Newsletter #11

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Another Phototag Update

Way back in newsletter Volume 1 Issue 2 we told you about a little project Susan and I had undertaken called Phototag. Owing to the passing of time and the need for stuff to fatten up this month's addition, I offered to provide an update, so here goes...

First of all, Phototag is a community photography project where we retrofit cheap disposable cameras with shiny new packaging, artwork, instructions and return postage. Each camera is then passed along to friends and strangers with the request that they take one picture and pass it along to someone else-Phototaggers can also report on their experiences at our website. Once all the film is used up, the last Phototagger can simply drop the camera in the mailbox-the return address, postage and all the fine folks at the United State Postal Service will handle things from there. When we get the cameras back we'll post the pictures on the Phototag website at so everyone can see.

As of today, there are 14 cameras in circulation at various unknown locations throughout the US, perhaps even beyond. They have names like wombat, lemur and lemming and began their journeys (many of them) as long as 10 months ago. Here they are:

  • lemur: Released Sep 22, 2000 in Lousiville, KY
  • lizard: Released Sep 29, 2000 in Washington, D.C.
  • rabbit: Released Sep 30, 2000 in New York City, NY
  • bear: Released Oct 2, 2000 in Boston, MA
  • frog: Released Oct 3, 2000 in Boston, MA
  • mouse: Released Oct 14, 2000 in Amo, IN
  • owl: Released Dec 31, 2000 in Bloomington, IN
  • wombat: Released Feb 11, 2001 in Chesterfield, MO
  • kangaroo: Released Feb 26, 2001 in Bloomington, IN
  • lemming: Released Apr 21, 2001 in Chicago, IL
  • chimp: Released May 31, 2001 in Miami, FL
  • vole: Released Jun 1, 2001 in Bloomington, IN
  • zebra: Released Jun 3, 2001 in Milwaukee, WI
  • turtle: Released Jun 25, 2001 in Waltham, MA

    At this point, the 64-thousand dollar question is obviously, "Have you gotten anything back yet?" And the answer to that question is an unequivocal "...Well, yes and no." Although we do have several reports from Phototaggers in the field on our website, we've received no cameras back as of yet. I think Susan is more disappointed with this than I am. I initially told her that I thought the first batch would be rolling in around November. I still say this, but I can only get away with it by virtue of not having specified the year.

    Regardless, with this project I'm more interested in the intangible rewards as opposed to the more tangible metrics of success like how many cameras came back, how long it took, home many people reported their experiences, etc. Let me tell you what I've gotten out of this project already. Here are the rewards I've seen:

    1. I get to collaborate on something fun with my friend Susan.
    2. It's an interesting project and a welcome diversion (when needed) which allows me to expend (extra?) energy in a positive way.
    3. It intrigues, delights and sometimes even inspires people who are asked to be a part of it, who come in contact with a camera, or who simply hear about it as it makes its journey. (There are twenty-seven exposures per camera and there are 14 cameras currently in circulation, which means at least 378 people out there in the world that will come in direct contact with a Phototag camera, not to mention many more who will hear about it from their friends.)
    4. It's a perpetual producer of hope: I can simply turn any (very small amount of) disappointment with the project to hope by simply making more cameras, sending them out into the world and getting to appreciate Rewards 1-3 all over again. And so on...

    Honestly, some cameras will never come back. But some will; I've always thought that. It doesn't really bother me because there are all kinds of rewards to this project, not just those one can measure numerically, not that it wouldn't be nice to get a camera back every once in a while. Soon though... definitely November. We'll keep you posted.


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