A Brief History Of Tumblr Photography

The comprehensive history of Tumblr, and the role photography played in the development of the platform.

Devin Blaskovich

In 2007, one of the first pioneers in the blogging sphere, Tumblr, was founded by David Karp. The platform was created to act as a microblogging and social media platform. It was for those interested in sharing their interests and personal work on the Internet. With a variety of multimedia sharing options. Tumblr was designed to target individuals looking to share pictures, writing and as the platform developed even videos on their personal blogs. Since its conception over 10 years ago, Tumblr has grown, expanded and shifted its position in the blogging atmosphere. According to the latest statistics, Tumblr is home to over 417.1 million blogs and has over 555 million monthly viewers.

Creation of Tumblr

The idea of Tumblr first started back in 2006 by Karp while he was working at his software consulting company. Karp had developed an interest in short form blogs, which were called tumblelogs. He was eager to see a blogging platform integrate technology into their platforms. After waiting a year, with still no tumblogs in site, Karp develops his own platform with developer, Marco Arment. It was a great success, with over 75,000 users joining the site within the first two weeks.

It should be mentioned that the idea of a tumblelog was not created by Karp or Tumblr. The concept first came from a high school student in Germany, Chris Neukirchen. Chris wanted a place where he could share short pieces of content outside of the traditional sphere of long-formed, detailed articles. Coining his new platform, tumblelogs – it was a combination of tumble and web-logging – that according to an article by the Daily Dot was first created by the programming site redhanded.hobix.com. The blog he created was freeform with an accumulation of images, quotes, chat discussions and links to various articles.

Upon discovering Neukirchen’s innovative platform, a programmer in Chicago by the name of Marcel Molina saw the creation and was drawn toward the raw interface and simple nature of the blog. From this, he launched Projectionist – the second tumblelog inspired by the world of Neukirchen. Once Projectionist launched, it was in 2007 that Molina was contacted by Karp about the creation of Tumblr. Karp had been familiarized by both Chris and Marcel’s inventions and used his interest in this style of blogging to launch his own, unique spin within the realm of tumblelogs. From then, Tumblr was developed and marked itself as a place for individuals to share their artistic work, inspiration and daily tidbits.

The Rise of Tumblr

Although Tumblr was created around the same time as Facebook and Twitter. These social platforms lacked the design aesthetic and user face that was necessary for creative people. With their different approach to consuming and sharing content. Tumblr saw rapid expansion that led to valuable investors lending over 125 million dollars and an incredible influx of generated users.

Tumblr began to carve out its own spot in the micro-blogging space as a way for users to put together personal compositions of their work. Whether this is in the form of writing or photography. The platform was and is still structured so that users can share their content on their blog while other users can also reblog this content to their own site. It is a simple sharing structure that requires only the click of the reblog button. To post to your own blog – it is easy to use and effective for a fast dissemination of content.

The Growth of Tumblr

As the popularity of Tumblr began to grow, so did its core demographic that quickly flooded with creatives and artists alike. Tumblr is often noted for being a place of fandom, where users are devoted and dedicated to specific topics, art forms and overall areas of interest. Tumblr is a place of poetry, photography, anime, fan fiction, unique artistic musings and so much more.

In 2012, Tumblr made the leap into original content by establishing their own editorial team to create Storyboard. This idea was created to showcase stories, videos, and users on the platform. But, in 2013 it was shut down due to lack of popularity.

In the current Tumblr space, Yahoo! Inc. had purchased the platform back in 2013 for 1.1 billion dollars. In 2017, Verizon communications acquired Yahoo and Tumblr became a part of the Oath corporation. Karp, the founder of the platform, was set to leave the company at the end of 2017 – leaving the site and company to be led by Jeff D’Onofrio, the President and COO of Tumblr.

Tumblr Photography

A subset of artists that found a place for sharing their work on Tumblr were photographers. What began as a place to share their individual work, soon transformed into what was coined “photo blogs.” These photo blogs allowed photographers to share one image at a time and create a simple feed of their work – big, beautiful images with an easy scrolling capability. While Flickr had been the current industry leader in photography, many professionals aimed to step outside the traditional gallery set up and create a personal interface driven by personality and design.

As many photographers began to use Tumblr as their personal portfolio, this was before the creation and rise of Instagram, there was also the succession of users that found interest in viewing the photography work through the platform. With this, photographers and their fans were able to connect in an organic way. Photographers posting their work would generate fans and interest from other users who would then in return “reblog” their images. The more times a photograph was reblogged, the more eyes it would reach. Therefore, it would increase the exposure of the photographer. This process was truly authentic, removing any form of personal marketing or self-promotion. The re-sharing and increased attention given to a photographer’s images, was in some ways merely a game of luck and chance.

