This is, I have come somewhat reluctantly to admit, one of my favourite blog activities of the year: choosing a selection of the Flickr images that have really wowed me during the past 12 months. I relish looking back through feeds and reacquainting myself with these amazing Second Life photos. The ‘reluctant’ bit comes from the understanding that, for every amazing picture I choose, there are probably a hundred equally stunning images that I’m not choosing, whose creators might feel left out. Any sort of aesthetic selection is always subjective, and my choices here should in no way be interpreted as some sort of ‘best of’ list of the year. I’ll also be transparent and add that there are some people’s feeds I pay more attention to because they are my friends. If there are some amazing images I’ve missed and you feel deserve attention, please feel free to link them in the comments below.
So, with the usual disclaimers out of the way, let’s jump in and gorge ourselves on some of the visual delights of the year. As always, click on the image to view it in its full glory at Flickr.
Ashley Carter // Voidar: Stronger Together. Unstoppable as One.
Let’s start with the image I used for the article header – because this picture needs to be seen big to be fully appreciated. Presented as part of Ashley’s Second Chances Voidar Flickr story, ‘Stronger Together. Unstoppable as One.’ has to be one of the most remarkable SL images I’ve ever seen. Featuring no fewer than 47 of SL’s finest photographers – including Caitlin Tobias (who dusted off her Waarheid outfit for the occasion), Eripom Moonwall, Oakley Foxtrot, Skippy Beresford and Sparklebottom Lasertits, this jaw-dropping scene feels like a rebel yell against the events of the year.
Ashley writes about this picture:
Second Life would be a very different, very soulless place without its sense of community. Throughout my stories, I always try and depict that unity, and this is what makes it all worth it for me. […] This felt particularly like the right time for something like this with everything going on in the world currently. For me personally, SL has been really helpful in staying social and not feeling too isolated.
Amen to that.
~ℬoudicca~ BA – STOMOL – Istinito
In July, just before the release of STÖMOL, I asked a few of my actors if they would take take a picture of themselves in costume for their Flickr feeds. I loved seeing these reinterpretations of their part in the movie. Boudicca’s – as is so often the case with her work – has the quality of a classical painting in its detail, composition and colour. I can imagine this hung on various walls as it changes hands over the years for increasing amounts of money, scholars arguing amongst themselves over its meaning, long after the movie has been forgotten. Check out also the STÖMOL pictures by Caitlin Tobias, Elemiah Choche and Mich Michabo. I particularly love Mich’s pictures for their abstract use of of the character cut-out merchandise I created for the movie.
Mich Michabo: untitled
Mich is one of a number of SL photographers who have explored the experience of Covid-19 through their work over the year – a topic that could warrant its very own photography blog post. There are so many pictures by her depicting the many aspects of the coronavirus and the impact it’s had on life – and I love them all – but in the end I chose the image above for my selection here. The bright midday light and the clothing have a reassuring, everyday quality, but the mask reminds us of the ever-present threat. This threat is amplified by the positioning of the camera – a voyeuristic, secretive view. It could be someone else trying to keep their distance from the runner (making her the threat) or it could be the virus itself, lying in wait, about to pounce. So many of the emotions and incongruencies of the pandemic are to be found in this image.
Saveria Rossini: untitled
Remaining on the subject of Covid-19-themed pictures, there were plenty of pieces of playful imagery to be found amongst SL photographers, especially around the topic of toilet paper hoarding. Play and humour are important coping mechanisms in times of fear and anxiety. This beautifully composed image by Saveria Rossini – who I started following this year – caught my eye early on in the crisis. It plays cleverly with the concept of desire.
Skippy Beresford: Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
And another element of the pandemic explored by some was the responsibility we all share to each other in times of crisis, and the importance of kindness and compassion. It should come as no surprise to anyone that SL’s own pint-sized pot of wisdom, Skippy Beresford, delivered this uplifting message, and via another of his gorgeous, picture-book images.
Marina Münter: untitled
I adore images that conjure up stories in my head, pictures that look like a single moment captured of a life being lived. They give just enough information to hook me in but after that it’s up to me to decide what’s going on. I’ve always admired Marina’s use of colour, but this is an image I just kept coming back to over the year, just to look at and wonder. What is the building the woman is standing outside of? A shop? A business? An airport? And what has caught her attention? Is she looking for a taxi? Has she spotted someone she knows? Or is she looking for someone (or something)? If Marina has answers for any of these questions, a part of me doesn’t want to know them – it’s the not knowing that fires my imagination.
