Joanne in Australia snaps her son learning to play the didgeridoo, Zebra in Kenya blips children playing on train tracks and Ssh in the UK captures a newborn child.
It started with a single image of autumn leaves in an Edinburgh park, captured by founder and CEO Joe Tree back in 2004, and now has tens of thousands of blippers in 170 countries who take and publish one photo a day. Last month the site topped a million views for the first time.
“I thought it would be interesting to take a picture every day and post them on a site. I thought I’d get bored after a couple of weeks but I found it a captivating process. I was always looking for a photo opportunity to sum up that day, and started seeing the world in a different way. Then I told people about it and before I knew it, I had a few hundred followers and was getting a reaction. I was also doing something I’d never managed to do before, keeping a record of what was happening to me every day,” says Tree, 40, who has now uploaded 3,030 consecutive pictures.
The appeal was instant, with blippers flocking to the site in such numbers that two years later Tree and his co-founder, Graham Maclachlan, who were running a photography and design company in the capital, decided to get more serious. For £25 a year, the growing number of subscribers can upload an image and look at others’ shots and journals, with extra paid-for options that give statistics and allow a catalogue of images to be built up.
“It was still a side project as we were doing other things to pay the mortgage, but then one of our contributors had our logo tattooed on herself to celebrate 500 images and that struck a chord. It had grown really quickly, all around the world people were sharing their lives.”
Outside funding of £700.000 to date was attracted and Tree and Maclachlan went full time with the site, the old business falling by the wayside. Now eight staff administer the site and monitor the pictures, though very few fall foul of what Tree calls “the Standard Life test, where you would be happy if your boss wandered past your desk and saw the picture. We have lots of blippers who work there,” he explains.
“It’s about real lives and people making connections. Social networking sites like Facebook are based on established relationships, but Blipfoto is different. You get to know people through reading their journals and looking at their pictures, and build relationships that way. We’ve even had a wedding, of a couple of blippers in Chicago who met through the site. His proposal was a blip, taken on a self-timer. She said yes, and now they’re married.”
If Blipfoto has transformed lives, then none more so than Tree’s. “It’s completely every aspect of it. I have lots of new friends and my working life has changed completely. I like getting out of bed and coming to work in the morning. We also have a record of my six-year-old daughter’s life in my blipjournal. All the significant events are recorded. I can tell you when she first spoke and walked, which a lot of people can’t do,” he says.
As well as children, common themes are pets and the natural world, although what seems humdrum to one – a prison in Iraq that is part of one blogger’s daily life – may not always be to others. “People share all sorts of things. In the old days it would be the most precious moments, birthdays and weddings, now it’s also a means of telling people what we’re doing now. I’m having this cup of coffee. It’s disposable. But Blipfoto also lets you preserve things, turn photos into a book of your year. It’s also about validation, saying, ‘I’m here and breathing and this is my day.’ People want to be acknowledged. What comes through is how similar we all are really. We all want the same things in life, a healthy, happy family, work we enjoy and peace and quiet.”
A longing for peace and quiet is reflected in the huge number of posts showing images of the world around us, which led naturally to Tree being a judge on a competition Velux is running called Lovers of Light. All about capturing and celebrating natural daylight, the prize is a four-night trip to the Treehotel (no connection) in the Boreal Forest in Sweden. A photo opportunity if ever there was one.
“I didn’t realise Blipfoto would be this popular,” says Tree. I built something for myself and it turned out that other people wanted it too. The trick from a business point of view is capitalising on that and giving it the resources to become an international thing.”
• Velux Lovers of Light Competition, closing date 28 February (www.velux.co.uk/loversoflight, www.blipfoto.com)