It's hard to believe it was eight years ago. The experience
is still seared in my mind. But before I digress, if you wish, go
ahead and dive into 1996 Olympics:
Through the eyes of an Atlanta photographer. It looks just the
way it did when I put it online during the Centennial Games in the
summer of '96 (you just couldn't see the Cascading Style Sheets
in Netscape 3.0). Me, I'm going to stay here a minute, and ramble
about the impact the experience had on me, and the perspective eight
years has given. You might want to move on.
Even though the web is still in its infancy today,
in the summer of '96, it still had its umbilical cord attached,
and the fresh print of a doctor's hand on its butt. I had finished
my first cheesey cliche
of a web page a few months before, and felt sufficiently prepared
to take on what I was sure would be a relatively common activity;
building a web page of my Olympic experiences. I figured I would
be one of dozens of folks starting a new media tradition; individuals
covering events (as opposed to organizations), on the nearly free
printing press called the World Wide Web.
In the end, I felt a little like the guy who shows up
for the announced cleanup of the neighborhood park, and finds he's
a crew of one. Where is everybody? Who's going to cover all this
stuff? During the first week of the Olympics, I searched the web
high and low for sites, or links to sites about people's experiences
during the games. Not CNN.com. You know, home pages.
Nobody was home. At about the same time I was concluding
I might be a Lone Ranger, I got an unexpected e-mail from someone
well respected within the photo industry. He and I had never met
or corresponded before, he just basically wanted to say "you
know, you're doing something that's never been done before."
Great. Here I was thinking I was just having a blast
doing something that a lot of people would, and now it's gettin'
all heavy and everything. Luckily, I was just too darn busy to worry
about it much (within the site, you can read the details of what
a typical Olympic day might be like in That's
But the evidence mounted in other ways. During July
and August that year, I received over 500 e-mails, from all over
the world. As impressive as that was, even more heartening was the
number of total strangers who e-mailed me the morning after the
Centennial Park bombing, just to check if I was OK. At a time I
was feeling pretty low, it provided an unexpected boost.
Boost. Yes, this Olympics web site was that in many
ways. For one thing, it eased me through the hangover many people
felt when their Games ended, cold turkey. I had my web stash to
wean me off of it, as I added and amended pages for a week or so
afterwards. Only then did I have a chance to reflect and appreciate
how many people had seen it, and the impact it had. But I never
intended nor dreamed that my one site would take on that role alone
in '96, or that it would "succeed" in ways that I'd never
even considered. It was the whap on the head I needed to clue me
in on the power the web could/would have.
Then I thought of those astronauts, who went to the
moon at a relatively young age, and then had to wonder "What
next? How am I going to top that?" Well, in my case,
you're looking at it. I secured the PhotoDude.com domain a month
after the Games ended, and launched it in January of '97. It has
become the web equivalent of kudzu, growing at stupendous rates,
and even spawning other sites, like PhotoDude
Web Design, which has in turned spawned additional sites.
And it all started here: 1996
Olympics: Through the eyes of an Atlanta photographer.