World Photo Day started in Canberra and last year reached 500 million people
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World Photo Day started in Canberra and last year reached 500 million people

World Photo Day, which started in the bedroom of a then 21-year-old Canberran, last year attracted the attention of about 500 million people across the globe and is now billed as the world's largest celebration of photography.

It is both a nod and an antidote to the proliferation of images taken every day in a era where anyone with smart phone has become a photographer.

World Photo Day founder Korske Ara is based at Entry 29 in Canberra.

World Photo Day founder Korske Ara is based at Entry 29 in Canberra.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

The first World Photo Day was celebrated in 2010, with 250 images submitted to the site, reaching 20,000 people. Last year, close to 3000 images were submitted and the social media reach was put at 500 million people, based on the hashtag #WorldPhotoDay.

Now 29, Canberra photographer Korske Ara founded World Photo Day eight years ago from his family home in Gowrie at a time when he was feeling a little aimless and looking for more meaning.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Kate Nolan of Ireland.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Kate Nolan of Ireland.

Photo: Kate Nolan
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"I was sitting back at home in 2009 after Christmas and had nothing to do and thought, 'I'll see if I can find a photography-related thing that I can get involved with'," he said.

"So I typed in 'World Photo Day' off the top of my head and it turned out nothing existed.

"So I thought, 'I could start a World Photo Day', little knowing how much time and energy it would take."

World Photo Day encourages people around the globe to share a single photo; "to share their world with the world". Contributors also write something, inspiring them to contemplate the image and their connection to it.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Minal Hoddinott of Canada.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Minal Hoddinott of Canada.

Photo: Minal Hoddinott

"The idea is to really bring back the value of photography," Korske said.

"Photography is really taken for granted today and we've forgotten what it means to capture a photo and what it means to reflect on it

A photograph by World Photo Day founder Korske Ara.

A photograph by World Photo Day founder Korske Ara.

Photo: Korske Ara

"We've just gone through Anzac Day and one of the most powerful things for me is to see the stories of our history almost re-lived through those pictures.

"And I really believe it changes our perception about how we see how a future too."

A past contribution to World Photo Day from Paula Czeri of Poland.

A past contribution to World Photo Day from Paula Czeri of Poland.

Photo: Paula Czeri

But Korske doesn't believe smart phones have necessarily devalued photography.

"I really believe the technology has improved the way we tell our stories. It's just a matter of making it purposeful," he said.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Matt of Adelaide.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Matt of Adelaide.

Photo: Matt of Adelaide

"Every day we taken photos and share them. One day a year - World Photo Day - is promoting the chance to not only capture a photo but actually tell a really powerful story through that photo."

The day has grown to such an extent that it is now a full-time occupation for Korske, who is based out of Entry 29, a co-working space for start ups and entrepreneurs in Canberra.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Manuel Veloso of Portugal

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Manuel Veloso of Portugal

Photo: Manuel Veloso

It is still to generate an income, with Korske surviving on a scholarship and help from friends; and scaling back his living expenses and even, ironically, selling his camera gear to continue promoting the day.

The flame-haired innovator was previously a systems administrator working for a start-up web company in Canberra.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Marklin Ang in New Zealand

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Marklin Ang in New Zealand

Photo: Marklin Ang

He chose August 19 to celebrate World Photo Day because it was the anniversary of the Daguerreotype, the first practical photographic process.

At the same time as he was founding World Photo Day all those years back, Korske was drowning in debt after spending money on "stupid things like TVs and cars". He went on a six-year odyssey around Australia, taking photographs, living in his car and taking jobs wherever he could, from cafes to farms.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Marian Bendeth of Canada.

A past contribution to World Photo Day by Marian Bendeth of Canada.

Photo: Marian Bendeth

"Quite recently, two weeks ago, I managed to pay off the last $1000 owed and in total I think I paid off 130 grand," he said.

"And because I was debt-free, I could turn World Photo Day from a little hobby on the side into a commercial project that can sustain itself financially."

The plan is to generate revenue through advertising on the World Photo Day site, securing corporate sponsorship and creating merchandise such as t-shirts, caps and photo books.

Korske grew up in Canberra and went to Red Hill Primary, Gowrie Primary, Caroline Chisholm High and Tuggeranong College.

His parents used to own the Japanese restaurant Asakusa n Kingston.

"My old man's a real entrepreneurial dude so he came to Australia with a really determined and motivated spirit and I'm like, 'Ok, I guess that's where I came from'." Korske said, with a laugh,

To register for World Photo Day, go to worldphotoday.com

Megan Doherty is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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