Dave Krugman builds online communities. Using his talent as a photographer and his social media insight, he rallies huge amounts of followers around a particular topic or location. As you can imagine, for a brand, he is a golden child. After many successes with such prestigious clients at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY, as well as participating at Esquire magazine’s event, he now lends his talents at the advertising agency BBDO as Social Editor. We caught up with him while he was taking a break from his 165 K followers on Instagram and before he takes the stage at the upcoming LDV Vision Summit:
First, a little bit about yourself. What was your path to your current role a BBDO?
Ever since I was 9 years old- since the first moment I stood in a darkroom and watched a print come to life in the developing fluid, I’ve been in love with photography. I never wanted to do anything else, and I pursued every possible angle to break into the industry. I started with freelance photography, moved into professional retouching, assisted at shoots and taught lessons. But it wasn’t until I started using Instagram that I truly found what I was looking for- an honest, narrative, artistic voice. That drive to tell stories put me on a path to my current role at BBDO.
As the Social Editor at BBDO NY, I develop strategy for brands on Instagram, network with the Influencer community, create content and advise on best practices for social media.
Are you an Instagram Ninja ?
My Sensei does not allow me to speak publicly about my progress at the Instadojo. In reality, I like to think of myself as a visual storyteller- Instagram is the medium that has the largest audience and best engagement for those stories.
How has Instagram change the way you perceive the world ?
Photography has forever altered my perception of the world, and being active on Instagram has increased this alteration a hundredfold. The creative community and the feedback loop of social media keep me on my toes- always looking for the next share-worthy moment. This always-on feeling has made me a far more observant person- both in my vision of the world and my perception of society. Making images slows down the hectic pace of New York life and allows me to distill certain moments and the feelings that accompany them.
“Advertisers and brands have a direct visual line to peoples pockets via various social media platforms.”
How important is mobile photography for brands today ?
Just about everyone has a connected camera these days. Even people who have no interest in photography likely have a camera in their pocket- just by default, on their phone. What that means is visual literacy is at an all time high, and visual communication is an essential tool for brands to use to connect to consumers. We’ve always known that- just look at TV advertising. The difference here is that it isn’t just about traditional visual communication anymore- advertisers and brands have a direct visual line to peoples pockets via various social media platforms. That is an incredibly powerful avenue to communicate directly to consumers- and is absolutely essential.
Where will the Instagram communities live in 5 years ?
Creative communities rallying around visual art and social media is not a new concept. Flickr, Google+, even back to Myspace- all of these places saw communities gather and share, supporting each other, learning from each other. Instagram, in my opinion, is the strongest platform to date. They stay out of the way and let the community define the space. Other platforms in the past changed so quickly that they alienated their user base. Instagram has essentially left the community in control of the platform- which I think gives it a longer shelf life. Creative communities will always thrive- the platforms in which they thrive will always change. These social platforms are simply a framework, the community is what gives them their value.
What is missing in the photo-sharing apps that you would like to see?
I think what is missing is in-app ways for artists to profit from their daily efforts. For example- Why doesn’t Instagram have a built-in stock photography component. Instagram would profit, brands would save money and get better content, and artists would have a financial incentive to produce more compelling work. There are so many simple symbioses that I think should be fostered in order to strengthen the creative community across all social apps. Instagram by far has the strongest community, and I do believe it is in their best interest to maintain that strength by building strong incentives for people to share their work there.
“If you are an advertiser looking to hire a photographer, and you have two choices of equal artistic merit- you are going to choose the artist who comes with a distribution channel with 500k subscribers.”
Do you think that from now on a career in photography will be defined by the platform you use?
Photographers have always relied on their relationship with various media outlets. What has happened now is that photographers with large audiences are in control of their own distribution- they are the photographers, editors, brand leaders, copywriters, creative directors etc. of their own media channels.
If you are an advertiser looking to hire a photographer, and you have two choices of equal artistic merit- you are going to choose the artist who comes with a distribution channel with 500k subscribers. Fostering your personal community is an essential skill now- those who are unable or unwilling to build their own community will be left behind.
As much as I love photography, what I love even more is meeting interesting, engaged, creative people. Looking at the panel lineup for LDV, I’m just so eager to meet as many people in this industry as possible, cross-pollinate our ideas and make friends to work together with in the future. I’m equally excited to hear all about the areas I’m less proficient in- AI and the like. Really excited all around.
Analytics: how important are they to your photography ?
Analytics are essential, especially when reporting back to brands, but for my personal work, I try to error on the side of posting what I want to post, not what I know will get the best engagement. Algorithms can be great for determining what successful art looks like- but without the personal, human choice leading the charge, you aren’t making conscious artistic decisions. For a brand trying to increase awareness, it’s less about the pure art of creating and more about creating content people want to engage with.
What is your vision of the ultimate perfect camera?
The Sony A7 series changed the game for me. It allows me to mount my old Leica glass to one of the best digital bodies out there, and comes with a host of features that make it a camera like nothing else. I feel that they are so far out ahead of the game that it sometimes feels like I’m using a camera from the future. My vision of the ultimate camera is whatever they come up with next.
[ NDLR : Kaptur is a proud media partner of the LDV Vision Summit. Join Dave Krugman and many other great speakers while saving money by getting 25% off ticket price by just clicking here.]
Paul Melcher is the founder of Kaptur and Managing Director of Melcher System, a consultancy for visual technology firms. He is an entrepreneur, advisor, and consultant with a rich background in visual tech, content licensing, business strategy, and technology with more than 20 years experience in developing world-renowned photo-based companies with already two successful exits.