Category Archives: SXSW

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 
SXSW South by Southwest
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.

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era

Here’s a little more about our panel presentation on Saturday at SXSW. This is an extension of conversations I’ve been having with my three other panelists for years.

SXSW Program Announcement
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there

The Panel
Mikkel Aaland is our moderator. I’ve known Mikkel for about 15 years, and we’ve had the pleasure of working on a number of projects together. We’ve both been involved with Adobe and ASMP since the last century.  I was part of the Lightroom Adventure book projects in Iceland and Tasmania that Mikkel created, and Mikkel invited me to the Nordic Light Beyond Pixels Unfestival two years ago.

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Mikkel is a poster child for embracing change and thriving on disruption. Coming from his roots as a traditional photographer, he was an early digital pioneer. He’s written and photographed many books – some about digital tech, some about ancient technologies, and some that are just about people.

AnnaAnna Dickson is the former Director of Photography for the Huffington Post/AOL, and now deputy Director of Photography at the Wall Street Journal. She also came out of a traditional photo background as a photo editor for major magazines back in the film days.

Anna has also embraced change with gusto. She has done extensive development with the Huffington Post tech team to develop an enterprise DAM system. And she has kept the pulse of nearly every new photo startup claiming to provide the firehose of content needed by online publishers. And she has been able to put them to the acid test – can they actually deliver.

Anna and I have shared the stage twice before: at PhotoPlus in 2013 and at last spring’s Palm Springs Photo Festival. Although we get to take opposing perspectives on stage, we’re good friends with broad agreement about where the future of media is going.

leoraLeora Kornfeld was introduced to me by our mutual friend Eric Drysdale, with whom she shares comedy roots. She has a long background in traditional media, including radio work for the CBC.

When we met over Facebook a few years ago, Leora was working as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. She’s been studying the effects of the fragmentation of traditional media entities. We hit it off immediately, and spent a lot of time comparing the experience of the practitioner (me) with the analysis of the academic (her).

Our Presentation
We’ll be looking at the effects of shifting market forces on the independent photographer. It seems as though everything about the way photographers built their businesses has changed. Media companies are in turmoil. The tools and methods of the trade have changed radically. The availability of crowd-sourced images has eroded some markets completely. And people’s concept of a photograph’s value is all over the map.

How do we carve out a place in this tumultuous ecosystem? Well, there are some ways forward, and we’ll look at them from each of our different perspectives – photographer, client, academic. While the way forward is not clear, and certainly contains risks, we think we can help identify strategies that can work.

Our panel comes at the end of a day-long track that presents pieces of the very same changing landscape. what is the historical context, how are big media companies coping with the issues, how does social media push new norms legally and socially, and how are new hardware and software developments going to affect us?

I’ll post some of the more promising ideas here, as well as some of the new stuff I run across. Like the SXSW of the last two years, I expect it to be a fertile place to see how photography, technology, media and culture move forward.

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

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

Cloud Wars

The competition to provide you with cloud storage is starting to reach a fevered pitch. It’s now possible to add excellent cloud backup to your storage system for a very reasonable cost. Some of these costs remain artificially low, and may therefore not be reliable in the long run. But we’re also seeing the big players in computing (Google and Amazon) offering really low pricing.

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First, a word of caution
We’ve seen some low-cost options for years. This includes services like Carbonite and Backblaze that have claimed “unlimited” storage for prices around $50/year. This means that someone like me with a dozen terabytes of data will be a money-loser for each of these companies. I’ve always been distrustful of these plans, fearing that the companies will go the way of Digital Railroad, which shut its doors with little advance notice in 2008.

Carbonite gets around the super-user problem by limiting the cheap backup service to your internal drive. As you add external disks, the price goes up. (Let’s also take a minute to note that Carbonite does not forecast profitability anywhere on the time horizon, which is problematic.) Backblaze does allow for truly unlimited data, and explains their strategy by saying it will average out between low and high volume users. This is okay for backup, as long as you realize the service may go away someday, and it’s not your only backup.

(Note: I personally use Backblaze for my computers and for my family. I’m currently testing the unlimited storage with my own archive. You can get a discount off Backblaze by clicking my affiliate link.)

The big boys jump in
Last summer, Amazon rocked the world of online storage by offering a new cloud backup and archiving service called Amazon Glacier. The price for the service came in at 1/10th of Amazon’s regular S3 pricing. You can now store a terabyte of data in Amazon’s cloud for $10/month.  This one is a game-changer. Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in cloud service, so the prices that they set will determine what the rest of the market does.

