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Looking back at your pictures

Phil Coomes | 11:20 UK time, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Uncle Willy by Sherry Brukbacher

Is there any practical use for a digital camera in your phone? That was the question posed by us back in 2003 and one that led us to ask our readers to send in their pictures so we could feature them in a gallery on the website each week.

This was, of course, many years before the term "citizen journalist" was in common use; although we hoped that at some stage we would get a newsworthy image, the idea was simply to provide a platform for keen photographers to share their pictures.

On Monday 10 February 2003, we published a page asking for your pictures; to be honest, we had no idea if we'd get any, let alone the ten we felt we'd need to run a gallery later in the week.

Our first gallery of readers' picturesIt turned out we needn't have worried: we received more than 100 pictures, and ran a selection in a pop-up gallery which you can still see.

Of course, news pictures soon started to flow, the first being a shot of the Staten Island fire in New York. Pictures of events in the news soon became a regular feature - but it was the 2005 London bombings when readers' pictures led the way. We received many hundreds of images, among them the defining pictures of the tragic events of the day, photographs that went on to be picked up by the national and international press.

All rights to the pictures remained with the photographers, who were free to negotiate their own deals with other outlets.

Today, as the first decade of digital photography draws to a close, I thought it would be good to show those first ten pictures from our readers once again, and see whether any of the photographers are still out there and indeed still looking at the BBC site.

So, if you were one of those whose pictures appeared in this gallery, please do drop me a line via e-mail or leave a comment - it'd be great to hear from you.

One photographer I did manage to track down is Sherry Brukbacher whose single image in the gallery mentioned above led to us featuring a longer version of her story on homeless children in Nairobi.

I asked her what she'd been up to in the intervening years. She said:

"After spending almost a year and a half in Nairobi, I returned to Washington DC to continue my work in international development. Photography kept calling me back and eventually I left one career for another and I now work full-time for National Geographic Magazine.
"This is a dream come true for me. Every day, I have the opportunity to learn from the world's most elite and talented documentary photographers, photojournalists and artists. Hopefully one day all of this will rub off!"

One of Sherry's pictures is at the top of this article; she told me:

"This is a photo of my neighbour, who is lovingly referred to by all who know him as Uncle Willy. He is a friend, a drummer in the Meridian Hill Sunday drum circle, a Baptist preacher and an expert cobbler! He lives in Washington DC and one only need meet him once to remember him - his laughter can always be heard long before he is seen!"

It's good to hear that Sherry is still taking pictures and now working in the area she loves most; I'm sure we'll stay in touch. You can see more of Sherry's work on her website.

I thought I'd finish with a thought from Bill Thompson, who wrote an article on camera phones in January 2003 in which he said:

"Soon there will be photographs of me, perhaps taken without my knowledge, on websites all over the net...
"What about the snap that shows you asking for directions from a stranger, when that stranger turns out to be a terrorist suspect and you end up being questioned?"

Prophetic indeed - it's hard to believe how much has changed in just seven years.

You can see the original ten pictures in their original gallery format here.


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