Category Archives: Appearances

Report from SXSW #1

Once again it was a great festival: fun, exhausting, and thought-provoking.

Our talk, Adding Meaning and Context to Visual Media was a packed house, turning people away at the door.  As with previous years, one of the main values to me was the time spent refining the presentation, and distilling the ideas to a logical sequence in digestible form. I’ll do a blog post hitting the main points, and I’m hoping to give the talk again with my fellow panelists, Anna Dickson and Ramesh Jain.
Sell-out crowd, with line out the door at our SXSW talk this year.

This year, I spent a lot of time learning about Artificial Intelligence, and came away with a lot more clarity about what AI is, how it is being developed, and how to take advantage of it. I also saw some of the ways AI-based assistants are shaking up the world of computing. I believe that Google home, Amazon Echo, Siri,  and Facebook Messenger are actually racing to become the new dominant operating system. Natural Language Processing and Conversational UI will be the way we interact with computers in the future. The way this shakes out will be really important. I’ll have a post on that as well.

Photography (in all its many forms) continued to be a major component of what I saw at SXSW. This ranged from “traditional” photography, like Cory Richard’s keynote, to photography as advocacy in Aaron Huey’s work, to Casey Niestat’s new network, and on to the VR exhibits.
Ron Haviv and Lauren Walsh spoke about the democratization of archives and the Lost Rolls project.

There was more political activism, analysis and anxiety than in years past. This included a pretty frightening discourse on big data and fascism (from historical and speculative viewpoints). There was also a heavy emphasis on using creativity and technology for public good. Carina Kolodny and Marc Janks spoke about driving change through multimedia storytelling at Huffington Post. Rainn Wilson (Dwight!) spoke about building Soul Pancake, a media company based on empathy.


I was inspired talking to Aaron Huey about his advocacy efforts. 

The National Geographic made a pretty big splash at the festival, with a 5 day installation in Vulcan Gas Company restaurant on 6th St.  They brought in a great set of speaker presentations, and the event was attended by both Declan Moore, the CEO of National Geographic Partners (the media company) and Gary Knell, CEO of the National Geographic Society (the non-profit side of the organization). I believe that this was the first SXSW for both of them, and they seemed to be really energized by the festival. Gary also led a presentation about National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers program.


Gary Knell and Declan Moore address the crowd at NatGeo Further Base Camp. 

PhotoShelter sent down an exploratory contingent, including CEO Andrew Fingerman, founder Grover Sanchagrin, and Content Marketing Manager Deborah Block. I hope to see an even greater presence next year, now that they have been able to see the opportunities it presents.

Andrew Fingerman talks with Amy Bailett of Killer Infographics about the changing nature of visual communication.

Of course, there was also great music, and again this year I got a small taste of it on my way out the door. One year, I’d love to stick around for the last 5 days of the festival and take advantage of that platinum badge. But, honestly, I’m just so exhausted from the Interactive festival that it’s hard to imagine spending even more time fighting crowds.


Some jazz band I stumbled across at 2am, that was just amazing…

I’ll make some further posts that outline some of my findings, starting with one about AI.

As I tell all my photo and tech people, I continue to think that SXSW is one of the most important events that anyone in media can attend.  Media is inherently driven by the technology that enables it. Even more important, I believe it’s really beneficial to understand how technology, content, and business models intersect. I think SXSW is one of the best places on earth to see what’s coming down the road.

Interview with Aaron Huey Saturday 3/11 at 6:00pm

I have the pleasure of interviewing photographer Aaron Huey at the as part of the NatGeo Further base camp at SXSW tomorrow (Saturday March 11, 2017). Aaron is known for his passionate photography, and his ability to leverage his work to raise awareness and funds for causes he believes in. We’ll discuss how he walks the line between non-partisan journalism and advocacy.

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Aaron worked with Shepard Fairey to create the We the People campaign.

Join us on 6th St. at the Vulcan Gas Company from 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Oh, open bar and free food too.

See you there.

SXSW – An important place for visual creators

For the 5th year, I’m headed down to SXSW Interactive. Since my first visit, I’ve been convinced that the future of visual media can be seen here, as it is making its way from idea, through doomed startup, successful startup, into the marketplace, and on to reiteration.

There’s no doubt that visual communication – journalism or entertainment – is highly dependent on the new platforms, business models, and distribution channels that are technology-driven. SXSW is the speed-dating phantasmagoria of media tech. If you want to see where media will be in 2, 5 or 10 years, there’s no better place to see it than at SXSW.

And it’s becoming obvious that tech companies are increasingly dependent on visual imagery for core capability. Photographic communication, writ large, is perfectly suited to the mobile era, with onboard cameras, beautiful screens, and a premium placed on jamming lots of attention-grabbing information into a 2×4 inch space. In recent years, visual storytelling and visual media have been a constant thread through much of the programming.

This year, we see some real love given directly to photography at SXSW. National Geographic photographer Cory Richards is a keynote speaker, and graces the cover of the SXSW magazine. NatGeo will have a Further Base Camp at the Vulcan Gas Company on 6th St.

I’ll be interviewing the amazing Aaron Huey at Further on Saturday at 6pm, discussing how he balances authenticity and passion vs. risk and vulnerability in his life and work.  I’m so impressed with the way he has leveraged great photojournalism into awareness, advocacy, fundraising and cultural impact. Seriously, this guy is a poster child for visual creators owning their media stack and putting it in service for the things they believe in.

(Technically, being on stage at the NatGeo venue means I’m sharing the bill with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jason Silva, Cory Richards, Steven Kolter, David Guttenfelder and Aaron Huey.)

