On the Move - Mobile Photography

By Miranda Gavin from Hotshoe Blog

The Space Between Us
© Janine Graf, "Space Between Us"

Ansel Adams said it best: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept”. 

Welcome back to my fourth post leading up until Christmas. Today I turn to the world of mobile photography with the help of Joanne Carter from The App Whisperer to find out more. What’s clear is that mobile photography is here to stay; it’s fun, there’s a growing community of like-minded people getting involved and it allows people to shoot and edit on the go, giving them greater freedom than using a DSLR.

© Balasz GardiBefore this, there are two things to mention. The Sony World Photography Awards, which is judged in late January, is viewed on screen and it makes no difference what type of equipment is used to produce submitted photographs. However, the competition asks photographers to note the cameras used in their submissions. One of 2011’s finalists, Balazs Gardi followed Afghani troops and edited his work with hipstamatic. I’m trying to get stats as to how many submissions are produced on mobile devices as I would like to monitor this in relation to international photo competitions. Also, I have a suggestion for the Sony World Photography Awards. What about adding a Mobile Photography category to next year’s awards?

© Balazs Gardi

Secondly, as it’s the lead up to Christmas, here at Hotshoe magazine we’re offering one person a year’s subscription to the magazine, plus a free copy of the Oct/Nov 2012 edition of the magazine sent to your home. All you have to do is go to the Hotshoe International Facebook page and LIKE the magazine by the end of the week. That’s it. The team at Hotshoe will select a winner at random from those ‘liking’ the page this week and I will announce the lucky winner next week on this blog. Happy Christmas.

Getting down to business

Miranda and Joanne

Image by Dilshad Corleone (Columnist for theappwhisperer.com)

Miranda Gavin (MG): Joanne, many thanks for your time. Firstly, can you tell us a little more about your background, your role at the App Whisperer and why you set it up?

Joanne Carter (JC): I am the founder and Editorial Director of theappwhisperer.com. I set up TheAppWhisperer in 2010 following the release of the iPhone in 2009. I was so excited when I purchased my first iPhone and could see straight away the potential for mobile photography, if only we could get some great software for it. That soon followed with the huge avalanche of photography apps into the newly-established App Store. TheAppWhisperer.com has expanded at a phenomenal rate and we are now one of the leading websites in the world dedicated to mobile photography and art. We receive over 200,000 hits each day and have around 23K Twitter followers.

We have eighteen columnists, many of whom are award-winning mobile photographers and artists. Each Columnist effectively runs their own section on theappwhisperer and their regular articles take the form of tutorials, opinions, techniques and the art of mobile photography. We cover everything you could want to know about mobile photography. I am also currently a lead judge for the Mobile Photography Awards as well as a judge for the PhotoBox Motographer Awards in association with Instagrammers London. Prior to creating theappwhisperer.com I was a Photo Technology Editor for various print specialist magazines in the UK. I have contributed to national and international publications including The Times, dpreview, Professional Photographer and Which? consumer magazine. I am also a professional photographer specialising in portraiture.

MG: How is mobile photography defined?

JC: Mobile Photography is the process of using a mobile device, such as an Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone to capture and create photographic images which are then usually edited within the device itself using built-in third party applications.

MG: What apps are available for photographers?

JC: There are some fantastic photographic applications available for the mobile photographer. Some of the notable ones include 645PRO, KitCam, Snapseed, Superimpose, Juxtaposer, Slow Shutter Cam,  Laminar, ScratchCam, Modern Grunge, ShockMyPic and of course Hipstamatic. These apps have a multitude of uses; some are excellent as camera replacement apps and many are used to edit the image thereafter - to tweak the photograph to perfection.

MG: Do you take mobile photos? 

JC: Yes, I do but mainly as it’s guaranteed to be the only camera with me always. I love using my DSLR but only when I am booked for a photographic studio session nowadays. At all other times, I use my iPhone 5. I love the fact that it’s incredibly discreet. People are not offended when I point it at them in the street as opposed to with a DSLR. It’s light, portable and I can share instantly.

MG: How big is the movement in the UK?

Sarah Jarrett (columnist for theappwhisperer.com, mobile photographer and artist): I think there is a huge interest in mobile photography in the UK, but in terms of the top artists, they are far more centred in the US. The recent London show mObilepixatiOn had artists selected from around the world. We've still haven’t had a show here on the same scale as the LA Mobile Arts Festival last August.

Cool BritanniaAnarchy in the UK
      © Sarah Jarrett                                                                                                      © Sarah Jarrett

JC: I agree with Sarah and, having attended the mObilepixatiOn private viewing last week in London, it was clearly an incredibly popular event and full to the brim. Although I spent a good deal of my time photographing the artwork for the photographers who were exhibiting from the US and could not attend!

MG: Is mobile photography following the USA in terms of trends? What trends have you noted in mobile photography currently and to come?

Benamon Tame (mobile photographer/artist UK): Mobile photography first gained notoriety with street photography; the mobile phone was the perfect tool for capturing the moment. New photographers emerged and already established photographers put their DSLRs aside. It wasn’t about the camera or the lens, or how perfect the shot could be, but the reality of the shot and moment. As the number and range of Apps expanded beyond mere filters and making the shot vintage or Polaroid, it opened up the movement to a different type of art. In terms of trends, the movement is starting to mature, moving away from just being about street photography to encompass as many paths as the wider art scene, from landscape to abstract, portrait to surreal. The tools now exist to allow the artists to create anything anywhere. I think the movement will continue to diversify and artists to specialize. I think the social photography side still has some way to go but will eventually be absorbed by the wider social media and the gap between them and photographic artist become wider and more apparent.

