New! Flickr Commons Explorer

At the Flickr Foundation, one of the goals we set early on when we took over responsibility for running the Flickr Commons program was to build an improved ‘discovery layer’ for the Commons collection.

We’re pleased to share with you a first look at our new Commons Explorer, available at

We’ve built the explorer using the standard Flickr API, and have created a secondary database which is updated pretty regularly. (This is a way of us saying not all the data is live live.) And, please note that photos on display link back to

It’s a work in development, but we wanted to show you our progress in this early version. We’ve prioritized being able to look across the Commons in an interface that’s richer than search results. We’re surfacing activity levels across the collection too, to show that there’s a ton of chatting happening, and new uploads all the time.

The views we’ve built so far:

Home page

This is a list of recent uploads from across the Commons collection, and a sample of our members.


This is a list of all the Flickr Commons members, which you can sort in different ways. We’ve set it to be sorted by the member with the most recent upload, so you’ll see active members at a glance.

Each member has their own page, where you can see their popular tags, interesting photos, and recent uploads.


For the first time ever, you can enjoy catching up on the last week’s conversations about photos in Flickr Commons. You’ll see immediately the fantastic community that’s grown up around members like the National Library of Ireland’s photostream, and get to know some of the volunteer researchers inhabiting and contributing their time and detective skills to enrich the Commons.


Here we present activity across the collection, like uploading volumes, comments, and popular tags across the collection…


A simple static page which outlines what we’re doing. And finally…


We’ve made a bone simple search for the explorer too, so you can quickly see a splat of pictures about just about anything. Even with a few million photos, there’s a huge range of tagging and other description happening. Jump into London, pie, Istanbul, and smiles, or just look for the magnifying glass in the top right of the nav bar.

We hope you enjoy exploring, and, please let us know if you have ideas for how we can improve upon what’s there so far!

In other Flickr Commons news

We are working with the Flickr company to develop a new set of API methods the Foundation will be able to use to build the member management tools we need to really lean into rejuvenating the Commons and especially growing the new membership. If we can introduce 5-10 new members to the program this year, we’ll be stoked! More, we’ll be even stoked-er.

This will involve a new home for registrations of interest, and a smoother onboarding experience for new members as they come on board. Generally, we’re looking forward to new insights into the overall health of the program in the form of better views on activity (the beginnings of which you can see in

If you are either from an existing member institution, or you’re curious about joining in and sharing your historical photography collections, please let us know.

In our early research back in 2021, we noted we wanted to get to know more of the volunteer community too, and see if we can learn about their needs for participating with research and commentary, and I’m pleased to report we’ve begun that, with our first interview with a prominent community member last week. (I was so excited I could barely talk, but Jessamyn wisely recorded the conversation and will be reporting on it soon.)

A Flickr of Humanity: Who is The Family of Man?

Author: Maya Osaka (Design Intern) Posted July 10th 2023

Please enjoy a progress report on our R&D as we continue to develop the A Flickr of Humanity project. It’s a deep dive into the catalogue of the 1955 The Family of Man exhibition.

The Family of Man was an exhibition held at MoMA in 1955.

Organized by Edward Steichen, the acclaimed photographer, curator, and director of MoMA’s Department of Photography, the exhibition showcased 503 photographs from 68 countries. It celebrated universal aspects of the human experience, and was a declaration of solidarity following on from the Second World War. Photos from the exhibition were published as a physical catalog, and it’s largely considered a photographic classic.

Tasked with doing some research into The Family of Man I spent some time really looking at the book.

(The Family of Man 30th Anniversary Edition, 1986)

What I mean by ‘really looking at it’ is, instead of just flicking through the pages and briefly glancing at the photos I took the time to really take in each image, and to notice the narrative told through the photographs and how Steichen chose to curate the images to portray this narrative. From this experience I was able to see a clear order/narrative to the book which I listed in a spreadsheet. Each photo credits the photographer, where it was taken and which client or publication it was for (e.g. Life Magazine).

The introduction in the book explains that the exhibition was “conceived as a mirror of the universal elements and emotions in the everydayness of life—as a mirror of the essential oneness of mankind throughout the world.”

As I explored the book, I found myself wanting to answer the following questions:

  1. Where were the photographers from?
  2. Where were the photos taken?
  3. How many female photographers were involved?
  4. Who were the most featured photographers? 

