Mobile Phone Photography: Theoretical Concerns
In Nomads & Orphans we have 19 photographers from around the world, all of who only use their smartphone to capture, edit and distribute their images. Their subjects are as diverse as their lives and their nationalities, as are their inspirations and styles. But what do you think it is that links all the images?
IMMEDIACY. Mobile Photography has allowed everyone, not just professional photographers, to capture their own and others’ lives without needing to necessarily set up a shot, carrying heavy, cumbersome photographic equipment around with them. We now all always have our phones with us, indeed, the first thing we do before leaving the house is to check to see if we have them with us – they are constantly at hand, allowing an immediacy of production.
This immediacy also extends to the distribution of the images. Whereas with traditional photography, distribution of the images would have to go through a secondary production in the processes of darkroom development and then into a newspaper, magazine or perhaps a gallery, mobile phone photography is unique in that as soon as the photo has been taken it can be immediately distributed to the desired audience, in the particular case of this exhibition, through Instagram or other social media sites.
The images, uploaded to the social media sites then have an immediacy of consumption and exchange (social media sites are fundamentally amalgams of distribution, consumption and exchange). The Mobile phone artists will be able to see how many people are viewing their posts (consumption) and the exchange follows with people leaving comments, liking or sharing.
The immediacy of this operation, combined with the seamless integration of image and text into one message, creates a form of speech that restores the traditional relationship of photography with truth while at the same time causing photography to lose its separate identity and disappear into the amalgam of textual-aural-visual communication.
Through this access afforded by the mobile phone camera’s immediacy we are experiencing now what should be recognised as a revolution of the image, and a revolution of language. These symbolic substructure revolutions, perpetuated and extenuated by advances in technology have the potential to cause a revolution of the social and indeed, through examples of recent events such as the Pro-Democratic protests in Hong-Kong and the Arab Spring, we hope to show the unique power that mobile photography has afforded the global populace
The revolution of the image aligns with the Marxist quartet:
1.) Revolution of Production
2.) Revolution of Distribution
3.) Revolution of Consumption
4.) Revolution of Exchange
UBIQUITY. The integration of the camera and the mobile phone ended more than a century of strict rules and regulations that governed the use of cameras in both the public and private domain. According to Mizuko Ito and Daisuke Okabe who researched patterns of mobile phone use, it is now considered socially irresponsible to leave the house without the phone (Ito and Okabe, 2004). In that climate the camera becomes a constant presence in the life of everyone who uses a phone. Everyone and every moment of life is now open to coverage by the mobile phone.
INCLUSIVITY. Whilst 19 photographers and 120 images sounds like quite a lot to include in a gallery exhibition when compared with Instagram’s 200 million active monthly users and over 20 billion images the efficacy of traditional distribution is seen to be left wanting. The sheer volume of work available is staggering, and the subjects covered by the users is seemingly unlimited.
What effect do you think printing out Instagram images has had on the status and value of the images themselves?
Think about the restrictions of quality and quantity that printing has on the images.
How many people do you think will see the images here in the gallery, and how many do you think have seen them on Instagram?
Mobile Photography and Art History
As we mentioned above, the subjects of these photographers are disparate and inclusive, from the day-to-day to the more artistically crafted. These photographs are fundamentally what Roland Barthes called “Certificates of presence”, documenting the lives of the photographers and those around them, but we can also draw parallels between the images and those of the artistic canon.
For example, Eugène Atget (1857 – 1927) became obsessed with making what he modestly called “documents” of the city and its environs, and compiling a 8000 piece visual compendium of the architecture, landscape, and artifacts that distinguish French culture and its history. We can see the similarities of visual subject (and the desire to create a vast visual library) within his work and the work of Legovic, Nettie Edwards and Kunze; their cities, gardens and streets photographed acting as cultural stages, or “dream capitals” acting as urban labyrinths of desire and memory.
Miguel Angel Camero almost recalls the work of Maurice Tabard (French, 1897–1984) or perhaps even Hans Bellmer. Then again the surreal aspects of all these mobile photographers, due to the rapidity of the mobile photographic process and therefore the almost impulsive connection between the capturing of the image and the access to the sub-conscious, gives way to perhaps the more documentary style seen in New Deal photographer Walker Evans or Bill Brandt.
Thinking of established photographers and artists, walk around the gallery and find pieces of work that take inspiration from different artistic tradition. Can you see Edward Hopper? Can you see Jack Vettriano? Can you see Man Ray? Jeffrey Smart?
Mobile Phones are the new disposable camera. They are perfect for snapshots of life wherever you are. Have it ready at all times and be on the lookout for ‘The Decisive Moment’! Missed it…? Never mind, crop it and drop a filter or two on top. Job done!
- Look for an image with high contrast – go and stand by it. What drew your eye to that particular image?
- Find an image with a composition that you find interesting – go and stand by it. Why did you choose this image?
