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By James King

On January 26, 2006, posted a series of photos from Toronto’s own Kensington market. Whether they depicted a psychotic motorist and a militant cyclist, a blatant litterer and a concerned citizen, a motorist and an enraged activist, a profound message on motorist/cyclist relations, or just an unfortunate, ridiculous situation, is your call.

This situation arose when the motorist tossed litter out on the street and the cyclist tossed it back into the car, and a fight broke out between the female bike courier and the male motorist. But despite the first-hand accounts of the few people actually at the scene, it was the pictures that generated the uproar and interest (worldwide, no less).

With nearly 380,000 visits to the citynoise site, countless message-board posts and even a front page feature in the Toronto Star, a simple blog-photo suddenly leapt from obscurity into the mainstream. Blogs and photoblogs have quickly moved passed the major-paper tag of phenomenon and into a staple method for how indie artists and writers are beginning to define the city space around them. As the incident demonstrated, how we view these city spaces can be changed in the instant of a photoblogger’s shutter snap.

These photoblogs are amazingly simplistic in their design. Like their text-based equivalents, the sites act as a daily registry of urban moments caught on camera and uploaded. The sites are designed around a common template, one which features a particular high-res image and some sort of daily navigation system. This easy setup and design is what makes them so damn appealing to any amateur photographer trying show off what they’ve seen in a day.

For Toronto photoblogger Matt O’Sullivan, the appeal really lies in accessibility and the image itself. “It’s easy for me to publish a pic, and its easy for anyone anywhere to see it” he says, adding “I like the way the pictures look on a computer screen.” For the indie photographer, who’s probably already dumped most of her money into a decent camera, keeping an available archive of images (in the digital format, as they were intended to be seen) is invaluable.

The natural result of this publishing simplicity is the vast community that photoblogging creates. Just explore the links section of any of these sites to get a taste of the enormous image archives awaiting your eyes. To even attempt a round-up of these sites would be ridiculous.

But in passing through this community, I see patterns. The photos tend to stand on their own, without much explanation as to the context of their capture. O’Sullivan admits, “I generally like to let [the photos] speak for themselves.” And this seems to be a common thread through most of the blogs. The details in the images seem to erupt when the comments are posted, situating the shots in a time, place or emotion.

Much like the “Kensington incident,” the actual moment that transpired really isn’t worth a damn until hundreds of anonymous people speak their minds, fashioning an entirely new life for the photo and the city that brought it to life. (James King)

Photoblogs to Watch Out For:

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