Monday 15 September 2014

The 2014 EyeEm Festival & Awards

If there needed to be an affirmation of EyeEm's vanguard positioning in the digital photography revolution, then the past couple of days confirmed it, big time. Their eponymous festival, which spanned two inspiring days, was an absolute testament to a forward-looking business and thriving photo sharing community that's set to rapidly (and deservedly) evolve into something very significant indeed. 

The event, which additionally encompassed the 2014 EyeEm Awards, kicked off on Friday at Spree-situated industrial treasure, Alte Teppichfabrik. Berlin's converted carpet factory, with its expansive rugged walls and deep-set character, provided the perfect backdrop for the day's finely orchestrated line-up. Esteemed and inspirational speakers (think CEOs, CTOs, journalists, photographers, creative directors and more) from the likes of TIME Magazine, Getty Images, The Huffington Post, Gestalten, Etsy, The Photographers' Gallery and LCC - to name just a few - graced the stage with their wise words and learned insights, offering informed and perceptive viewpoints on the contemporary era of image proliferation and mass digitisation. 

Key issues and themes included, but were by no means limited to: the camera of the future, fragile formats, the changing notion of photographers, photography copyright and ethics, the vital issue of organisation and curation amid photo inundation,  the significance of collaboration, monetisation strategies, the changing dichotomy of culture makers/culture takers and the ever-increasing importance of visuals against a background of desktop to mobile transition. In short, a lot of food for thought. 

Friday culminated in the exhibition opening, which showcased the worthy winners and finalists of the 2014 EyeEm Awards. Spread over two floors, the display offered a tantalising taste of the emerging talent and capabilities in the digital and mobile photography realm. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the inestimably precious nature of old school analogue and its associated creative craftsmanship is a territory I hold pretty dearly, and one that I'm not willing to give up entirely, but - and it's a big but - the sheer potential of the digital domain and the visual revolution is undeniable and very, very exciting.  The proof was there to see (in exceptionally high resolution).

Things became a bit more up close and personal on day two, which took place in EyeEm's shiny Kreuzberg HQ. Zooming in (pun intended) on the concerns and questions covered at Friday's summit, Saturday's 'Community Day' was made up of smaller scale workshops and discussions with industry-shaping professionals, as well as a healthy dose of totally unforced mingling with the lovely likeminded folk in attendance. In a largely online world, the importance of "real life", offline connection and communication cannot be underestimated, and the whole day (and night) epitomised a seamless amalgamation of both; proof that two worlds don't have to collide, but rather symbiotically liaise and raise one another. 

Remarkably and most importantly, the technical masterminds behind it all - the EyeEm crew and all four founders - operate on the most human level; an ethos of infectious, genuine passion and loyalty towards the root cause, each other and their burgeoning mobile photography community. It's a seminal time for photography; how incredibly encouraging that this inspiring, friendly bunch are at the forefront of it.

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