Reblogging On Tumblr

In fact, this act of sharing available on Tumblr is not on any other social network platform. We may be able to like or comment on photographs via sites such as Facebook and Instagram, but the true essence of reblogging remains at the core of Tumblr’s popularity. This ease of sharing gave rise to unknown or small time artists, allowing their work to be easily shared and ingested by a massive group of dedicated followers and their extended circle.

Yet, the idea of Tumblr photography was not exclusive to photographers and image creators that wanted to share their work. In fact, tumblr photography also grew due to users sharing work they had found in other parts of the Internet. For example, tumblr photography blogs were created to collect and curate photography within a specific niche or even by one specific artist. An industry that has truly developed and grown through the Tumblr space was early fashion photography. Images that were simple, mostly shot on film and contained fashion of specific areas, found home on Tumblr and quickly gained traction as a source of inspiration.

How Tumblr Is Unique

Another essence of Tumblr photography that changes the way we view the idea of art, was the evolution of blogs that cater to one singular television show, movie or even celebrity. We could describe these blogs as fandoms, where the user would curate content specific to the media or person. With this, Tumblr saw a burst of original artwork, Photoshopped elements such as text to accompany a picture, film stills and art interpretations of celebrity portraits. Even though this sliver of the platform isn’t necessarily photography based, the idea of sharing a specific set of  images in relation to the fan base remained the same.

User Experience

Yet, as with most successful platforms, there is always a snag in the design that causes an uproar. While we currently experience this on today’s newer social media platforms, such as the stir of Instagram with their changes in algorithms, Tumblr faced questions of whether the reblogging on their site was a matter of copyright and legal issues.

Since the platform is straightforward and easy to use, reblogging an image takes half a second. And even though sharing and resharing is a seamless process, the question of attribution quickly arose. For those whose work was being shared without recognition, without a semblance of their name attached to the image – it became hard for people to tell who was the original owner of the content. It even sparked the question of what would stop a user from uploading any type or imagery or artistic content and effectively passing it off as their own. The answer? Nothing.

This concept wasn’t specifically a Tumblr based issue that emerged due to the creation of the platform. The idea of attribution and proper copyright has been tussled with since the conception of the Internet. The issue at hand with Tumblr was that there was little to no monitoring of specific blogs – unless they contained inappropriate or offensive content. Users who did not flag any type of behavior or report users for stealing their content wouldn’t be breaking the guidelines and user agreement. It was and still is the responsibility of the photographer to report any type of stealing or copying to the Tumblr team.

Copyright & Ownership

Although there has never been a significant case that caused Tumblr to close its online doors, copyright and ownership remain a reason why many creatives and artists use the platform with caution.

Tumblr Photography Now

In the last decade, we have seen the social atmosphere of photography dramatically shift. Tumblr photography, although having decreased substantially since the early 2000s, is still alive and well. However, it has a bit of a change and altered user base. Unfortunately, as the social networking bubble burst with new applications such as Instagram and Snapchat. The artistic world of photography had to reevaluate in order to keep up with the changing landscape.

In truth, the work shared on Tumblr remains to be drastically more unique and creative than what has currently been coined as “Instagram photography.” This is solely due to the fact that Tumblr, with its roots of blogging, is less of a profile and more of a sharing space. Of course, you can find a specific kind of content through a simple keyword search in your dashboard area. But, more often than not the best Tumblr blogs are in other blogs. Unlike Instagram that has a basis of keyword recognition, Tumblr is home to blogs that may be hidden or undiscovered without some dedicated digging.

Tumblr photography is still one of the most popular forms of content shared on the platform. With individuals, brands, and companies still hosting their work on a Tumblr,

Here is our list of some of the best Tumblr photography blogs today:

jeanphilippelebee.tumblr.com/

French photographer and director, Jean Philippe Lebée may have one of the most aesthetically pleasing Tumblr photography accounts. With large, captivating lifestyle and fashion imagery, you could scroll for minutes and only come across insanely beautiful photographs. He uses a grid style theme to effectively display his photographs.

blog.stephaniegonot.com/

Stephanie Gonot is a photographer based in Los Angeles whose work features bright, colorful and powerful compositions. She has a handful of commercial and editorial clients for which she has worked with. Her Tumblr blog acts as her main website with her portfolio of work. With a visual design element and bold imagery, Gonot’s photographs thrive on the Tumblr platform.

