Taking Photos Together: EyeEm the Mobile Photography Social Network by Star Rush
Juxter Ale Castaldo interviewed Severin Matusek from EyeEm here. Now learn more about EyeEm the mobile photography social network, the app, and the philosophy by Star Rush.
For more than two years, I’ve watched the Eye’Em team grow along with the global phenomena of mobile photography. So when, wearejuxt.com asked me to interview the team, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get started.
What’s Eye’Em? It’s a connected photography app, a web blog, a culture/community facilitator, and a dedicated team of photography enthusiasts headquartered in Berlin, Germany–just to name a few descriptors.
Eye’Em’s app features an in-app camera, filters, ability to share images across the globe, a web blog, community events, and loyal–even fanatical–followers and users. The app is available for iPhone and Android platforms.
Users can connect with others and view images or albums on mobile devices or in large format via its website. Images can be shared to other social sites, such as Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter. The large image view on Facebook is impressive, too. Instead of hashtags, Eye’Em users can mark images for inclusion in albums, both those of the user as well as community albums and those assigned to different showcases or community contests.
Along with its app, Eye’Em hosts a web presence, with an active blog, user contributions, photography contests, news and tie-ins with partners in mobile photography and member exhibitions via contests, partnerships. Eye’Em hosts popular showcase features, like “Meet the Shooter,” “This Week on Eye’Em,” and “Meet the Shooter.” Each highlights users, their images, and places–all highlight the global focus of image sharing.
Eye’Em has a philosophy, “Taking Photos Together,” which is what you see when the app opens on my phone. My conversation with Severin Matusek, Head of Content & Community at Eye’Em, reminds just how integrated the relationship is among community, connection, and communication in today’s world-wide image sharing culture.
Star: What’s EyeEm? Who are you, where are you and what do you all do? How many in the team are photographers, visual artists, other artists?
Severin: Hi there! EyeEm is a simple and slick app for sharing and discovering topics, places and events based on the photos you take. We are based in Berlin, but the EyeEm community consists of members from over 135 different countries. We are currently 12 people working on EyeEm. Many of us have a background in photography and design, but with EyeEm, taking photos really became a part of our lives.
Star: I’ve been familiar with EyeEm for more than 2 years now. The team has always been very supportive of mobile photography, and specifically, the photographers themselves. I remember reading an early interview of Sion Fullana that also featured the EyeEm team, around the first exhibition in Berlin, I believe. It was through your blog and flickr presence that I was drawn into iPhoneography myself. Tell us about EyeEm’s passion and vision for mobile photography: what was the beginning like, why and when did EyeEm start up and where is it going in the future, both EyeEm and mobile photography.
Severin: Phew, that’s a big question! We started with EyeEm around 2 years ago with the aim to provide a platform for mobile photography. Back then the iPhone 3Gs was just released and it all just started. We made a call for submissions for an exhibition and were overwhelmed with the more than15,000 images that came in! Then the New York exhibition came up, and we met many great photographers such as Sion Fullana, Anton Kawasaki, and Giovanni Savino.
Then we started to work on EyeEm as an app for iPhone and Android. As we got deeper and deeper into the conceptual work, we figured out that what we wanted to do was really about “taking photos together” – connecting the millions of photos people around the world take every day and making them relevant to you. This is what’s still our goal.
And of course we want to give people the opportunity to shoot and share great photos and have fun doing it. We want to be part of establishing photography as a real democratic medium, as a way of communication. This is where we see the real potential of mobile photography.
Star: As time goes by, mobile photography and mobile arts continues to grow by drawing in more and more participants. Some who take and share images on mobile devices are photographers or artists, and some are not. There’s such diversity. Unlike traditional photography, mobile photography integrates image capture, processing, and sharing. How does the EyeEm team add to or distinguish itself in the increasingly crowded market of social media that involves image capture/process/sharing?
Severin: Our main focus remains in “taking photos together,” i.e. the social part of photography. We really like that as soon as you open up EyeEm you see so many inspirational photos from so many different places, people and perspectives, taken just a few minutes ago. Photographs can tell so many stories; to connect all these stories and being part of a worldwide community is really what we’re about.
Star: EyeEm just announced a significant upgrade to its mobile app, version 2.5, which rolls out new photo filters and frames. Tell us about a few of the coolest features of the app. What app feature do you think is most under-utilized by current users? What’s the “sleeper”?
Severin: We’re really excited about our new filters! The fact that you can combine each filter to every frame gives a lot of creative possibilities. Then we also like the sharing options to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
What’s under-used is the “event” feature: as soon as you take 2 pictures at the same location, an event is created and other people can join in with their photos. We’d love to see more people creating events together!
