Posts Tagged ‘ordinary’

It came to me in a flash. At a BAPLA Picture Buyers’ Fair (remember them?) I was barking and shilling on the fotoLibra stand. OK, I admit it, I was pretty desperate. “Roll up, roll up, leddies ‘n’ gennelmen, come and see our fabulous photographs, so beautiful they’ll bring tears to your eyes etcetera etcetera.”

A harassed-looking woman was walking past quickly, head down, eyes averted.

“Come and avva gander at our bee-yootiful pickchars, darlin’!” I bellowed.

She stopped — she had to stop, I was blocking her path — and looked at our elegant display.

“They’re lovely,” she smiled sadly, “but I don’t buy lovely pictures. I buy photographs of things people don’t see.”

Now the tables were turned. I was the one who was stopped in his tracks. “If people don’t see things, how can they be photographed?”

“Well, they do see them, well enough to avoid them, but they don’t notice them. And photographers don’t notice them either. As a result, there aren’t many pictures of them.”

“But what are THEY?” I persisted. “What is it that people don’t see?”

“All sorts of things. Roadworks, men in fluorescent jackets, bus stops, rubbish bins, pavements, overgrown signs, health clinics, everything you don’t really notice as you go about your everyday life.

“All I see here are sunsets over the Maldives, the Taj Mahal by moonlight, palm-fringed beaches — and I work for Eborum District Council.

“We have a picture of the Taj Mahal in our canteen, but I didn’t buy it. I need access to pictures of the stuff we live, work and have to deal with. Parking meters, for instance. Even dog poo.”

“Dog poo?” I asked tentatively.

“Yes, dog poo, or IPSV2603 and 2604 as we refer to it. IPSV is the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary — the code councils and government use to talk to each other. Virtually everything you can think of has an IPSV code — model soldiers, jogging, ex-servicemen’s associations, even UFOs and the U3A.”

That’s great, I thought. Here are fotoLibra’s 10,000+ photographers busy recording glorious sunsets all over the world and the customers want doggy doos. So I grinned my best grin and said “You’ve got it.”

And now she has.

I went back and rallied the fotoLibra photographers. Oyez, Oyez, I blogged, please add IPSV codes to your UK images. I posted a list of all 8,000+ IPSV codes on the fotoLibra site, at http://www.fotolibra.com/about/seller/ipsv.php. With varying degrees of reluctance and enthusiasm, many of them complied. Subjects of previously unimaginable banality were uploaded to the site, and we broadened our reach to encompass the trite and the commonplace as well as the rare and majestic.

In my Damascene revelation that a picture doesn’t have to have a pretty subject, I forgot to take our reluctant visitor’s name, but if that lady ever stumbles across the fotoLibra.com site again she will find over 17,000 images of everyday stuff, carefully labelled with the correct IPSV codes  from religions to town parks, from skips to lifeguards, from pills to parking meters.

And just because the subject is humdrum, everyday or boring, it doesn’t mean a photograph of it will be. As a result, at fotoLibra.com we now have images that are practical as well as beautiful.

Thank you, local authority lady. You helped us open our eyes.

This article was written for Montage, the magazine of the Picture Research Association