Hi everyone. I took a short break there. My apologies, especially after just getting started. So I’ve been doing some reading. As you all may know or not know, I am an avid shooter with my iphone 4. No, it is not my workhorse camera, my professional work is created using a Canon 5D. But, my iphone goes everywhere with me allowing me to capture some amazing candid moments that my larger camera may never have allowed me to.
What role does the iPhone and all of the photo apps play in today’s society especially among photojournalists and documentary photographers? While researching this topic, a friend sent me a timely link. After reading this photographer’s opEd piece on CNN, I saw a little bit of my old self before I learned to embrace a new technology. An old self where I was scared to death of the iPhone in everyone’s pocket, citizen journalism, and where it might go.
Unfortunately, for the author of this article, his ignorant rant is evidence that he is very slow to develop, and deathly afraid of a not-so-new technology that continues to press forward in main stream media, and the world of visual storytelling, the iPhone and the plethora of apps that allow the photographer to manipulate the images within the realm of color, tone, framing, etc., not content. Many of the people he describes in his article,
“The app photographer hasn’t spent years learning his or her trade, imagining the scene, waiting for the light to fall just right, swapping lenses and switching angles. They haven’t spent hours in the dark room, leaning over trays of noxious chemicals until the early hours of the morning.” and “Nor did they have to spend a huge chunk of their income on the latest digital equipment ($5,999 of my hard-earned cash just went on ordering a new Nikon D4) to ensure they stay on top of their game.”
are probably his peers, and others, including myself, and are in fact iPhone and app users who are the exact opposite of what he describes here. Having experienced all of the things he lists above has given me and, I’m sure others, a deeper appreciation for what digital photography is today and a better understanding of apps and what the iPhone can accomplish.
The iPhone and it’s multitude of apps are only tools in the world of photography. What the author should be worried about is the rise of “citizen journalism” and the role the iPhone plays in that new genre of photographers, who are not formally trained photojournalists and documentarians bound by the ethic boundaries of the trade, and disintegrating line between fine art and photojournalism/documentary photography. But then again maybe his article is an extremely late rant voicing his anger over the fact that CNN fired nearly 50 journalists because others, “citizen journalists” were willing to do it for free. We may never know.
So is the iphone and the apps helping us to document moments, or helping us to create fine art by manipulating the moment through filters? Where do we draw line between photojournalism/documentary photography and fine art? This question was posed to the world a few years ago when the combat photographer Damon Winters posted the images of US soldiers in Afghanistan that he created using an iPhone and the app, Hipstamatic, see them here: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/finding-the-right-tool-to-tell-a-war-story/. He explains it all here, http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/119117/damon-winter-explains-process-philosophy-behind-award-winning-hipstamatic-photos/. Winters explains that many of these images would never have been possible if he had used his big camera. Because the other soldiers had phones it allowed him to fit in, and get intimate. Essentially, we aren’t doing anything different with these apps that we don’t all ready with our big cameras. Most if not all cameras now allow us to choose filter setting that manipulate color, contrast, and sharpening from within the camera before even shoot. We do not view the world in black and white, or with vignettes, these are aesthetics that the photographer chooses to add later. So what is the difference, where does the line fall, or does it even exist between fine art and photojournalism/documentary? Maybe where the photographer plays an active role in physically manipulating the moment to change the story to his benefit? Or does it lie somewhere else? I am continuing to search for an answer. This is the photojournalism/documentary conundrum, especially as citizen journalism establishes a foot hold in our current time.
As for any new technology that hits, and moves a culture forward, we take one of two positions, ride the wave and progress forward or deny it and be washed back ashore with the other flotsam and jetsam after the storm. No matter which stance we take we must be prepared for what’s to come. The iPhone can be looked at the same way the digital camera was first seen to some, a threat to photography as we know it. Once it was embraced and accepted the world of photography became a much better, powerful one.