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Our picks for TEDxVancouver: Kris Krug, Photographer

Vancouver is an amazing city, chock full of creative talent. WE ARE VANCVR is a simple, elegant way to showcase all that talent in one place. Every week we profile one individual from the VANCVR community. is a Domain7 Labs project.

Vancouver is an amazing city, chock full of creative talent. WE ARE VANCVR is a simple, elegant way to showcase all that talent in one place. Every week we profile one individual from the VANCVR is a Domain7 Labs project.

Recently, we published an open letter to TEDxVANCOUVER with a modest proposal.

We are huge TEDx fans, and we’re also huge fans of all the bright ideas generated by our city’s creative types. That’s why the team at Domain7 Labs started We Are VANCVR in the first place—to bring all this talent together for good and then see what emerges.

When TEDx returns for its third instalment in Vancouver on November 12, we would love to see some of that talent on stage. This is the fourth of five letters we’ll be posting to TEDx, with speaker recommendations from the We Are VANCVR community.


It sometimes seems like Kris Krug is everywhere. If he’s not being retweeted across the Twittersphere or being consulted by local media, he’s speaking at Vancouver events or his name it showing up in publications like National Geographic, Wired and Time—not to mention all over this very blog. His profile is even immortalized at the east end of the Beatty Street mural.

[photo by Duncan Davidson]

Little wonder, since Kris has both talent and a message. Seriously, this guy has something to say.

He’s become a known advocate for empowerment through open source technology—and some of you might have been lucky enough to hear his early Pecha Kucha Vancouver talk titled “Open media, open culture and open source” (PK5).

Kris’s own growth has run a curious parallel with the Web’s. He started building websites in 1995 —when graphical web browsers first came on the scene. Since then his career shadowed the growth of the Internet: forming an online magazine with Burnkit founder Josh Dunford, putting his web skills to work in PR, and eventually running an open-source software start-up in the Silicon Valley (well before most of us had heard of open source, let alone realized it was awesome).

Around that time Kris started playing with a camera as a way to reconnect with the world around him. “I was running a company that encouraged others to use the web to empower themselves, and using a camera as my proof point. I was saying: don’t be afraid of piracy—be afraid of irrelevance. That message would ring shallow if I didn’t have 50,000 photos available to public online. I use my photography to prove out these open source models.”

The more time he spent with the camera, the more he saw his photos having a positive effect. Since then his work has been an intersection of media, art, teaching (at VFS and Emily Carr), and activism.

Three Alarm Fire

He became an evangelist for authenticity, pushing others towards a creative commons and encouraging them to create something bigger than themselves. Now he travels the world helping young artists and activists figure out how to find their voices and connect with fans, by building a sustainable creative practice online.

Recently, he’s turned his attention toward activism—passionately preaching about action as the antidote to despair.

It began when news of the BP oil spill hit. “I felt like we’d created this problem that was insurmountable. It led me to despair. You feel like these problems are just too big for humans to deal with.” Sensing he wasn’t getting an authentic picture of what was happening through the media, Kris resolved to see the spill for himself and, in true form, document every detail for the public.


“Being down there, on the ground, making photos and sharing them, I learned that the way I could deal with the overwhelming darkness I felt was to make art. You have to digest these things and spit them out, or they can corrupt your soul.”

Many people who feel a sense of disillusionment with the world simply don’t know how to plug in, says Kris. “It’s not that they don’t care. They just feel that for every guy like them there’s five guys with a hummer.”

The solution? “It’s about rejecting passive media consumption and empowering people to reclaim their voice through community projects, art and media making. There are ways we can address the biggest, hairiest challenges in the world while staying strong, positive and engaged.”

We agree! We also think this upbeat message of activism is just what Vancouver needs alongside recent protests and bursts of disgruntlement. Kris is no stranger to TEDx—he did a talk called Open Everything at TEDxShanghai, and was an active participant in TEDxOilspill. We’d love to hear his thoughts on healing ourselves and our planet by taking positive action.

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