In order to answer these questions I created a master index of the photographs.

This shows where they appear in the book, the country depicted, the photographer and which organization the image is associated with or was made for. From this ‘master’ spreadsheet I compiled three more views:

Here is what I discovered:

46% of the photos were taken in the USA (vs the rest of the world).

Out of 484 images depicted in The Family of Man 30th Anniversary Edition (1986), 220 are from the USA. That’s 46% of all the photos. The most heavily featured countries after America were: France (32 images), Germany (21 images) and England (15 images). All in Europe. Compared to America’s 46%, France, the runner up, makes up only 7% of the total number of images. 

The image is a screenshot of a section of the photos by geography spreadsheet.


75% of the images were shot in North America or Europe. 
  • Northern America: 231 images (out of which 220 are from the USA)
  • Europe: 128 images
  • Asia: 69 images (including 12 images shot in Russia)
  • Africa: 24
  • South America: 12
  • Oceania: 8
  • Arctic: 3
  • Australia: 2

At this stage I will note that as Russia spans across Asia and Europe, Russia’s 12 images have been included within Asia’s statistics (not Europe). Also the infographic excludes 3 images taken in the Arctic as they did not explicitly state which part of the Arctic they were taken in.

The image is a screenshot of a section of the photos by geography spreadsheet.

56% of the photographers were American.

Out of 251 known photographers, 155 were American. That is 56% of the total number of photographers. The most common nationalities that followed were: German (17), British and French (12 each), and 15 photographers were unknown. It is important to note that some of the photographers were multinationals and in these instances their birth nationality was counted. Information on the photographer’s nationalities were collected by searching up their name on the internet and looking for credible sources.

The image is a screenshot of a section of the photographer’s biographical data  spreadsheet. 

17% of the photographers were female.

Out of the 251 known photographers 48 were women. That is 17% of the total number of photographers. 

Note: There was one photograph that was credited to Diane and Allan Arbus. I counted them as two separate individuals (one male, one female).

The image is a screenshot of the photographer’s biographical data  spreadsheet. 

Which photographers were featured most?

  1. Wayne Miller (11 photos)
  2. Henri Cartier-Bresson (9 photos)
  3. Alfred Einstaedt (8 photos), Dmitri Kessell (8 photos), Dorothea Lange (8 photos), Nat Farbman (8 photos), Ruth Orkin (8 photos). 

The image is a screenshot of the most featured photographers spreadsheet. 


  1. The majority of photos were shot in the US and Europe. 
  2. More than half of the photographers were American.
  3. Most of the photographers were men.
  4. Among the top 10 most featured photographers were three women (Dorothea Lange, Ruth Orkin and Margaret Bourke White).

Where are the lost photos?

On the back of The Family of Man (30th Anniversary Edition, 1986) it is stated that all 503 images from the original exhibition are showcased within the book. However, after checking through the book multiple times the number of images that I have counted (excluding the introduction images featuring images of the exhibition itself and a portrait of Steichen) are 484. This means there are 19 images that are missing.

This mystery is currently being solved by my fellow intern, Juwon Jung, who, as I write this, is cross referencing the original MoMa exhibition master checklist with the book. We will keep you posted on whether this mystery gets solved!

Creating the Infographics

While collecting this data, I began to think about how this data could be visualized. Datasets on a spreadsheet are boring to look at and can struggle to effectively communicate what they mean. So I decided to create an infographic to showcase the datasets. 

Creating the infographics posed many creative challenges, especially because this was one of my first attempts at this sort of data visualization. One of the key challenges was to create visuals that are eye-catching but simple to read and communicate a clear message. In this case: that a disproportionately large amount of the photos and photographers are of or from the USA and the majority of photographers were men.

In order to draw attention to those facts, I used a combination of techniques: Firstly the statistics that I wanted to draw the most attention to are the brightest shade of pink. (The pink that was chosen is the same pink as the Flickr Foundation logo). Secondly, the pie chart and bar chart’s proportions are accurate and highlight just how disproportionate the statistics are. A comment next to each chart states a percentage that further highlights the point that is being made. 

George Oates (Executive Director at—who has extensive experience working in data visualisation—helped a lot with perfecting the look of the infographic. (Thanks George!)

Below you can see how the graphics evolved.
*Note that the statistics on previous versions are not accurate!