(Above) What comes up when you search for Nemfrog on Twitter. A snippet.
As far as I remember, I found it on my own. The Picture Collection of the New York Public Library. A room with no great distinction otherwise, lined with large file cabinets. Inside of them, labeled and organized, hundreds of thousands of images culled from books, magazines, newspapers and various kinds of paper ephemera. I wasn’t an artist or illustrator, set decorator or costumer. I wasn’t doing academic research and I wasn’t writing historical fiction. Think of the room I found as prehistoric Tumblr. Others had professional reasons for being there. I just liked looking at pictures.
A little bit later I got hired as the picture librarian at Pratt Institute in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Pratt has strong programs in art and fashion and it was still pre-internet times, so students needed image files they could use for research. Compared to the picture collection of the NYPL, Pratt’s was puny. And although I had the title, picture librarian, I wasn’t a librarian. I was just someone the librarian hired to cut up magazines and books, to label and file what I found and to re-file the images after the students returned them.
It was a great job.
Time went by, Now I lived in Los Angeles, the Internet existed and I found myself creating image files again. This time I was making digital files of film clips so customers of the stock footage company I worked for could locate the kind of material they needed. Once again I spent my days looking at images, considering them, describing them and now posting them online.
In between, before and after, I’ve taught, I’ve written for newspapers and magazines, I’ve worked as a location scout, I’ve sold vintage clothing. Mostly I’ve freelanced. I worked in the gig economy before I knew that’s what it was.
Four years ago this week I started blogging as Nemfrog on Tumblr. I kind of stumbled into it, the way I found the picture library in Manhattan. At first, a project to keep me occupied when I felt depressed after a breakup, Nemfrog has become something of an institution.
Examples of becoming an institution:
Here’s a tiny bit of what you see if you go to Pinterest and search Nemfrog and astronomy. I don’t even have a Nemfrog Pinterest, so this deep archive of Nemfrog posts appeared thanks to people who have posted there from Tumblr and scrupulously maintained the links back the source, which I really appreciate. Nemfrog and book cover yields a lot too. Nemfrog and anything does, really.
Google lets Nemfrog seem even more like an institution than Pinterest. One, because it’s Google. And two, because it shows results for almost all the tags I regularly use. Above are the first four lines of results from searching Nemfrog and color. Note that almost all these images become searchable on Google because followers and others have reblogged them somewhere else on the internet.
I scrolled through hundreds of posts on Facebook tagged Nemfrog and decided to refresh my memory about where I found a few of the images there. In one case I barely remember turning lots of pages in Home gymnastics for the preservation and restoration of health in children and young and old people of both sexes until I found something interesting. I mean I like turning pages, but it took a while.
This image, captioned “Example of tension in a falling cat,”also migrated to Facebook from Nemfrog. I dug it out of a book which argued for Greek ideals of proportion and line for dancers and sculptors of the 1920s.
Here’s another snippet of Nemfrog posts on Twitter. The other one is at beginning of this post.I tweet there occasionally. Almost all of these are reblogs from others.
I write this less about grandiosty (I hope) than a way of showing my research, blogging and archiving has had some small influence on creative people. More than a few who find Nemfrog interesting and useful work as artists, as teachers, architects, designers. Or else they’re students in those fields. I know this because sometimes they write to me and tell that they’ve learned something from my aesthetic choices, that Nemfrog provides inspiration, that certain images have been useful in their work.
That’s what Nemfrog is for. And I want my work to be free and widely available. But now you also have a chance to give something back to me. If you value Nemfrog, if you find it helpful in your work, if you feel generous, please make a donation of any size. And even if you don’t, I always appreciate your notes, your messages and your fan mail.
You can also help by reblogging this appeal. Thanks.
You can also send money via the Cash app to $nemfrog.