(This video is part of a series for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can support Wikipedia and free knowledge by contributing at donate.wikimedia.org. You can also view this video on YouTube.)
Gideon Digby has climbed fences, crossed swollen creeks, hiked through the rain and has driven over a thousand miles – all in the pursuit of photos to upload to Wikimedia Commons.
Gideon is a photographer by profession and he shoots flowers as a hobby in his native region of Western Australia, which is home to more than 30,000 unique species of plants. “It’s going to take years to shoot every one, and that’s part of the challenge, getting in and finding some of those flowers when they’re in season,” he said. “A lot of them are endangered, a lot of them are in restricted areas where you’re not supposed to go and a lot of them you don’t know a physical location, so you’ve got to work that out yourself.”
Many of these elusive blooms have led Gideon on adventures deep into the untamed Australian Outback. “Friends and family think I’m a bit crazy,” he admitted with a chuckle. And yet, it is this particular brand of craziness which has benefited and refined the pages of Wikimedia Commons, where he has contributed over 2,000 photos in the past seven years.
Like many stories in Gideon’s life, his involvement with Wikipedia began with a flower. In this case, the flower in question was the Kangaroo Paw. He stumbled across the Wikipedia entry for the Kangaroo Paw in 2005, back when the article was a single sentence. “It says, ‘This is the floral emblem of Western Australia’ or something and that’s it,” he said. “I knew more about the flower than what was there and I saw the little button at the top that said ‘edit this page,’ so I started editing.”
For Gideon, Wikimedia Commons provided an intriguing way to share his photos with the world. Many of the other photographic forums he contributed to lacked the context he felt necessary to detail the unique qualities of the plants he captured. On Wikipedia, he could upload photos and provide editorial information to contextualize the plants.
“For photographers,” Gideon said, “[Wikipedia] is a fantastic world. You can pick and choose what you release. You can change subjects. You can go read an article about something and say, ‘Oh, I know where that is. That’s only down the road. I’m going to take a drive and take some photos.’ It challenges you.”
Profile by Zoe Bernard, Communications Intern
Interview by Jonathan Curiel, Development Communications Manager