The Geotaggers’ World Atlas is my long-term project to discover the world’s most interesting places and the routes that people follow between them. Five years ago I first started retrieving photo locations from the Flickr search API and drawing lines between them to make the first version of the Atlas.
A cluster of geotagged photos is a good indicator of the interestingness of a place because it signifies that people went there in the first place, saw something worth taking a picture of, and put the extra effort into posting it online for others to appreciate. And a sequence of photos along a route is even more significant, because it indicates that someone sustained their interest over distance and time rather than taking one picture and turning back.
The project has been full of surprises, making me aware of streets, neighborhoods, and whole cities I knew nothing about before. The separate paths of thousands of individuals combine to give the appearance of a sketch. The red lines on the map (which show where a photographer traveled between photo sites at a speed between 7 and 19 miles per hour, based on the time stamps and locations of the pictures) that I had hoped would identify favorite bike routes turned out instead to reveal scenic ferries.
At the beginning of the project, I made individual static maps just large enough to contain the largest contiguous clusters of photos. The uniform map scale highlights the vast differences in size and density between cities, but there is always more going on just outside the frame that gets lost. Today I’m able to launch
the full Geotaggers’ World Atlas covering every city in the world. Thanks to Flickr’s API, it exposes over 10 years of photo locations, and as a web map it lets you explore not just the largest centers of activity but also their context, anywhere on earth.