The British Army’s Photostream?

Why are these guys always using American imagery for their banner? You might have wondered (see above). The answer is simple: its not so easy to get good, publicly available shots from other armies and navies and air forces.

On the public affairs front — particularly in still imagery — America’s military is way ahead. And the Army is clearly leading the pack. Its Flickr photo stream has almost 5,000 images, some truly stunning shots among them. See our new banner (here’s the full image). Users can access all sizes, download high resolution, and make use of a simple creative commons license. Quite impressive, really.

The other services probably felt compelled to so something, too. The US Air Force has well over 1,000 photos on its Flickr photostream. Some great shots among them, but not quite on the Army’s level.

Even the US Navy, traditionally not as public affairs savvy as the other services, has a few images up there (a little more than 800). By the way: what happened to the Marines? After priding themselves for their in-bred public affairs skills after the Persian Gulf War (“every Marine is a PAO”), the Leathernecks seem to have lost some of their wit over the last few years?

Why do that anyway? Well, publishers, for instance, love to use these images as book covers or as illustrations for articles — here’s an example (.pdf). All sorts of webby people might use them. It’s good PR for the services, in short. And all armies have combat camera units. Most likely they have some great photographers among them (although I’d say it’s hard to beat some of those US Army combat cameramen, probably trained in Fort Meade). There’s clearly something to be gleaned from the Army here.

Why not make the images public? Operational security issues should not be a show-stopper. And we’re talking about public institutions here anyway, funded by taxpayers.

So, dear Public Affairs Officers in London, Paris, Berlin — and elsewhere, why not:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/britisharmy/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/armeedeterre/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/heer/

And: drop us a note.

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12 thoughts on “The British Army’s Photostream?

  1. You’re so bloody right!

    Some services of the Bundeswehr made first steps in that direction (the navy had a pretty good channel on YouTube) until the MoD cancelled everything…

    Well, there’s still hope. At least, they started to show some materiel from the Einsatzkameratrupps, the combat camera equivalent, including combat situations ‘sted the our medics doing a fine job at the base footage.

    • Thomas Rid says:

      Sehr guter Punkt. Dieses Video wollte ich übrigens an dieser Stelle schon einbetten — so würden es deutlich mehr Leute finden. Geht aber nicht, weil das der Player des BMVg nicht hergibt. Siehe mein Kommentar unten …

  2. Kenneth Payne says:

    Here’s the MoD’s Defence Image Database:
    http://www.defenceimagedatabase.mod.uk/fotoweb/

    Some great images, from highly skilled photographers – but here’s why we don’t use them:

    Any other proposed use of the material is subject to a copyright licence available from the Ministry of Defence in accordance with standard Crown Copyright licensing policy.

    Meanwhile, check out the magnificent DoD collection, which goes waaaay back. They even have some Brits (who made regular appearances on our old site).
    http://www.defenseimagery.mil/index.html

  3. Thomas Rid says:

    Well, just to make that point explicitly: there’s something to be said in favor of using Flickr for still imagery and YouTube for videos — instead of publishing them on your own website. Far fewer peope will find them there. For many, the main source for photos is Flickr, for videos it is YouTube, not really websites of MoDs. And these platforms are technically far superior (stable URLs, embedding of videos, etc). A fact of life. The US Army clearly got that part.

  4. Thomas, Bundeswehr is soon to be seen. And it´s not, that the concept is new to them. When we set up the first EKT in 2000/2001 we had explicitly PA in mind. But what do you expect from an organisation that takes 5 years to put a proposal on content syndication from Deutsche Welle in its Corporate TV into practice?

  5. I agree that it’s smart for the US Army to be making its images easy to find and use, but it’s not cool for them to be slapping them with a Creative Commons license, even a liberal one. Works by US Government agencies are supposed to automatically be placed in the public domain (since they were paid for with the public’s dollars), which is more liberal than any CC license.

    In fairness to DoD, this may be more a Flickr problem than an Army problem; I remember when the White House started putting pictures on Flickr there was a bit of a kerfluffle because Flickr had no way to easily license images as public domain. But Flickr/Yahoo fixed that by adding a “United States Government Work” license category; the Army probably should be using that.

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