Evan Nisselson

BY Taylor Davidson | May 18th, 2014
2014, The Next Web © Julia Deboe

2008, Nikon F, “Other People’s Weddings” © Evan Nisselson

What do you do?

I have been involved in building or investing in digital imaging and video companies for almost 22 years. I have been a photographer since I was 13 years old, then a photo editor, photo buyer, and have worked with great teams to build different technology businesses for consumer and professional photographers.

My goals are to solve problems, be creative, have fun and make money while I sleep.

1999, Nikon F. “Making of @Home Network” © Evan Nisselson

In 2012, I co-founded a $1M fund called LDV Capital to invest in people around the world who leverage technology to entertain, increase efficiency, and solve problems. We are focused on digital imaging/video technologies from “Capture to Smile,” and B-to-B SaaS companies; technology projects of interest that span the whole imaging/video spectrum from wearable cameras, computer vision, automagic editing software, visual search, imaging enabled commerce, augmented reality, robotic imaging and visual sharing.

1995, Nikon F. “Love the Living of Life” © Evan Nisselson

How did you find your focus?

I worked as a photo editor at Saba Press Photos, a photo publisher and then entrepreneur for ~20 years with experience working at startups in Silicon Valley, New York City and Europe. I was fortunate to have an early view into Silicon Valley successes, working for the @Home Network in Silicon Valley which went public in 1997. We built the first broadband photography portal in 1998 @Home Network with a $3M joint venture with Intel.

Entertainingly I was called a “retro-futuristic type, who, despite running one of the most technically advanced web sites devoted to imaging, still shoots 35mm black and white film with a 1960’s vintage Nikon F, an all-mechanical, all-manual SLR.”

I founded Digital Railroad in 2003, a venture-backed SaaS platform and marketplace for professional photographers which was a roller coaster ride, peaking at ~$3M in recurring revenue until its unfortunate demise during the 2008 economic crisis. We were receiving ten to twenty thousand 50mb files daily from over 3,000 individual photographers, 80 agencies and in 80 countries, all before cloud computing — more daily data than Associated Press and Reuters combined. We had a fantastic team and we learned a lot from our achievements and failures. It was then that I decided to help entrepreneurs avoid my mistakes and learn from the things I did well by mentoring entrepreneurs at 500Startups,Seedcamp, NYSeed, Founders Institute, and Techpeaks.

What is the most interesting technological, cultural, business, or artistic trend in photography that you’re excited about?

2010, Nokia N95 “Love the Living of Life” © Evan Nisselson

2003, Sony Ericsson P800 Camera. © Dave Yoder

I strongly believe that camera phones and wearable cameras like the Narrative Clip (we are investors) will replace at least 99% of all DSLR cameras and video cameras within 5-10 years. Professional photographers will continue to use DSLR’s, of course, but even they are frequently making pictures with their camera phones which are then published.

The whole technology stack for capturing, managing, searching and sharing visual communications will have to be re-invented multiple times in the coming 5-20 years to handle this massive shift of how people will visually communicate. One holy grail will be a contact lens “RetinaCam” and I can’t wait. Blink… I just made a picture of you and shared in real-time. This will be one of many subjects we will discuss in detail at the LDV Vision Summit which I am organizing with other experts.

What is the influence of digital technology on your photography?

A huge digital technology influence on my photography and probably the largest technology disruption to the photography industry started in 2003. I gave up making pictures with my film cameras [Nikon F, FM and Rolliflex] and switched to my camera phone which at the time was my Sony Ericsson P800. I wrote an article that predicted that camera phones would replace point-shoot cameras and all thought I was crazy again. I only use a DSLR when photographing my friends weddings and I give them four signed images as a present. More can be viewed on my luddite website which I built in 1995. I have not changed it because it makes me laugh how we converted the images to ASCII text to prevent people from stealing the images.

2008, Nokia N95 “Love the Living of Life” © Evan Nisselson

What’s one thing you’ve been wrong about in the past regarding the photography industry?

