transplant Awareness in the last 10 years, and last year, my husband and I were supporters of the fundraising at Sundance, Utah.
Here’s the scenario: I am in line waiting to be introduced to the press and talk to James Redford, Bob’s son who had two liver transplants and we were told not to take pictures of people, you know, to just stick to the trees and nature. Well, suddenly Bob and his daughter Amy Redford came and stood right before me. One of the people from the Institute apologized and said: This woman has someone in their family just going through a transplant. I was staring at Robert Redford’s neck. When he turned, we were face to face. I pointed my camera at him and said to myself: “I’m stupid if I don’t try.” But as I tried to take the picture, I go, “Oh, no! Battery exhaustion.” Bob said: “Too bad!” I spent hours laughing, as it was such an ironic moment.
What’s your six word memoir?
She laughed about everything, especially herself.