Google+ For Photographers

Yes, bow before me, for I was one of those rare, select, elite few to receive Google +!—by which I mean, oh boy, one of my media friends shot me an invite to the latest social network everybody.

If you want to read up more on the basics of Google+ and its “circles” of influence—ah, you see what I did there?—follow that link to learn more about the network. For me, however, the immediate question was how Google+ might appeal itself to photographers, while crossing my fingers and hoping against hope it wouldn’t have the save decidedly unsettling service agreements as Facebook.

So far, I’ve not been disappointed. While lacking the Facebook “like” pages, that allow you to essentially build up your studio, image, what-have-you, Google+ does have its own worthwhile contributions:

  • Circles. Yes, it all comes back to circles. Not only do they allow for quick organization of your photo-related contacts, they essentially allow you to set up a group for your photography information, and to quickly locate those contacts you may wish to check up on, communicate with, etc.
  • Picasa! Remember Picasa? Yes, well, it actually has purpose now. Long oppressed by flickr, photobucket, webshots and the like, Google+ has now revitalized Picasa to store its images, for all intents and purposes remodeling it into Google+ Photos. Nice, easy storage system, with largely unlimited album capability, and the potential for videos up to 15 minutes long.
  • Lightbox. Keeping in the Picasa vein, when you enter an album, Picasa reconstitutes the images on the page to be more visually pleasing, and clicking on one opens it in lightbox, giving you a nice viewing space—and full details on the photo, too.
  • Lack of Facebook licensing woes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Google’s classic slogan “Don’t be evil” works its way into the distinctly mundane terms of service versus Facebook’s “gotcha” politics. Still – take care, because they do reserve the right to modify your images as they please…
  • “Scrapbook.” It’s essentially a nice mini-portfolio that opens your main page. You can upload up to 5 images here to go right alongside your profile, to be displayed right under your name. Good for highlighting your work if you want people to link off a certain website…
  • No apps! Sure, it’s not photo related, but bloody hell—no more getting bogged down with Farmville and Mafia Wars invitations!

In short, it’s sleek, it’s efficient, and it’s got potential. Check it out, if you grab an invite, and feel free to add me to your circle, if you feel I’m worthy!

Bringing Art to New Generations

Once again it seems Google is leading the charge to a more collaborative universe, and this time it’s taking an aim at art fans around the world.

Google, whose name has long since been synonymous with web innovation, has now extended its cameras from the streets to museums the world over. From the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Google’s latest program, Art Project, allows users to view hundreds of pieces of classic and modern art without ever having to leave their desk.

The program actually launched last week, for those of you that may not have heard of it, but I myself only discovered this gem a few days ago. I’m already in love. For the art fan like myself, this program opens the doors to 17 museums across the United States and Europe and hundreds of artistic treasures I otherwise likely never would have gotten to see in person.

Yet as interesting as this new realm of possibilities is, Art Project is, at the moment, more intriguing for its potential than for its actual capabilities at the moment. The system is a bugged one in places, and you get the feeling Google’s still finding its ground to stand on with this program. Some locales are higher quality than others; some are fairly blurred and abstract, while with others you can zoom right into high-resolution images such that you can almost feel as though you’re running your hands along treasures like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” or Byzantine iconography It’s just you and a magnifying glass for these images, so you can pour over every succulent inch.

The museum tours themselves are simply Google’s street view brought indoors, and you can use arrows to tour the facilities at your leisure. In several locales you even get the full 360-degree treatment, so as to lose nothing of the world’s most stunning galleries – like, for example, the beautiful murals in Versailles. Not all rooms in these places are in the boundaries yet, but there’s still enough of a journey that you can busy yourself for several satisfying hours.

Though many museums have already allowed virtual journeys like this, Art Project is still a major leap forward in the interaction of the web and the arts community. It provides easy travel across continents and years of artistic splendor, all gathered nice-and-tidy under one accessible roof. Best of all: it’s an art journey that’s completely free.

With luck and time, hopefully more museums and galleries will sign on to the project. Google itself noted that thus far, while many have been approached, these 17 museums were the only ones to sign on to the idea. If people start devouring this new internet gem, though, it could spark something of a revitalized art craze – and that could stir more of these places to action.

In this day and age, anything that keeps the art scene alive is a good way to go; the old generation needs to get with the program, and this is a nice start on that road. Reconciling the classics to modern technology only helps to further preserve these beauties for the generations to come, and it preserves, above all, the knowledge and culture we should all cherish.

So my review? Good program. Great potential. Definitely worth a look – just be prepared for some bugs, and don’t go in expecting the world. As they say: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Google’s opening its doors to more art than Rome ever saw.