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Pilot photo flies high

When one photographer snapped a photo of protesting pilots he had no idea how popular it would become on not one, but two social sites.


Fernando Alfonso III


In meteorology, a perfect storm is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

But on the Internet, it’s a fairly regular occurrence especially if you’re on the massive photo sharing community called Flickr.

On Tuesday, one of these collisions occurred after New York based photographer Dan Nguyen had one of his protest photos submitted to the social news site Reddit where it collected 289 comments and helped it get more than 142,000 views on Flickr.

The photo showed a somber group of airline pilots protesting near the New York Stock Exchange over issues surrounding the recent merger of United and Continental Airlines.

The Reddit community rallied behind the pilots, calling them underpaid and over worked. Some pilots on Reddit, like gearswing and voltairevillian, even weighed in on the protest.

“My first year as an airline pilot, I made $19,000 gross. Four years in, my salary is still $33,000 gross,” wrote gearswinger on Reddit. “It’s a tough gig. Most guys do something else on the side. Industry wide, we have some pretty scummy management and extremely ‘business friendly’ laws.”

“I’ve spent over $70,000 and STILL haven’t received my commercial license. I ran out of money last year and haven’t stepped foot in a plane since,” wrote voltairevillian. “I have so much debt and no license.”

“Great photographs,” wrote Paul Stein on Flickr. “(Your) photographs capture the pulse of New York.”

Between shots, Nguyen got a chance to chat with the pilots about their plight.

“One of the pilots told me that the planning had started a good while back, so they knew where to walk and what to do as a group,” Nguyen said in an email interview with the Daily Dot. “Their beef was with management, not with the government, so they were polite to the police; I overheard one of the pilots ask an officer about the best subway (station) to take home after the protest was over.”

Nguyen joined Flickr in 2008 because “it seemed like the de facto photo-sharing community” was perfect for photographers looking for quick feedback and inspiration, he said.

The site, which launched in 2004, has more than 51 million registered users who can join specific photo communities and interact on discussion boards. Users also can track their own photo stats and follow their favorite photographers.

Despite all these convenient social tools, Nguyen was drawn to the community because of its simplicity.

“Flickr’s main draw is that it’s still the go-to repository for photos to be publicly seen,” Nguyen said. “Since I’m not a professional who works to get published and I don’t spend too much time admiring my own photos after I’ve edited them, I’d rather my photos be at least interesting and useful to other people (most of my photos are licensed under Creative Commons).”

Photo by Dan Nguyen.

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