In 2010 a friend and I were enjoying lunch together. He held up his iPhone. “This is the future.”
I shrugged and went back to eating my chowder and then he proceeded to take my picture, make me look like a comic book character, color it with a stylus and put a bubble over my head saying “iPhone Apps are my happy juice.”
I am a DSLR photographer and usually make images of large landscapes, large both in the amount of space captured and the ultimate print. However, he intrigued me. I went home that evening and checked out the most popular apps. There was one called Hipstamatic that I started using.
It was a camera app. In other words, it used the iPhone’s native camera and processed the images as if you had used an old plastic camera from the sixties. It shot in square format and you had to squint to see the image you were taking. It took a few seconds to process before you saw the final product. This seems like an eternity in today’s speeded up world, but we used to wait over a minute for a Polaroid and sometimes a week for film pictures to come back from the drugstore. I learned to think and compose before I shot. It was a good practice.
The delicious irony of aged digital photos
I started using Hipstamatic to take pictures of everything: flowers, still lifes, landscapes, street photos, abstract light and shadows, even nudes. I often would prefer the images from the iPhone to those captured with the pro camera at the same location. People didn’t get self-conscious or angry if you used your cell phone to take pictures. (That was before Instagram, Twitter and Facebook became loaded with cell phone images. Now people have returned to paranoia and scowling.)
There was a sense of play, a sense of whimsy, and a sense that these little Hipstamatic-aged photos were from another time and another place. I reveled in the irony of using the latest technology to produce extremely old looking images. It was as if I was creating nostalgia for the present.
...and even more apps
Sometimes I would take the Hipstamatic images and age them further with other apps. As time went on and I wanted even more flexibility I would simply use the regular iPhone camera and then process the images in one or more apps. I would often post these images and people would comment sometimes that they looked “painterly,” “vintage,” or just plain weird. The next comment was always the same: “You took that with an iPhone?”
I would answer that I not only captured the image, I also processed the image using the iPhone. Sometimes I would give them a demo. There was awe and sometimes frustration that you couldn’t do that with a traditional camera.
Of course, tens of millions of people use their cell phones to make artsy-looking pictures and the wonder is gone about what kind of camera you use. People know what a photo app is and that people use their cell cameras all the time. There are a growing number of iPhone photographers who are using their iPad to process photos and many of them are using their regular camera’s images with the iPad. Then there is the anti-Apple crowd who will do anything to prove that Apple isn’t all that and are producing work with their Window Phones and Androids.
The cycle of the new
This returns us to what always happens when a new technology takes over. First there are the early adopters like my friend. Then the “nexts” – people like me – get involved. The nexts aren’t in the coolest group, but they are doing cool things and spreading the word. There are hipsters at every stage of the game who take over and take both the tech and the irony one step further. Then the late adopters puzzle over the technology and think their lack of knowledge is standing in the way of making images. As if...
Ultimately, it isn’t about how much work you put into your image. It’s about how your image works.
The images you see in this gallery are all captured with iPhone and processed with the iPhone. They were taken all over the world, something like ten countries on four continents. They speak to an almost compulsive need to seek out the novel, to find unique ways of looking at things, and a joy in the creative process. (I am sorry if that sounds a bit like “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”)
It is as much photography as the 19th-century photographers who masked in a sky to make a landscape work better, the old portrait photographers who would hand-color their images, the printing master adding and subtracting light in the darkroom, or the collagist and surrealist who were masters of the effects of Photoshop decades before there was a digital camera.
Photography is an interpretive medium. Play and different perspectives are important in creativity. If you don’t like everything that you see through a camera, take two steps to the side or turn around. You might see a whole new world.
Copyright © 2016, Sam Krisch. All rights reserved.