Calling all photographers! It’s that time of year again: Wiki Loves Monuments 2014 has begun! On Monday, September 1, for the fifth consecutive year, participants from around the world began competing in the world’s largest photography competition, which will last until the end of September. Like before, photos captured will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this coming Sunday, September 7th. The competition is driven by volunteers in an effort to document different cultural heritages online, boost participation in Wikimedia projects and – of course – illustrate Wikipedia articles.
Throughout the month, participants will upload their photos to Wikimedia Commons under a free license. These submissions will then be judged within their country to determine the best of that country. Judges of each country have until the end of the month of October to select the top 10 winning photos, where they will be submitted to an international panel for selection as the best overall. Winners are typically announced in early December. Past winning submissions have come from Switzerland (2013), India (2012), Romania (2011) and the Netherlands (2010).
Over the years, WLM has grown significantly. First started in 2010 in the Netherlands, the first competition yielded more than 12,500 pictures of Dutch monuments alone. The following year, a total of 18 countries throughout Europe participated, netting 168,208 photographs – a Guinness World Record for the largest photography competition. Last year, there were over 365,000 submissions to Wikimedia Commons, obliterating the record from the year before.
This year at least 37 countries from 5 continents are participating, with various countries making their WLM debut. Long-time participants include Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Switzerland, which will be joined for the first time by Iraq, Ireland, Lebanon, Macedonia and Pakistan.
“Despite having financial and social challenges, the Pakistani people are embracing the Internet and the growth rate of Internet users is on the rise,” says Saqib Qayyum, an active Wikimedian from Pakistan in a recent interview with Creative Commons. Saqib has high hopes for Pakistan’s first time in WLM:
“I believe once people participate in Wiki Loves Monuments Pakistan they will eventually start to contribute to Wikipedia, which is amongst the most successful products of the open and free internet. Thus, they will eventually come to learn about the concept of free culture movement. Wiki Loves Monuments Pakistan is the best, quickest and easiest way to introduce the free culture movement to the country.”
After all, he concludes, it may be challenging at times for many people to create a Wikipedia article, but “it’s pretty simple, fun and easy to take a photograph and upload it.”
The main organizer of Wiki Loves Monuments, (user:Romaine), holds similar hopes and goals as Saqib, particularly when it comes to coverage of countries from the Global South, which are inequitably represented.
“I noticed looking on Commons for photos of some new countries that these had almost no photos. Wiki Loves Monuments is changing that now and we are able to expand our visual knowledge in these countries with this contest. That is amazing.”
“Wiki Loves Monuments helps all the participating countries to have better coverage, but it is also a step in the right direction for helping those specifically lacking in coverage, especially in the Global South. Still many countries are missing in this year’s contest, as last year’s and year before that. Wiki Loves Monuments has just started, but we should already be thinking on how we can reach out to countries which have not participated before and how we can create the opportunity to get them involved,” he concludes. Whether you are participating from the Austria or Azerbaijan, Poland or Palestine, WLM is one way to help bridge the North-South Divide.
“We all need to play our part in ensuring a bright future for the open and free internet. I think the success of the movement globally depends on participation of people from not only the developed countries but also from the Global South”.
So go, get your camera and snap away. Also, stay up-to-date with the latest statistics from the competition here.
For the past winning photographs, see the list below.
Michael Guss, Communications Volunteer