- Find an image with a clear example of the Rule of Thirds – go and stand by it. Explain the rule of thirds in the picture.
- Select your favourite image in the exhibition, go and stand by it – what is it that captivates you?
- Stand back from the photographs
- Choose 3 that have an interesting composition – remember the rule of thirds/your favourite image etc. Perhaps there is a strong use of a diagonal line or you may see strong vertical or horizontal lines in the composition?
- Use the black strips and circles of sugar paper and make a set of 3 composition studies of the photographs you have chosen.
- Using your phone shoot a response to one (or more) photographer producing a set of 6 photos – Consider the following in your shoot
- Layers and reflections – layer your pictures by shooting 2 and using an App such as Faded to layer and combine through reduced opacity. Try throwing on a couple of contrast filters
- Night-time Noir – Urban spaces are always built on layers so look for opportunities to photograph streets and buildings at night being punctured by street lights. Look up stairwells or over bridges. Convert your pics to black and white and enhance the contrast.
- Empty Spaces – break up your picture and look up at the big sky. Find something of interest – people, lampposts, chimney stacks etc. and dismiss everything else. Add a light leak and blur (or tilt-shift) effect to reduce any other content before dropping a filter onto the picture.
- Portraits – decide on whether you will shoot a direct portrait or look for an opportunity of someone in a wider context (a market trader for example). Capture something of the person you are shooting – aim to make it an honest portrayal. The person of interest should be the key focus of the image consider the background, do you want it empty, plain, full of the setting you are shooting etc. Composition is key.
Upload your photos to Instagram using the hashtag #brglearning
Some Apps to consider (for both iPhone and Android) – You will obviously have more so share your findings with others:
Photo Editor by Aviary Camera 360
Snapseed Rookie Photo Editor
VSCO Cam Camera Awesome
Magic Hour Lite/Free Snapbucket
Photo Wonder iDarkroom
Mextures Handy Photo
Markus Andersen is an Australian based photographer who specialises in both long term documentary & conceptual portrait work. Using a combination of iPhone, digital rangefinder & medium format film he is currently shooting three photographic projects within the Sydney area.
Jean-Michel André was born in France in 1976 and spent most of his life outside the French borders, in Europe, in Africa and the Caribbean.
Journeys feed his work. Bareness, discretion, modesty, are integral principles by which Jean-Michel André works. His photographs collide and eventually compose a long and inexplicable sentence, a poetry of imaginary words.
Graduate of French Gobelins School of Photography, Jean-Michel André lives to see his work in solo and group exhibitions. His work has been published in several books.
Jean-Michel André is part of REA agency since 2011.
When he was young, the Rolleiflex of his grandfather is what has first raised Stéphane Arnaud awareness for his fascination with still images. After studying History and Journalism, Stéphane started to evolve and work in media and photojournalism worlds, not as a photographer but as an editor and photo editor.
Stéphane is currently Photo Deputy Editor of Agence France-Presse (AFP). Stéphane is interested in Mobile Photography since its conception due to the new opportunities it offers, both for shooting and sharing. Along with his professional activity, he has naturally returned to take pictures for a personal perspective.
Miguel Angel Martinez Camero
Miguel Angel Martinez Camero is a Mexican photographer from Madero Tamaulipas. He studied photography in Mexico City at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in the eighties. Miguel has published 5 books as a photographer and participated to numerous exhibitions. He has also received 2 public recognitions for his photographic development, teaching and contribution to the local photo movement. Currently he mainly takes photos with his iPhone and a pinhole camera.
Dan Cristea is a photographer from Toronto, Canada who has embraced mobile photography at the very beginning of this artistic incarnation. To his credit Dan has co-organised the first mobile photography workshop ever in San Francisco in 2011. He is also the co-creator of the website lofimode.com dedicated to the art and education of mobile photography. Dan is part of a collective of artists called Tiny Collective, whose mission is to promote and showcase some of today’s finest mobile artists from around the world by heading shows and events on a global scale. Dan considers himself as a visual storyteller who pushes the boundaries, delving ever deeper into the possibilities of this exciting medium.
Artist, designer, iPhoneographer and iPhone collagist, Nettie’s unique practice is imbued with her research into genealogy, vegetable gardening, slug-slaying and architecture. Finding form and structure within the microcosms of flowers and the macrocosms of larger aristocratic garden design, Edwards finds an eerie and disquieting calm within her subjects that breathe in an emotional history to which she invites us as the viewer to contribute to.
David Green is a painter and photographer from Perth, Australia and tries to capture the special light in urban areas around Perth as well as other cities around Australia. After using manual SLR film cameras for many years, he took up mobile photography in 2011 and loves being able to always carry a camera with him as well as the amazing editing capability of photo apps. His influences are mostly from the painting world – Jeffrey Smart for his compositions and Hopper for the emotion and mood in his work.
