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Gregor Rohrig shares with OpenSA! January 22, 2009

Posted by Daniela Faris in Features.
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Gregor Rohrig shares his passion for photography with

Gregor Rohrig shares his passion for photography with the world

New Media specialist and photographer, Gregor Rohrig, is the first person to contribute cultural and historical materials to the OpenSA! project. He has contributed these beautiful photographs of scenes and cityscapes of Johannesburg. We spoke to Gregor about why he donated his images to OpenSA!, and about why his contribution and the contributions of others will allow creators, historians and thinkers to dig into a rich public domain filled with South African cultural and historical artifacts.

OpenSA!: Tell us a bit about what you do…

Gregor: I work as the New Media Specialist at Avusa Media‘s innovation unit (iLab) and am part of a team that is researching, project managing, and implementing new online and mobile applications. I am also an avid photographer, which is my further passion. I’ve been taking photographs for the last nine years, having worked as a professional, commercial, and freelance photojournalist, and to date still love every second I spend peering through a viewfinder.

OpenSA!: How did you first become interested in the issues around open licensing, sharing economies and remix culture?

Gregor: I became interested in the issues around open licensing while studying and working for a student newspaper. I had the idea of allowing the content that was produced by students for the paper to be shared and remixed by other student publications. Since there was no commercial gain for writing for these publications it made sense for students to collaborate and exchange news and information on what was happening on their campuses. So we licensed our student publication under a Creative Commons license and successfully endeavored to persuade other publications to do the same.

It was gratifying to change conventional perceptions through successfully advocating the ideas surrounding open licensing and ever since, I have been interested, and have attempted, to be part of this emerging remix culture.


A picture contributed by Gregor to the OpenSA! collection on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

OpenSA!: These issues, particularly for creators of content, aren’t just ideological – they’re also very emotional. Do you think South African creators are embracing the ideas more? Or are their responses still quite emotive?

Gregor: Without understanding the benefits of sharing and remixing it makes sense that many creators of content respond emotionally and reluctantly towards these ideas.

I think many creators are emotive about the idea of allowing their content to be “freed”. They probably feel like they losing all control of their work, but are not aware of what the benefits of sharing their work for themselves and for others.


'Constitution Hill', Johannesburg by Gregor on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

OpenSA!: Do you think the idea of a public domain of material for artists, filmmakers and other ‘creatives’ is a viable idea in South Africa? Or do you think we’re still too focused on “ownership”?

Gregor: With the incalculable amount of historic and cultural material South Africa harbors, it is not just only a viable idea, but is in the best interests of South Africa and South Africans to participate in establishing a public domain of material. What good are the historic and cultural materials if they cannot be used and reused creatively?

I do believe that there is still a very strong focus on “ownership”, especially when it comes to local cultural and historic material that is “owned” by museums.


The Michelangelo Towers in Sandton, by Gregor Rohrig (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

OpenSA!: What do you think the implications of a freely accessible public domain could be for the creative industry in South Africa?

Gregor: We would be able to explore and represent issues like never before. As mentioned above, with the vast amount of historic and cultural material available, the creative industry could become inspired to produce unique, local material that can inform, entertain, and educate.

Imagine making use of local material that has never been accessible before. Imagine how inspired and encouraged the creative industry would be to create fresh imaginative content. Imagine a positive mind-set of sharing spreading throughout a nation. The idea of “freeing” content goes beyond the materialistic, and has the potential to change the general attitude of selfish notions.

OpenSA!: Have you ever seen any examples of your work being reused and remixed?

Gregor: Yes, several of my photographs have been reused in print and online publications. I have however not seen any of my images remixed yet, but would love to see how they could be reinterpreted and reworked!

OpenSA!: What one piece of footage/image/audio would you love to see made freely available for all people to reuse?

Gregor: Images, video footage and audio of our beloved Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!



1. OpenSA - Championing South African heritage | Educationload.com - February 20, 2009

[…] A documentary about one of the first Chinese restaurants in Cape Town (CC BY-NC by Link Media Inc.) Photos of Johannesburg (CC BY-NC-SA by Gregor […]

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