Awards Days Discussion Recap: Reaching New Audiences

Creative director Nathan Philips and filmmaker Topaz Adizes.

Filmmaker Topaz Adizes.

In times of budget cuts, diminishing numbers of traditional outlets, and fading boundaries between professions, visual storytellers are looking for alternative ways of reaching an audience.

Filmmaker Topaz Adizes and creative director Nathan Philips got together with Muhammed Muheisen, a photographer for The Associated Press, Paul Moakley, deputy director for photography at Time, and Jim Casper, founder and editor of the contemporary photography website lensculture.com, to explore possibilities.

Muheisen spoke of how he employs Instagram as a visual diary of his life as a wire photographer, using his iPhone to shoot scenes of daily life, alongside his assignments. The moment you become an Instagrammer, you become a community member, Muheisen said, but you shouldn’t take this for granted. It is important to think about who your audience is and how to engage them, and you do that by being committed and posting daily. He decided to target an audience by creating an account theme, related to his work covering refugee issues. Instagram became more than just an app, but a major platform for raising awareness across a broad audience, as well as a professional showcase that helped generate more work.

Jim Casper also spoke of the commitment needed to use social media as a platform, likening the process to tending a garden, day by day, to make it flourish. But, he pointed out, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each engage audiences differently. You need to realize that, and to use them in a smart way. He pointed out that 1.8 billion photographs are uploaded to the internet every day. “It’s not enough to be a great photographer,” he said. “To thrive and survive in today’s marketplace, a photographer has to be entrepreneurial.” Casper went on to talk of developing skills such as building your own global brand, and finding new strategies for new technologies, and to speak of how Lens Culture aims to discover the best in contemporary photography, to give photographers a platform for global exposure, to provide a resource for editors and curators to discover new work, and to become involved in online education.

Topaz Adizes and Nathan Philips made a lively double act. Taking the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ as an example, they gave three rules for being successful online and engaging an audience: People need to be able to make a choice to engage (the effort of getting a bucket of ice). They need a badge (a means of telling friends what they’ve done, or what they’ve noticed, in a way that raises their social profile), and they should be allowed to feel they have made an impact, to prove that their participation changed the world a little bit. Adizes reiterated that the social media are not all the same. People go to Facebook for one reason, to Twitter for another, to Instagram for another. You have to know what you want to say, and what the best forum is for you to use.

Paul Moakley gave an editor’s perspective on telling stories in new ways, offering a ‘digital inspiration board’ of projects he had found inspiring, and which were reaching new audiences, such as Chris Milk’s ‘Clouds over Sidra’. This uses Oculus Rift virtual-reality technology to transport the viewer into daily life in a Syrian refugee camp, and was unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos—an example of a photographer passionate about his subject reaching an audience that might not otherwise be interested in photography. Moakley spoke of how meeting and bouncing ideas off people working with new technologies is now part of his work as an editor, encountering documentaries, film and interactives that offer whole new ways of seeing and experiencing photography.

Posted June 3 2015

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