The majestic picture of Louis Petitot‘s Abundantia statue in Paris, today’s Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Day, appears to float on a bed of clouds, detached from the city that surrounds it. In the Metamorphoses, Ovid includes Abundantia in the myth of Achelous, the river god whose horn is ripped from his head by Heracles (Hercules) and given to the Naiades, who transformed it into the cornucopia.
Fortunately for Wikipedia and Commons, user:Jebulon has shared this and a bounty of other beautiful images to enrich the free encyclopedia. In only two years of active uploading to Commons, Jebulon has already had over 1000 photos marked as “Quality Images” by his peers active on the project.
According to Jebulon, the Abundantia photo was difficult to take, given that the statue is on a bridge at the edge of the Seine River atop a pedestal. He took the photo intending it to be an encyclopedic addition to Commons, not an aesthetic work in its own right.
“I’m not interested by ‘artistic’ or ‘artsy’ photography,” he said. “My goal is to provide ‘good’ and ‘clean’ pictures for an encyclopedic use. The ‘spirit’ of Commons (and Wikimedia in general) is in my mind every time I take a picture: sharing good quality information.”
Jebulon does focus many of his photos on historical subject matter, in large part because of an interest in history. As part of Wiki Loves Monuments 2011, he shot a number of French “‘Monuments Historiques.” Like many Commons contributors, Jebulon had to become an adept in copyright law governing buildings and statues, no small matter as French laws governing the various legal statuses of such monuments can be quite different from other national laws.
Though he will participate in Wiki Loves Monuments 2012, Jebulon says he was unhappy with some of the judging of the 2011 event. “Many of us ‘old faithfuls’ did not really understand,” he said, why some of the distinguished WLM photos did not garner Commons community distinction based on technical criteria used for Featured Pictures and Quality Images.
Through Commons, Jebulon said he has made real-world friendships with other photographers, some of whom have visited him when in Paris. He has also improved his technical understanding of photography and he has been pleased that some of his work has attracted interest beyond Commons.
Despite this, he reiterated that the process is not about “personal glory,” but a commitment to increase the quality of collaborative knowledge.
“If I’m lucky enough to capture nice things with my camera, it is my ‘human duty’ to share!” he said. “I’m not an activist, but I think the world can be more and more free if Knowledge is shared all around the world.”