The Photo Team: Permissions, Story Ideas and Worries about Yahoo

In October, the new web photo team began capturing facets of Coop life: wheels of blue-veined cheese, colorful bandana-clad food processors, and staff massages are just a few of the images on our new Flickr photo stream. As the

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Humorous out of stock signs. Photo Valery Rizzo.

Humorous out of stock signs. Photo Valery Rizzo.

In October, the new web photo team began capturing facets of Coop life: wheels of blue-veined cheese, colorful bandana-clad food processors, and staff massages are just a few of the images on our new Flickr photo stream.

As the digital photo collection grows, the Coop’s tech team must grapple with how to store the images and make sure that backups exist.

One major worry? How much trust to put in Yahoo, which purchased Flickr in 2005, and which many blame for its decline in relevance since. In the tech world, Yahoo’s reputation for corporate takeovers is less than stellar.

“I’ve been burned by Yahoo before,” said Matt Kleiman, a Coop staffer leading the web redesign effort with a team of member volunteers. He aired his misgivings at a photo meeting in the 2nd floor conference room.

“I had to create a Yahoo account to get us on Flickr,” Kleiman said. “It made me really uncomfortable.”

He discovered that Flickr no longer offers a “pro” account option, which used to allow for unlimited photo and video uploads and storage. Now the paid account merely blocks ads from the Flickr interface. Storage is capped at one terabyte. That’s a big chunk of space, but it wouldn’t serve the Coop indefinitely because high resolution images make for huge files.

Signage to help members in food processing with their shift, Park Slope Food Coop. Photo Valery Rizzo.

Signage to help members in food processing with their shift, Park Slope Food Coop. Photo Valery Rizzo.

Jeremy Zilar, a design strategist at The New York Times and Coop member helping with the redesign, agreed Kleiman had reason to be wary.

“Flickr used to be a lot like the Coop,” Zilar said. It billed itself as a community, not just a business. Users appreciated that the terms of service agreement was in plain English.

Cheese being sliced in Food Processing. Photo Valery Rizzo.

Cheese being sliced in Food Processing. Photo Valery Rizzo.

If users wanted to shut down their accounts, Flickr was known for allowing them to download their files — a stark contrast to other photo sites that often charge users for retrieving their own images. Since Yahoo took over, many photographers say the site has suffered.

Misgivings aside, the team agreed to stick with Flickr because it remains popular and other services don’t seem much better.

“We may just need to separate ourselves from Flickr with a single layer,” said Kleiman, referring to a method of backing up the photo files outside of Flickr. “So if something happens to Flickr, we just change that layer.”

Photo Permissions and Using Photos to Tell the Coop’s Many Stories

Valery Rizzo, one of the member photographers, tried out the new PSFC model release, which allows people to give permission to be photographed.

Of roughly 20 people she met during a receiving shift, only two declined to sign the release. She also encountered some staffers who were camera shy.

Ann Herpel, a Coop General Coordinator, said she knew of at least three staffers who didn’t like to have their picture taken. Possibly, there were others. She and Kleiman agreed it would be a good idea to let all staffers know about the photography effort so they could officially opt out.

“Do we need a shoot list?” Rizzo wondered. She had been tagging photos in Flickr so that they could be separated in albums by subject matter.

The team brainstormed about what kind of stories photographers could tell. There’s time — how the Coop changes depending on the hour. For example, deliveries start as early as 4 a.m. Zilar said he was interested in the Coop’s signage. “Everywhere you go there’s some sign that tells you where to go,” he explained. “Some look great and some are beat up.”

Signs in the Coop's 2nd floor meeting room.

Signs in the Coop’s 2nd floor meeting room.

Herpel said signage was a fun topic because some at the Coop looked “official” (there’s a signage committee, naturally) but was actually ad hoc. One recent example: the small white laminated sign lashed to the Union Street benches urging members not to leave there pets there. It’s since disappeared.

Other topics for visual storytelling: the Coop’s suppliers, the inventory squad, the overnight cleaning squad and the holiday rush, which has already begun. One corner of the 2nd floor meeting room is already stacked high with chocolate coins for Hanukkah.

How Do You Take a Photo at the Coop?

If you’re a member enthralled by Hepworth Farm’s luscious concord grapes, you might snap a smartphone picture and post it to your social media network. But if you’re documenting the Coop for the Coop, it’s not

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If you’re a member enthralled by Hepworth Farm’s luscious concord grapes, you might snap a smartphone picture and post it to your social media network.

But if you’re documenting the Coop for the Coop, it’s not so simple.

That’s what the photography team working on the PSFC website redesign discovered at our first meeting this week.

The team of photographers — professional and amateur, plus two full-time Coop staffers — discussed building a library of photos for use in Coop media, such as the Foodcoop.com website, Twitter and other outlets.

Five of us met in the tiny brick-walled 2nd floor conference room, while another four joined via Skype.

Example of an old stock photo that has been used for years.

Example of an old stock photo that has been used for years.

First, there’s the issue of photographing members.

Members have an expectation of privacy while shopping. (Don’t Tweet me rooting through the ice cream case!)

The photography team wants to be respectful, so if we get a good shot, we discussed how to ask for permission to use it. We’re hoping to use a model release, which is being drafted.

Photos taken outside the Coop, such as the one at the top of this webpage, don’t warrant such a release. Out in public, no one can reasonably have a right to complete privacy, which is why any one of us might wind up on the cover of the New York Post.

One of our primary missions is to build a library of images that can be used to illustrate blogs posts like this one, Coop brochures and other media.

One of our team members already takes photos for the @foodcoop Twitter stream.

We discussed the kinds of photos we’d want to take: soup kitchen workers, the compost squad, the folks who do the Coop laundry and walk the shopping carts.

For photographers, there’s rich material outside the shopping floor.

Ann Herpel, a General Coordinator, said she often fields queries from international news organizations looking for photos of the Coop to illustrate stories.

She generally sends them the same stock photos of the Coop’s interior. Because of privacy issues, the people in the photos — if any — are usually staffers who have already OK-ed their usage.

Our team’s photographers plan to use Dropbox to manage photos, giving them archive tags with helpful keywords.

We are leaning towards using Flickr, the online photo site, to catalog projects.

Then there’s the issue of storage. Where will the files live?

Jeremy Zilar, a Coop member who works in design strategy at The New York Times and is helping lead the redesign effort, suggested Amazon S3 cloud storage as a solution.

The Coop has its own server for digital storage, but it can’t host photos that are used as illustration on the Internet. Digital photos can be huge, eating up memory and bandwidth on a typical computer server.

Stay tuned! We’ll document the next steps here.

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Design by Cooperation

We believe that an organization’s digital presence should reflect its values and principles — right down to the way that digital structures are built and organized.

That’s why our process for redesigning the website will embrace the same spirit of cooperation that is so integral to the Park Slope Food Coop itself.

Step 1: Survey
Step 2: Interviews
Step 3: Group Card Sorting
Step 4: Identity
Step 5: Design
Step 6: Development

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