A bit late to the party and wearing surprisingly Web 1.0 clothing, Pentax today launched
the beta of its new Photo Gallery--a place where your photography can see and be seen right along with the pros, but very much in an old-fashioned, lone surfer, gallery atmosphere .
The Gallery has a curator of sorts, and at least initially, posting is by her invitation only. You can solicit an invitation with an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, at which point she'll provide you with the magic log-in or gently (I hope) turn you away and point you to Flickr or some other populist photo site. And the possibility of rejection--a key nonmonetary differentiator between the amateur and the pro--makes you feel like you're playing in the big leagues.
Being approved for posting, however, doesn't guarantee you can display anything you want; every image posted must be OK'd by the gatekeeper. However, once you've been approved, you can vote on other people's work for elevation to the Premiere Collection.
Aside from the chance to see pretty pictures--there are clearly some stunning photos, but there's no shortage of those on the Web--there's nothing much else to see or do here.
At some point there will be shooting information, because the system does capture the EXIF data. The site provides some basic information, including EXIF shooting data, photo date, and a brief comment by the shooter. But in its current state, there's no advice, discussion, tips, or even a way to comment on the photos. Even anecdotes from the photographers would be nice.
Nor do I think it's a particularly effective marketing tool. With its recent Pentaxians ad campaign, Pentax is belatedly trying to forge more of a community identity with its users. But the site produces a sense of isolation--between the photographers, as well as between the photographer and the viewer. And it doesn't even link to--much less incorporate--the blog of the arguably head Pentaxian, Ned Bunnell, VP of Marketing at Pentax.
Of course, having your photos displayed on the site of a major camera manufacturer might seem like a good personal or professional move. If you do opt for this, you might want to encourage Pentax to improve its Web metadata; currently, it's targeted toward people searching for Pentax equipment. No one will ever find you, or your photographs, using a search engine.
As many software and webware companies have taken to doing, Pentax is putting up a bare-bones site and waiting for the users to give feedback about what they want before doing any more development. That might make sense if you've got a novel concept and don't know which direction to take it. But the Pentax Photo Gallery is hardly a novel concept. Just because you build it, doesn't mean they will come.