Star: How would you describe the artists/photographers on EyeEm, the users of your app. Do you see any common traits or profile amongst your world-wide user base? What’s the relative size of your user base? How are they like or unlike users on other social media sites, with or without images?
Severin: There’s no common definition, as many different people are using EyeEm in different ways. There are great mobile artists uploading their shots as well as teenagers from Asia, sharing and commenting on their photos.
There are also communities gathering around certain albums, for example “streetphotography” and “candids”. So in the end, EyeEm is very diverse. It totally depends on what you make of it, who you follow, what albums you contribute to.
Star: I love how engaged and multi-faceted EyeEm involvement is in the culture and community of mobile photography. There’s the app, the blog, hosted exhibits, community meet ups, and the various themed contests and guest curating projects. You have SPOTLIGHT, 24 Pictures Around the World, Week on EyeEm, and News and Events, for example. The team seems to be more than an app developer. Tell us, what’s the vision behind this diversity and level of engagement. What do you home to achieve?
Severin: EyeEm is more than an app because photography is more than an app. With mobile photography more people than ever will take and share more photos than ever in 2012. Photography starts to become a part of everyone’s life. This is what we believe and why we want to make the most out of it: that includes blog features that play with photos in a new way, live projections, talks, hangouts, exhibitions and hopefully many more things we can’t even imagine right now.
Star: How is mobile photography impacting the visual arts, photography, communication, in general. I’m curious as to what you think about the ways commercial, fine art, documentary, hobbyist photography is responding to, evolving, changing, resisting, etc., this version of photography. How’s photography different now than it was in 2006?
Severin: Photography has never been as connected, as social, as democratic as today. This has many effects: on one side, for example, photo journalists are losing their jobs because people document what’s happening themselves, in a more direct and authentic way than a photo journalist could ever do. On the other side, we’re drowning in a sea of billions of images. Everyone is a photographer nowadays.
I think you could write books on how the mobile revolution we’re currently witnessing affects each and every field of photography. But if you compare photography in 2012 to photography in 2006, I would state the following:
- The medium (analog or digital) is not important any more.
- Photography becomes more and more a form of communication, allowing you to say things quicker and better in images than in words.
- The challenge of the future is to put structure in the chaos, to connect the photos that are relevant to you and make sense out of it.
Star: I’m noticing a some interesting business ventures starting up, new ideas coming from new and established mobile photographers, such as the formation ventures, such as Mobile Photo Group, AMPt, Juxt, Mobile Photo Awards, and probably more that I’m not familiar with. Artists are exhibiting across the globe, some are selling prints on their own, some at exhibits, a few have photos syndicated, and the rest. I’m curious what the EyeEm team’s advice would be for people interested pushing their work and activities to another level?
Severin: Phew, that’s a hard one. I think it totally depends on the person and the style. Maybe the best advice is to take yourself serious in what you do, observe what’s happening around you, work on your own way of looking at things, be self-confident about your work and consider yourself a photographer. And then just work like a photographer.
Star: I think that EyeEm, as a content provider, an app developer, and so forth, has a specific, definitive aesthetic style, even an aesthetic point of view. I see it infused across your platforms, both the blog and app. At times, the aesthetic value appears in This Week on EyeEm, too. Can you say something about the aesthetic value and style as they inform the mission and vision of EyeEm? What’s important to you all?
Severin: Like everyone, we all have different tastes at EyeEm. Some like street photography, some like abstract images, others like portraits and professional-style work. The one thing we could probably all agree on are photos that capture a certain moment in time: photos that, either by coincidence or on purpose, tell a story and create an emotion.
Star: What makes a good photograph a great photograph?
The story it tells.
Star: What would you like to share with readers about EyeEm, its Vision or MIssion, that perhaps I didn’t ask about?
I think you did a pretty good job in asking your questions. The one thing I might add: we’re always open to your feedback and ideas! We want to develop EyeEm together with you guys and are happy for your input. Just drop me a line at mailto://email@example.com or join one of our regular Google hangouts!
Answers provided by Severin Matusek, Head of Content & Community at EyeEm.
Eye’Em Features: http://blog.eyeem.com
Eye’Em App and Photo Map: http://www.eyeem.com
Juxt thanks EyeEm for their contribution to the mobile device community.
This is the inauguration party of our EyeEm Studio! This was back in June. It’s the first EyeEm photo taken at our current office.
This is a guy from a Korean newspaper taking photos!
Never forget to eat enough donuts to keep your sugar level balanced.
This is Ramzi coding the future of EyeEm.
We continuously think about developing EyeEm further. This is Gen during a brainstorming session.