Photo Web site faces closure

Site needs 142 more paying viewers by Saturday deadline

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2005

A popular Web site that features Juneau photos will shut down soon if more people don't become paid members, its operator says.

It's a prospect that affects nostalgic Juneauites as far off as Iraq.

Since 1997, Pat Costello has featured a new photo on every other day. Most of the nearly 1,500 photos are of Juneau and Southeast Alaska.

"There's thousands of people who come to it and download pictures and think about vacations," Costello said.

But Costello, a state employee who takes photographs as a sideline, said he can't afford to continue to run the site without financial support from viewers.

Tammy Murphy, a member of the Web site, said it's the screen saver on her computer and is listed in her computer's "My Favorites" section.

"I check that sucker every day," she said.

Murphy, a social worker at Bartlett Regional Hospital, has referred visiting patients to the site when they have a few days to pass before leaving Juneau.

She knows of family and friends who visited Juneau because of the scenes they saw on the site.

And the site is important to the Army National Guardsmen who are deploying to Iraq at the end of the month, including Murphy's husband, Joseph. They have been away for training.

"All of the fellows who are deploying love to pull that up and see pictures close to home," she said.

The site gets a million and a half hits a month, Costello said. He needs 142 more viewers to pay $25 if he is to reach his target of 400 members. The deadline he imposed is Saturday.

This is the second year Costello has sought members. Last year he had 372.

"It costs a lot of money to maintain the site and put it on the Internet," he said, including the costs of taking photographs.

He began this year's membership drive on Dec. 10. But with memberships just trickling in, he took down the site in early January, except for a notice counting down the memberships he still needs.

Costello also sells prints of his photos, but he sold only three in December, he said.

"That's not exactly a Christmas rush," Costello said. "That's not exactly a reason to keep it going."

Costello received international publicity for his photo of a rare white-coated black bear in Juneau in 2002. The Associated Press picked up the photo, and Costello was interviewed about it by the BBC. It helped spur a state rule that protected the bear from hunters.

But Costello is equally proud of a photo printed several years ago in the Juneau Empire showing a black bear downtown. The photo contributed to the city's efforts to keep garbage away from bears, Costello believes.

Costello said he wouldn't hold strictly to the 400-member goal. But he definitely needs to approach it.

He said he lost 45 pounds recently and is raring to get out in the wilderness this summer to take more photos.

"The issue is how many people I'll be taking with me," he said.

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