ARnnO PLAneR: And the light begins to fade…
I feel the same way about this image by ARnnO PLAneR, which looks as though it could be a still from a movie. In contrast to Marina’s image, colours here are slightly desaturated, resulting in a grittier, cinematographic feel. My focus is drawn to the character in the foreground and his direction of gaze. He seems to be looking at or looking out for something (or someone) behind the camera. But the large section of blurred out background is difficult to ignore. The amount of space given to this area creates a tension often utilised in movies: the character looks for something in one direction and then we spot it coming instead from behind them. We’ve seen this done so many times now that a big area of included space has become irresistible to us. We have to look at it. I don’t know whether this was ARnnO’s intention or not, but the end result is a picture that’s difficult for me to stop looking at and wondering about.
Molly: the night
And another story in an image. As with both Marina’s and ARnnO’s pictures, the character’s direction of gaze in ‘the night’ is a hugely important element. The character’s proximity to a taxi suggests she is about to get in it, and if she had just been looking at the cab then no tension would have been created. Instead, she is looking up at something, and so we are compelled to wonder what it is. Is it something she has suddenly noticed? Or is she taking a last look up at the place she is leaving? Is it a moment of revelation or a moment of sad farewell?
Bia: accarezzami amore, ma come il sole che tocca la dolce fronte della luna
Speaking of direction of gaze, this stunning black and white image by Bia shows intense eye contact without actually showing the eyes of the subject. This eye contact and the positioning of the camera make this an extremely erotic picture (it’s been categorised as adult, so you’ll need to be logged in to Flickr if you click the picture), without actually showing anything explicit. So there is much that is depicted but not shown in this picture. I love it.
Caitlin Tobias: A penny for your thoughts…
This years award for the ‘Picture of Huck That Huck Really Wishes he’d Taken Himself’ goes to this beautiful image by Cait, captured during a joint visit to Nevgilde Gaard in February. I must admit that it’s not quite so easy to conjure up storylines about a character in a picture when you are that character, nonetheless you cannot help but be drawn to this solitary figure – so beautifully lit – and wonder what his thoughts are. FYI I was probably thinking about the sound editing for STÖMOL at this point in time. Sorry if that ruins it.
Strawberry Singh: Happy Eid al-Adha!
And now a small selection of portraits. We don’t see enough of Strawberry’s photos since she joined the ranks of Lindenhood, but when we do they’re always such sumptuous, pixel-perfect, colour-rich treats. This gorgeous picture is also one of the very few images to broaden the cultural diversity of my Flickr favourites stream (as evidenced by the shameful – yes, I know it – nearly all-white selection on this page). I have to do better than this in 2021.
I love discovering SL photographers who bring a style I haven’t seen before in SL Flickr. I came across Moredenimforever’s feed of pop-art-esque images earlier in the year and have been hooked ever since. This particular image is hugely satisfying for me to look at, with its colours and background congruent with the period we most associate with this style (and a period I have a strong personal affection for in its cultural artefacts). If I didn’t know otherwise, I would not have assumed that this image began life as an SL photo.
Anouk A.: To Breathe
When it comes to sheer realism, few come close to the technical perfection of Anouk’s images. Her pictures frequently blow me away, and I have no idea how she manages such astonishing realism in her SL photos. There are so many pictures of hers I could have chosen from here; in the end, I selected this image taken in March, a nod to the rising pandemic anxiety.
Elemiah Choche: Kiss me better
It’s the added, frequently playful, details that make Elemiah’s photos such fun. As I’ve noted in previous years, I don’t know anyone who sustains such constant joy in SL picture taking than her. She is always fiddling with new ideas for pictures, and as well as taking them out on location she also constructs her own scenes with a meticulous eye for detail. I love the deadpan humour in this picture, created so simply and effectively with the addition of a single prop. And, of course, we’re back to wondering again – what is the real expression behind the chocolate lollipop?
Scarlett Rhea: At The Biltmore
I love images that look like book covers – I have an obvious interest in cover design – and by book covers I mean Good Old Fashion Book Covers that gave you an enticing image actually connected to the story inside, rather than the generic stock photo covers we so frequently see these days. Scarlett’s pictures are rich in colour and luxury, and this stand-out image immediately took me back to the 60s Ian Fleming paperbacks I devoured in my youth. As with ARnnO’s picture earlier, there is a neat division between foreground (the curtains) and background (the exterior). Once again, we see just how effectively eye gaze can be used to draw the viewer into wondering about the story in the picture. What – or who – has caught this woman’s attention?
A note about intellectual property.
It should go without saying that I own none of the pictures in this blog post. In all cases, the image used links to the original image on Flickr, where it can be viewed in its full resolution. Where a photographer has denied download permission, I have contacted them to gain permission to display their image here. I have not done this for photos where downloading is possible – purely because (as usual) I’ve left creating this post to the last minute and there hasn’t been time. If, then, you are the creator of one of these images and do not wish for it to be displayed here, please let me know and I will remove it.