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Amazon Glacier is positioned as a real backup or deep archive solution. They say it may take up to 5 hours to access the data, so it’s definitely not a place to store stuff you expect to access frequently. But it does promise great safety and reliability from a blue-chip company.

(I’ve heard, from a very good source, that Amazon can offer this service because they are making use of some “free” capacity. In order to speed up its regular service, Amazon is using the outer rings of the hard drive platters, which deliver faster data throughput. So the inner rings were sitting on drives unused. They created Glacier to make use of this spare capacity.)

Google responds
A few weeks ago, Google matched Amazon’s bet, and even raised it. Not only did they match the $10/terabyte/month price, they made the offer on Google Drive.  This means that Google is offering the price on storage that is always on, not just a backup service.

DriveOnWhile Google will probably lose money on this specific service, it’s part of a larger strategy from the tech giant.

(Note, I’ve been slogging through Google’s Terms of Service to get an idea of exactly what rights you give to Google Drive, and it’s not totally clear to me. It does look like private data stored on Drive is private. But other stuff, like your public photos on Google+ do seem to give Google a  non-terminable license to republish.)

It’s really about “My Stuff Everywhere”
The real competition at work here is not about collecting money for storage. The real competition here is to become the universal shared storage system which can work across all your devices.

Dropbox has been the category killer for this service, seamlessly  sharing between you, your friends and coworkers, your computer(s) and your phone. It has been able to do this where Apple (and others) have failed numerous times. Dropbox has rocketed up in value, and is poised to become even more valuable.

The companies that become successful in creating a shared filesystem  are well-positioned for long-term success.  This kind of engagement is hard to pull away from, since  you build it into your collaboration and your fundamental relationship with your own media.

DAM Edition 3.0 Postcard.indd

In The DAM Book 3.0, I’ll dive into the use of cloud storage as part of a DAM strategy. This new development in pricing and strategy offers some excellent value for photographers looking for storage, backup and sharing services.

Life without a radio

Dateline SXSW – Attending SXSW without speaking Twitter is like living life without a radio – in a world where everyone else has one.  There is an invisible layer of communication that takes place, and those around you just seem to know stuff.

Krogh_140311_0553It’s nice outside, but I want inside information.

As a photographer, I follow the time honored tradition of never declining free food. Or, more accurately, seeking out free food and drink whenever possible. And at SXSW, free food and drinks are everywhere. It is laid out in hundreds of venues around town, sponsored by companies and institutions big and small, as well as states, cities and countries. And it’s frequently popping up at a moment’s notice.

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Once inside – free food and drink. Thank you, state of Georgia.

And so I followed the SXSW App, and I searched the web, and I asked around, but a huge amount of it was simply invisible to me.  I asked people how they knew where to go, and the universal response was “Twitter.” Of course that makes sense, since this is the place Twitter was introduced.  It’s their radio.

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Psyche-punk group, La Femme plays at the French Tech House. How can you find this stuff out without Twitter?

I’ve been pushing my blog posts out on Twitter for a while now, but I have not been using it for my own two-way communication. And I didn’t even really know how to find information when I was looking for it. It has become clear that this needs to change.

As Facebook moves farther into pay-for-play, it is less attractive as a channel for professional communications. (And this does not even begin to address the terrible Terms of Service issues.) Twitter is much less controlled – more open. Of course this means that you need a tool to help you make sense of it – some kind of way to tune into the frequencies you want to hear (to extend the metaphor.)

Tweetdeck is one, and that’s what I’ve been using to help me make sense of the massive flood of information going through the service.  I’ve started to tune in to the invisible interchange of communication that I’ve been tossing my tweets into. It turns out that there is a world of people responding to my blog, discussing my books, and wondering about stuff I’ve been saying. Who knew?

(Of course, a bunch of you knew. As I look through the notices on Tweetdeck, it’s clear that a bunch of my friends and colleagues  have been using Twitter on a daily basis.)

Tweetdeck
Tweetdeck allows you to separate out parts of your Twitter feed so you can make sense of the constant stream of information. Notifications are showing tweets I’m mentioned in, and Messages are direct messages to individuals. You can see here I made a new friend, possibly leading to free beer. 

Not everyone will need to speak Twitter. But it’s looking like a much better bet than any other social media platform, at least for professional communications.