I guess I had no idea that Amoebic Dysentery could be so interesting…
The Photo Society (TPS) lists hazards (like dysentery) that NGM photographers experience in the field. TPS began as an idea in the summer of 2011 for an electronic campfire to bring together National Geographic contributing photographers. The only qualification for membership is completion of one full feature story for National Geographic Magazine.
I was tasked with this site by the PAB (Photographer’s Advisory Board), which negotiates contracts with National Geographic Magazine.
Deb Pang Davis volunteered to design the site—the look and feel is her work—and she managed it during a period of relocating and handling a cross-country move to take a teaching position at Syracuse University.
The developer of the site was absolutely critical and so talented that I am not giving his name out until he finishes our site. George Steinmetz asked me to do it and championed it all the way through. Ami Vitale was very gracious when we told her we liked her site and wanted to do a cloud with names similar to her content cloud. The name Photo Society came from kicking around options with Amy Toensing, George, and Katie Joseph just after we finished a negotiating session in Washington DC. My wife, Melissa Farlow, and I figured we would just pay for it if we had to and not worry so much if PAB membership dues actually paid us back or not.
Mike Hettwer and I had a conversation about how we weren’t really sure that everyone knew what we actually do in the field and he suggested a survey and then he put it together. That survey asked photographers what hazards—physical, financial, whatever—they were up against. After the survey was done, it languished for a few months. When I was trying to figure out what a crew of one could actually accomplish, I picked that survey apart and it became the Reality Check section on the site. Ed Kashi came up with the name for the section.
When the site soft-launched with a few Facebook posts and blog posts by members it was picked up by a number of highly visible blogs like PDN, APhotoEditor, PopPhoto and they primarily referenced the Reality Check section. So the analytics were interesting . . . people were going to the Reality Check section instead of the home page. The hook for the site was the list of hazards faced by National Geographic photographers. There was so much traffic they had to switch TPS to a bigger server—it broke the one it was on.
And I have to admit, after the launch it got a little weird. I had picked apart this massive ugly Excel spreadsheet from the hazards survey to glean the bits that made up the Reality Check section and that dissembled information got enough traffic that one person decided to REASSEMBLE and put all of that information BACK into her own Excel spreadsheet for some reason I still can’t quite figure out.