In this age of DSLR’s, point-and-shoots and iPhones, it’s easier than ever to snap an image: of our breakfast, our view, our friends. Sometimes the sheer number of images can be overwhelming, but at its heart, those photos are a snapshot of our lifetime: an era in which technology and lifestyle has made it possible to capture all the moments, from the trivial to the life-changing.
With The Commons on Flickr celebrating its fifth birthday yesterday, it’s a reminder of the power that those images hold. Photos can tell a story, memorialize a connection, illustrate exactly what a day in the life looked like. The world’s public photography archives are full of treasures, an irreplaceable resource for the history of photography–and perhaps, history itself.
As a medium, photography isn’t that old: invented in the 1820’s, popularized in the 1850’s, available for the mass market by the turn of the 20th century. Already, the pool of images has grown to more than 250,000 from 56 different libraries, archives and museums. The most viewed, commented or favorited images have been separated into four different galleries: here, here, here and here. They’re all worth a look.
Here are a few of our favorite images from The Commons: what are yours?
Three girls making a “sandman” at the beach by State Library and Archives of Florida
Portrait of Albert Einstein and Others (1879-1955), Physicist by Smithsonian Institution
Mercury 7 by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives
Soldier’s comrades watching him as he sleeps, Thievpal, France, during World War I by National Library of Scotland
One wheel motor cycle by Nationaal Archief
Stockholm, Sweden by Swedish National Heritage Board
An American soldier with a joey, 1942 by Australian War Memorial collection
Skeleton by Tyne & Wear Archives and Museum
The Fifties in 3D by The National Archives UK
Celebrations, Flatekval, 1898 by Fylkesarkivet i Sogn og Fjordane
Baby and a dog on a sailing ship by Australian National Maritime Museum
Woman in bathing suit at edge of stream near Paradise Glacier ice cave, Mount Rainier National Park by UW Digital Collections