Monday, August 06, 2007

Pentax Photo Gallery Officially Launched

The Pentax Photo Gallery has officially launched today, after a lengthy beta period where many Pentax photographers have tested its waters. What is it? It's a Pentax curated gallery of photos taken with Pentax cameras that is open to anyone to view or submit, and approved members can vote on submitted photos to help Pentax decide if they are up to the gallery standards and to elevate outstanding photos into the "Premiere Gallery."

Pentax has published books of photography in the past, most famously its Pentax Annuals, which highlighted some of the most expressive photography taken with Pentax equipment by photographers from all over the world. They even have a lovely gallery in Tokyo (the Pentax Forum). But now they're moving into new water. Pentax has developed the flash-based gallery project as an online extension of its commitment to showcase its faithful artists, particularly after seeing the growth of the online Pentax community in the last few years. Sites like Flickr and PBase have made it easier to search out photos taken with Pentax tags, but anyone looking for photos that illustrate the potential of the gear or demonstrate the wealth of talent among Pentax enthusiasts is quickly inundated with images, good and bad, so Pentax are lending some editorial expertise by a judging committee (looking for images it feels are worth archiving for posterity) to mutually share the spotlight with talented Pentax users.

The direction by judging committee is a bit difficult to forecast, but the goals of the gallery are not to judge by remote, intellectual aesthetics, but instead by using populist strategies for choosing engaging photographs. If its ambitionl is to imitate a physical public gallery, the gallery's unwritten intention is also not to be highbrow. At times, it seems many of the photos are over-saturated or over-sharpened, but that's indicative of the current practice among many amateurs who produce their work mainly at home and not for art prints. Conversely, there are some truly amazing photographs by pros, even scanned from negatives, so the breadth is quite interesting. The number of true gems will improve as more people are aware of the gallery's existence.

I've been using it myself for a number of months, browsing through the number of terrific works (sorted by artists, categories, and gear) that have been chosen to sit in the gallery. There are presently about 2000 photos and 300 approved photographers. It's easy to browse, enlightening to see what gear people are using, and pretty inspiring overall.

Getting an account to upload your own photos is a very easy process, as is the interface to import a photo and its metadata (lens info, etc) to be submitted to the gallery. However, because the gallery is curated, users should be careful to submit works according to these Pentax guidelines:

  • Can you see this image in a traditional photo gallery or printed publication?
  • Does this image elicit an emotional response?
  • Is this image original?
  • Does this image offer a personal perspective of the subject and display the unique vision of the photographer?
  • Would this photo stop you if it were hanging in a gallery?
Sumbitting your photo to the gallery.

Works failing to meet these loose standards, fail to meet metadata guidelines, or which are voted down by users, are all likely to be declined. Pentax is really hoping that even though the floodgates are open to everyone, their process will help define a high level of quality.

I've been lucky to have the photos that I've submitted chosen to be included, so it's not that hard. I feel a bit proud, too, as should anyone who gets their photos into the gallery. It's good publicity for everyone involved, as long as we spread the word. The site, unfortunately, is not without its critics, but I imagine that because Pentax has initiated the project themselves they're willing to get their feet wet and learn as they go.

Link: Pentax Photo Gallery

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