Romford based iPhoneographer Paul Hammond’s practice is based in replicating a traditional and formal photography that evokes feelings of a nostalgic British sentiment. Often found using taxidermy within his work, this nostalgia is subverted to an uncanny effect, where domestication becomes a strange and distant apparition.
Richard Koci Hernandez
Richard “Koci” Hernandez is a national Emmy® award-winning multimedia producer who has worked as a photojournalist at the San Jose Mercury News for 15 years. In 2011, Koci Hernandez was named an Assistant Professor for New Media at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. An emblematic figure of mobile photography, Koci introduces the viewer to a black and white universe. Away from the traditional cityscapes, he’s on a search for human faces, surprising the passersby on street corners, capturing their intricate shadows on the walls highlighting the unique atmosphere of each city. In 2013, Richard published “Downtown” a photography book by Out Of The Phone publishing house.
German based architect, Kunze’s work beautifully captures the German urban landscape. The lines and structures that formally construct his images are posited against the lives of the figures that occupy them; blurred figures of commuters rush pass the sedentary middle-aged man who waits patiently for the arrival of his companion.
Agnes Lanteri shares her time between Marseille, her hometown, and Asia, where she likes to travel in order to draw her inspiration. Her father, renowned ceramicist, instilled in her an early love of art while her mother gave her a taste for freedom. Painting first, and then came photography, mainly through her iPhone that she handles like a brush. Her photographic work fits in both humanistic and dreamlike genre with much importance attached to geometry.
Pierre Le Govic
Coming from a family of printers, it is through printing that Pierre Le Govic was introduced to photography.
His experiences within graphic arts has allowed him to work with renowned photographers such as Jeanloup Sieff, Willy Ronis, Daido Moriyama, William Eggleston, and Josef Koudelka.
He is the founder of Out Of The Phone, the world’s first publishing house dedicated to mobile photography.
As a photographer, he mainly uses his iPhone to tell stories of unknown heroes that he shares on Instagram.
Amy Leibrand explores the fear and the feature of being in front of a camera through self-portraits. She makes images from emotions and pushes the viewers to imagine narrative stories, to ask questions, questions that may have no answers. Photography is her way to keep her restless energy busy, to beat off her fear of inaction. Her work is the result of a digested reality, created through an inherited role-play approach. Taking photo is for Amy the way to live the moment.
Lonsdale is an artist-teacher who began exploring photographic approaches from a fine art background. The mobile phone has become his main way of documenting moments and experiences where he is currently preoccupied with space, which stems from his interest in the edges of islands.
As a photojournalist at The Philadelphia Inquirer until 2009, Eric Mencher covered a range of assignments from wars to the World Series, the post-apartheid era in South Africa, the aftermath of genocide in Rwanda, life under Fidel Castro in Cuba and the civil war in Chechnya.
He was the recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award for “Rwanda: Aftermath of Genocide” and have won other major awards, including prizes in the World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year, Best of Photojournalism and National Headliners competitions.
He now concentrates on documentary projects and street photography, including life along the Lincoln Highway (the first cross-country road in the United States), contemporary life in the Maya villages of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and anything and everything that happens in front of his camera (which he obsessively have with him at all times).
Capturing the bleak and often uncomfortably bleak faces and streetscapes of the Moscow streets, Nikitina confronts and documents her subjects with an uncompromising eye and a sympathetic heart, eliciting a devastatingly raw human story of poverty, isolation and disaffection that is wrought with tender emotion.
Chris Sallquist is a mobile artist based in Seattle. He shoots and edits photos exclusively on an iPhone. His subjects are magazine pages torn and mashed together in new, previously unimagined compositions. The images can be odd, disturbing, subtle and provocative. They depict people caught in intimate moments of vulnerability, shame, lust, anger and peace.
“If you open up a magazine; Esquire, Vogue, Psychology Today, whatever it may be… every photograph tells a story. I found that when I separate those photos from the context they were intended, and layer them together, new, hidden stories emerge. It’s as if these new, distorted stories have always been there and I’ve been able to crack the code to release them.”
Marina Varuolo was born and raised in a small town in Russian Siberia. When she was 16, her parents moved to Moscow where she lived until recently. Five years ago she got married and moved to the United States ,which is her home country now. This big transition in life has sparked her interest in photography – the art she always loved but never thought she could master. Moving to US gave her both time and recourses to learn photography and find her passion. Photojournalism is the path she is pursuing.
Country : USA
Instagram : @vladilenovna
Dave Weekes is a mobile photographer who absolutely loves creating images. He plays in shadows, lines, light and blur, which is made all the more easier because he’s quite short-sighted. He shoots from the heart, eschewing technicality for the sake of an image that “feels right”. His stomping ground, mostly, is the streets of provincial Tokushima, a small prefecture in Western Japan. Dave currently calls Japan home because it’s where his wife is from. Originally he was born in England and grew up in Vancouver, Canada. He is very slowly making his way around the world. Where to next?