tashserena.tumblr.com/

Tash Serena is a Bali based photographer working in the areas of portraiture, lifestyle, product and food imagery. Her Tumblr blog is simple and effective with a horizontal scrolling capability that showcases her strongest images.

chloeledrezen.tumblr.com/

Chloé Le Drezen is a fashion photographer based in London. Her work has a distinctly rich and warm tone you can see across her Tumblr. She is a film photographer and captures her subjects primarily on medium format film.

doyouspeakfrench.tumblr.com/

Do You Speak French is a Tumblr photography blog featuring the personal works of Fanny LaTour Lambert. Lambert is a fashion and portrait photographer based in Paris, but working with clients all over the world. Her depiction of both male and female subjects is unique and one-of-a-kind through her personal editing style.

Jagodamalanin.com

Jagoda Malanin is an artistic landscape and urban photographer based in Wroclaw. Another photographer using Tumblr as their basis for an online portfolio. Malanin’s blog includes alluring galleries of images that pop on the page.

hellosisilia.tumblr.com/

Los Angeles fashion photographer, Sisilia Piring, uses her Tumblr as her personal photography diary. She showcases her personal, editorial and commercial work. Using a vertical template with design elements. You can easily view her beautiful mixture of film and digital imagery shot under the California sun.

Is Social Media Affecting Photography?

One of the main concerns found across the Internet in relation to Tumblr photography or any other platform that turns photography into a social sharing activity is whether creatives and artists are losing the value of their work. Many photographers are still wary of social media as a place to share their creations. Due to the overwhelming potential for other users to engage in acts of stealing, infringement or unattributed copyright legalities. As much as we try to monitor the Internet, there will always be individuals who slip through the cracks. Such as taking the art of others and trying to pass it off as their own.

Some have even started to discuss the fact that Instagram, a platform originally built to share personal photos and musings. Has now in some ways become the new Tumblr. With accounts dedicated to curating and sharing artists’ creations. Some Instagram users have taken the original concept of reblogging on Tumblr and applied it to the new age photo-sharing essence of Instagram. Although nothing can truly replace Tumblr since its a special place for blogs. We are seeing a resurgence in the interest of using social media as a place to share not only personal creations but sources of expression and inspiration.

Sharing Your Work

In truth, sharing your work on social media will always come with a level of caution and apprehension. Once your work it out on the Internet, it can sometimes be impossible to get it back. You will also find it hard to completely delete it. Additionally, you need to be cautious how you share photos. Yet, since this has become the way for art to reach the masses – we can’t fight the concept of sharing our photography on social media platforms. If anything, now more than ever we need to pay attention to copyright and giving credit where credit is due. Looking out for other artists and photographers and reporting any type of infringement or misattribution you witness will help keep the strength of the creative communities integrity.

Tumblr As A Creative Space

Although we have seen Tumblr take a backseat to newer social media platforms. The micro-blogging capabilities of this site had still been able to retain a following of dedicated users. Although platforms such as Instagram or even Snapchat have started to saturate the photography space. Tumblr has something that these other applications lack, a true design element and ingrained aesthetic. Tumblr is about creativity and personality through social media. You have the ability to design your own interface using templates and fonts.

Tumblr gives photographers a place to host their personal work and portfolio. The added capability of attaching your domain to a Tumblr blog is little to no cost. This feature will allow Tumblr to remain a tool for interested photographers, who seek a place to showcase their work.

Niche of Tumblr

As for the future of Tumblr? It doesn’t seem to be fading away anytime soon. With paid advertising on the site, businesses still see the value in the Tumblr community. The numbers of users per month are in the hundreds of millions. Tumblr photography has carved out it’s own niche in the online space. It is a place to share your images with the potential to be reblogged and shared at a rapid rate. In the present day, the platform is for sharing and spreading of creative and artistic content. Sharing your images on Tumblr still proves to be an effective way to gain audiences and fans.

Final Thoughts About Tumblr

With our attention shifting to fresh social media platforms every year. It is vital for us to not disregard places where we can easily and fluidly share our art. Instead of placing all of our efforts into one singular application. We should strive to still maintain the vision that Tumblr created for artists back in 2007. If you don’t currently use or have never visited the site, I urge you to test it out, and experience the creative community that lives on Tumblr.


Have you ever used Tumblr to share your photography images? Or have you used the platform to reblog and curate photography, writing, and content that inspires you? During the boom of Instagram, do you believe that Tumblr is still a valuable social platform? Let us know what you think in our comments below.

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