There will be a good PhotoShelter contingent at SXSW as well. CEO Andrew Fingerman will be there, as well as founder and tequila entrepreneur Grover Sanchagrin.

Heading to SXSW – Presenting Friday

I’m headed out to Austin for SXSW again (now, with more Obama.) This year, I’ll be presenting with Dennis Keeley, the Photography chair at Art Center in Pasadena. I first met Dennis at the Palm Springs Photo Festival faculty dinner, and we quickly found out we have a lot of common interests.

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The Faculty dinner at PSPF – I met 2 people I’ve brought to SXSW here.

Dennis is intensely interested in the future of imaging and visual communication. We found that we see these opportunities in some very similar ways. The conversation that started 4 years ago has continued as each of us has pursued this future in different ways. I’m delighted that we can take this time to make this conversation public.

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Dominique le Roux at 2015 SXSW Photography track 
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Hans Peter Brondmo at 2015 SXSW Photography Track

Here is a description of our program. I’ll work on expanding on some of these topics, and we’re hoping to have a recording of the program available.

If you’re going to be in Austin, and can come by the Hilton Friday at 3:45, I’d love to say hello. If you’re in town but can’t make the program, I’ll be around until Tuesday evening.

The Rise of the Visual  Strategist

Presented by Peter Krogh and Dennis Keeley

As the need to visually communicate explodes, organizations of all shapes and sizes face the need for a new kind of staff, new tools and more nimble mindsets. This goes far beyond an Instagram account manager, or a person who works in IT.  It looks into the heart of an organization’s mission, brand, legacy and value. But in most cases, the approach to visual narrative is ad hoc, at best.

Solving this problem will require an integrated approach that is grounded in education, technology, business needs, and an understanding of visual semiotics. Dennis Keeley has been addressing this from the education side, while Peter Krogh has been working on technical development. They will discuss the new role of the professional visual strategist and the opportunities it presents… as well as what education, skills and experience will be needed.

SXSW This Week!

It’s that time of year again: the annual convergence of tech, content, entertainment, music, film and general weirdness that is South by Southwest, or SXSW. I’ve been going for the last two years, and I find that it’s the most mind-expanding event I attend.

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This year, I had the pleasure of working with the festival to curate some of the programming. I’ve been working with David Fox, the festival’s archivist to make a day of photography, content and distribution. We’ve got a really interesting day, exploring some of these issues in a multi-faceted way.

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era
I’ll be doing a panel with some of the smartest people I know: Mikkel Aaland, Anna Dickson and Leora Kornfield. We’ll explore how disintermediation has changed the professional landscape for photographers, and how we can find new ways to make a living.

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We’ll be presenting on Pi day, 3.14.15, which is pretty awesome.

Our Day’s Programs
Here’s the list of other programs in our stack. Most of these were people I’ve met over the years and encouraged to submit a proposal. All of these programs take place in the same room at the Hyatt Regency Austin, Texas Ballroom.

Nat Geo Captures the World For Nokia, With a Phone 9:30-10:30
Steven Alvarez, Alice Keating, Tiina Johnson, Richard Kelly

Creativity & Success from the Majority World 11:00-12:00
Dominique le Roux

Image Creation and Sharing: Practice vs. Policy 12:30-1:30
Leslie-Jean Thornton, Lisa Silvestri, Magdalena Olszanowski, Victoria Ekstrand

The Camera Reimagined – New Forms, New Tools – 3:30-4:30
Hans Peter Brondmo

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era 5:00-6:00
Mikkel Aaland, Anna Dickson, Leora Kornfeld, Peter Krogh

Surveillance Photography: Personal, Public, Profit
In addition to these, Katrin Eismann will be speaking Monday morning with Stephen Mayes, David Fine and Oskar Kalmaru.
JW Marriott – Monday, March 18 9:30-10:30

ASMP DC Tuesday the 22nd

I’m speaking at ASMP DC Tuesday night with Tom Kennedy. We’ll be looking at the current state of social media for photographers. This will include some of the issues I’m writing about here, follow up on The Instagram Papers,  and  strategy recommendations for making use of social media.

We hope to get some good engagement from the crowd – discussing of what’s working, effective tools and creating a social media strategy. Come out to CDIA in Georgetown from 7:00pm to 9:00 pm. $10/ASMP members, $20/ Non-members, $5/Students.

UGC and PGC

As I outlined previously in The Fire Hose, there is a flood of User Generated Content (UGC) being redirected for editorial and marketing purposes. The flood waters are rising constantly, as new services come on line to collect the content, mine it and monetize it.

Even though this will be transformational in the photo and communication realms, it does not mean the end of Professionally Generated Content (PGC). In fact, most editorial, marketing and advertising efforts will need a combination of both. Let me outline how I see the relationship between UGC and PGC.

Continue reading UGC and PGC

Beyond Pixels Unfestival

Last April, I had the pleasure of attending the Beyond Pixels Unfestival, part of the Nordic Light International Festival of Photography in Christiansund, Norway.

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Our two day discussion on the future of photography covered a lot of ground, including the implications of new technologies, changing business practices, and the social relevance of photography. Over the last year, I’ve used this discussion to help me frame many of the changes coming to the art and practice of photography.

Here is a video of our group sharing some of our themes and conclusions with the rest of the festival. Leading the discussion are Mikkel Aaland and Hans Peter Brondmo. I’m joined by Severin MatusekIvan Cavero-BelaundeKnut Koivisto and Kate Jordahl.