Fotopedia Photo Stories Arrive on Flipboard, As Photo Curation Goes Mainstream

9/20/11Follow @wroush

The mobile Web is fostering a remarkable renaissance in traditional art forms such as photography—surprisingly, right alongside the explosion of videos, games, gossip, tweets, and other distractions. And if there’s one organization that has figured out how to use the Web and the latest mobile gadgets to showcase great images, it’s Paris- and San Francisco-based Fotonauts, creator of the online photo curation community Fotopedia and seven related mobile apps. I’ve been following this company for three years now, and I think they make the most elegant photo apps available for tablets and smartphones, including the marquee Fotopedia Heritage and National Parks apps and the more self-contained travelogues Above France, Dreams of Burma, Memory of Colors, North Korea, and Paris.

Today Fotopedia is announcing some big news—the company is branching out beyond its online presence and its one-off mobile apps to introduce a tablet-based photo magazine within the travel section of Flipboard, the popular social media reader for the Apple iPad. Starting today, Flipboard users can add the Fotopedia magazine to their favorites list and explore photo stories consisting of a series of images and captions on a single theme. The company plans to update the magazine with new images several times a day, drawing from its database of images contributed by the community of 30,000 professional, semi-pro, and amateur Fotopedia members.

With the Fotopedia magazine on Flipboard “the goal is to push the stories everywhere, so that we extend our ecosystem in a huge way,” says Jean-Marie Hullot, the Apple veteran who founded Fotonauts in 2006. “I think we are the only one in the industry equipped to deal with thousands of pictures, absorb them, make sense of them, curate them, give them the right structure, and distribute the product.” Even as it makes its Flipboard debut, the company is rolling out other publishing and business-model changes designed to make the venture-funded startup into “a photo platform for the 21st century,” in Hullot’s words.

Though the Fotopedia collaborative photo encyclopedia has been around for three years, most people probably know the company through its Heritage app for iPads and iPhones, which Apple recently named one of the top 50 iOS apps of all time. Heritage is a collection of 25,000 photos of UNESCO-designated world heritage sites, all used by permission of the Fotopedia members who contributed them. Apple likes the app so much that it’s installed it on iOS devices in every Apple store in the world, the better to show off the gadgets’ photo display capabilities. Cumulatively, Heritage and the six other Fotopedia apps have been downloaded 4.8 million times, according to Hullot.

As with all of the Fotopedia apps, the photos in the Fotopedia stories on Flipboard can be expanded for an immersive, full-screen view. Already, Fotopedia has 500 stories in the queue for the Flipboard magazine, on themes ranging from shipwrecks to ghost towns to body piercing. People without iPads can check out the stories on the Fotopedia website, a redesigned version of which is being unveiled today.

“The idea is to have all sorts of interesting, enriching stories spoken in pictures,” says Hullot. The stories will have “the same combination of immersiveness and the ‘Wow!’ feeling we always try to create with the Fotopedia apps,” he says.

Though Hullot is currently based in Paris, he’s also been a fixture in Silicon Valley, where he was chief technology officer under Steve Jobs at NeXT Computer and then CTO of Apple’s Applications Division. Fotonauts has collected $6.3 million in venture funding from … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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