One of the hardest aspects about building startups and investing in startups is trying to understand when is the right time for a new service and business. Some technologies ride the bleeding edge and are too early, on time or too late. I thought disruption of analogue photography by digital solutions would have occurred faster but it took a bit longer.

2011, Contour Camera

What does "editing" photographs mean to you?

The concept of editing images and video to me has drastically changed in the recent years and it will exponentially change even more in the years to come. I am very excited for this change and will not miss the thousands of hours I spent reviewing contact sheets, flipping through thousands of slides of my images looking for the best images to send to the magazines. I have a box which contains 20 years of negatives but they have no value if people cannot experience and be inspired by those images. At times, editing was a creative process but most of the time it was a chore. Trying to find the 5 photos that were relevant for a story out of thousands was non creative work. However, reviewing the final 5-10 images to select the best couple images was very enjoyable and a creative process. Technology has forever changed that process and will hopefully allow us to spend more time on the creative process.

A combination of technology solutions are now helping us leverage additional meta data associated with images to help us find and select the best images such as GPS location coordinates, date/time, and facial recognition to help filter images. I presently make a couple of photos per day with my camera phone and I capture about three thousand photos a day with my Narrative Clip. The Narrative clip platform has smart algorithms on the server which review different attributes of images to show me the best images from events throughout my day. Of course I can also review all of the images but this process quickly helps me review the best images to select a couple that I want to share privately or publicly to my social graph. There are many technology startups that are leveraging computer vision to analyze the context of images and video which will help filter millions of files in seconds so that we can focus more of our precious time on the creative process.

Two of my favorite photographers are Henri Cartier-Bresson who coined the “The Decisive Moment” and the visual poet Robert Frank. They focused on capturing decisive moments, and they have inspired me since I started making pictures when I was 13 years-old. However, there are also many visual serendipity moments that are missed throughout our lives, and I don’t enjoy always having my camera in between myself and life’s moments. In the coming years, a combination of decisive moments and serendipity, e.g. “decisendipity” moments, will be visually captured and create smiles from capture devices on our bodies, in our clothes, our eyes, security devices, via drones, robots and in our hands. These “decisendipity” moments will be a new, valuable and very unique view into our lives. This is very exciting and we will be showcasing many of these technologies at our LDV Vision Summit.

"Everyone is a photographer". Agree or disagree, and why.

Yes, everyone is a photographer. Beautiful photos can be captured by anyone. Photos are a means of visual communication and a photo succeeds when a moment is documented, if it inspires a smile and if it tells a story. However, only select individuals are good professional photographers who every time they pick up the camera they can consistently capture brilliant photos. They may capture individual photos or a series of photos that goes in depth to find the core meaning of a moment, a person, a life, a feeling, a mood, and/or an event which enlightens the world with their insights and perspective.
1995, Nikon F. “Love the Living of Life” © Evan Nisselson

Who do you look to up in your field?

I have been honored to have fantastic mentors and editor friends over the years in the photography industry who inspire me - Howard Chapnick, Marcel Saba, Karen Mullarkey, David Friend, Rick Smolan, Mike Davis, Michelle McNally and tons of great photographers who inspire me everyday.

What is your favorite photo app, and why?

My favorite photo app is my EYE. My retina is always directly connected to the creative side of my brain and this is why I can’t wait for my Retina Camera… Blink.

2013, Pirate Summit, © Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

The LDV Vision Summit in NYC on June 4th in NYC. Come join us at the first summit which is bringing together the experts of the imaging/video technology industry to discuss how digital photography and video technologies are revolutionizing how humans communicate and do business. New innovations are emerging every month and the digital imaging market is poised for disruption and exponential growth. As a result, photographers, videographers and companies are struggling to leverage the right solutions to help them adapt and thrive in the new world. Get 40% off the normal price with the code "TAYLORDAVIDSON" (max 20 tickets), register here.

Follow Evan Nisselson at @nisselson and ldv.co.