It's a snap: Photoblogging a hot online trend
By Gina Kim -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Monday,
May 23, 2005
don't know Michael Zhang, but do a little pointing and clicking and you'll
find out he's a Davis Senior High School student, plays tennis and bought
an ostrich burger and chips for $6 two months ago.
It's all there for the world to see on this 17-year-old's photoblog
where he chronicles everything, including how he felt the first time he
ate a Quiznos sandwich.
"Quiznos is awesome. Very awesome. Awesome and good," he wrote.
Zhang is part of the future of Weblogging, going beyond simply sharing
thoughts in cyberspace to allow strangers a very visual look into his
He sometimes takes 100 photos in a day, ranging from shots of his
friends to pictures of food. He picks up to 20 and uploads them daily to
his blog, an online diary of sorts (http:// blog.michaelzhang.com).
The majority of blogs today include some photography, said Caterina
Fake, cofounder of Flickr, an online photo-sharing community launched last
year and growing by 30 percent a month.
While the 152,000 members range from active participants to the
once-in-a-few weeks uploaders, they have already posted 14.7 million
pictures, she said.
Since the end of 2003, it has become easier to put photos online
because Internet connections are faster, digital cameras cheaper and
camera phones are readily available.
"It's taking photography to a whole new level," said Larry Pryor, an
associate professor of journalism at the University of Southern
California's Annenberg School for Communication. "Every person can be a
While Zhang won't take pictures of the exterior of his home and rarely
posts photographs of his parents, no one else is spared from his shutter.
There are photos of store clerks, teachers, classmates and paramedics.
There are scenes from church services, concerts, movies and restaurants.
He doesn't ask permission to take anyone's photo and, surprisingly,
most people don't wonder why he's taking their picture. "Some people give
me looks and they think I'm weird," he said.
Andrew DeVigal, who teaches online journalism at San Francisco State
University, sees Zhang's Web site as a product of the human desire to
leave a mark on the world.
"In some ways, it's an opportunity to say, 'Hey, here I am and I'm
relevant,' regardless if anybody's listening," DeVigal said.
DeVigal, who keeps his own photoblog, doesn't worry about strangers
seeing into his life, even though an online counter shows that people look
most at the pictures of his wife and dog.
"I don't feel like I'm revealing anything that would jeopardize who I
am or the well-being of my wife," he said. "Most people who do look at my
stuff are going to be my friends."
Zhang began taking photos about three years ago. He realized that while
he documented trips to China or amusement parks, routine days seemed to
He decided to ingrain those into his memory by regularly shooting
candid shots, organizing them by date, and posting them on the Web site.
"(Days) kind of disappeared and faded from my memory," recalled Zhang,
who will be attending the University of California, Davis, this fall. "But
now I can remember them clearly because all of them have a title and
Since Dec. 16, when he put his first post on the blog, Zhang has been
chronicling what he eats, who he sees and pretty much everything else he
He's never far from his digital camera, which weighs 7.1 ounces.
Every once in awhile, Zhang will get home and realize he's forgotten to
take pictures. So he'll run around the house, looking for something
interesting to shoot or make his younger brother practice slam dunks.
"It's really interesting to look back on any day and remember what you
did that day, to have memories in the future to share," Zhang said.
"I'm sure people are looking back and they hoped or wished they took
more pictures at some time in their lives."
While Zhang doesn't keep track of how many people visit his site,
comments are mainly posted by friends and every once in a while by a
A daily visitor to the photoblog is Zhang's mother, Joy Tian, who
doesn't have to ask her son how his day went.
While she sometimes gets miffed about the junk food consumed or rowdy
behavior, for the most part, the blog reaffirms what she already knows
about her son - he's a good kid surrounded by good friends.
And she especially likes it when he pays attention to even the smallest
details, whether a snail on a calla lily or caterpillar on a leaf.
"He really enjoys life," said Tian, who works as research associate at
the University of California, Davis. "That's what I'm really proud of."
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