Thoughts Fly Free
© Benamon Tame, "Thoughts Fly Free"

Sarah Jarrett: I think there is a lot of interest in street photography and urban life that is London-centred. London Instagrammers are showcasing Iconic London 2012 in December at the Truman Brewery.

JC: Yes I agree with Sarah here. I’d also add that there is a growing trend of mobile art pushing forward.

MG: How accepted is mobile photography amongst photography purists? Do mobile photographers even care?

JC: Many mobile photographers come from a traditional photography and/or art background. They are using their mobile devices as an alternative camera, in addition to their traditional DSLRs. Some mobile photographers, for example one of our columnists Kevin Kuster, was the Senior Photography Editor for Playboy Magazine for 18 years. He now uses his mobile device in an active column to demonstrate the many ways it can be used creatively and alternatively. Kevin recently took a photographic trip to Brazil and left his complete DSLR kit behind. He wrote about this experience in his article, Kuster – Naked in Brazil.

There are also many people who have no previous experience of photography. Many of them have recently picked up their mobile device and received the instant gratification and experience of mobile photography and have become hooked.

MG: Is mobile photography more suited to certain genres of photography?

Dan Berman (founder of the MPA): I find that mobile phones are particularly suited to two genres of photography. Street photography, for a number of reasons, not least of which is the stealth factor (people just don't know or expect that the person with the mobile is taking a picture) and the reliability of always having an easily-accessible camera with us at all times, and digital art or manipulated photography due to the proliferation of high quality, gesture-based processing apps. It's much more fun to mask, layer and composite when we can use our fingertips instead of a mouse. So, in many ways, the device itself dictates the genres best suited to the medium.

JC: I’d agree with Dan on the above but I would also stress that portraiture, in addition intimate portraiture, is a growing trend and the discretion that the mobile device has loans itself to this medium.

MG: It seems that mobile photography is particularly appealing to women from the number of works on show at the mObilepixatiOn private viewing. Why is this?

JC: Yes, there are many women producing work in mobile photography and perhaps that's more noticeable as this is such a new medium.

Dan Berman: In the mobile medium, we find a preponderance of women creating digital art, or what we might call manipulated photographic imagery, as well as a demographically skewed number of men leaning toward street photography. These are generalizations but they are mostly true - why this is the case is best left to the sociologists and psychologists.

Janine Graf (columnist for theappwhisperer.com, mobile photographer and artist): As a busy, on-the-go mom, mobile photography is the perfect art medium. My time to dedicate solely to creating art is sporadic, so I will seize those small slices of free time; in the waiting room during my son’s dentist appointment, sitting in my car in the school parking lot, standing in a long line at the grocery store, etc. I’m not suggesting that men don’t operate this way, but I think the ability to take an image and then edit the image on the go is very appealing to busy women.

The Great Escape
© Janine Graf, "The Great Escape"

Sarah Jarrett: From the very beginning, mobile photography has experienced less of a gender divide than traditional photography, probably due to several different factors. Firstly, an even playing field was created with similar technology and apps available to all and I think women readily embraced this opportunity. Secondly, this viable new media is very accessible, mobile, portable and users are able to shoot and edit creatively on the same device. The creative potential offered to women on the go, as natural multi-taskers was immense. No bulky equipment and need to edit via a PC or Mac. Also I think it liberated them to make art from their everyday experiences and lives - recording their changing journey through self-portraiture, recording the natural world surrounding them, creating surreal, imaginary dream-like worlds in constructed pictures etc. Women have really seized the creative opportunities offered by mobile photography. 

Jennifer Bracewell (columnist for theappwhisperer.com and mobile portraiture photographer): As a judge of two categories of the MPAs last year, I think the entrants were fairly equally split between males and females. I do see a trend toward more women doing portraits than men, but certainly there are mobile photographers of both sexes doing work in all genres of mobile photography. One wonderful self-portrait by artist Shane Robinson comes to mind, Gingered Self Portrait. It was a beautiful self-study and was a founder’s choice in the MPAs last year. I think one of the wonderful things about mobile photography is that it is so available to people of all sexes, ages, and socioeconomic classes. I don’t think it appeals to men, women, teenagers or baby-boomers more than anyone else. But if you look at the Instagram pop page you’d think differently. 

MG: We know that citizen journalists can take photos with mobile phones that can be used for news purposes. But are any images being used in advertising campaigns that have been taken with mobile phones or in the art world?

Jennifer Bracewell
© Jennifer Bracewell

Jennifer Bracewell: Photographer Chiun-Kai Shih (Chunky) is a well-known fashion photographer whose work has been shown in major magazines. I know he uses an iPhone and Hipstamatic specifically. He has actually designed lenses and films for the app. I have heard of others using it as a supplemental camera during photo shoots and throwing the photos in with the SLR shots and no one being the wiser.

JC: Although not an advertising campaign per se, professional photographer, Dan Chung caused a storm at the Olympics in London this year when he decided to photograph much of it with an iPhone 4S.

MG: Finally, doesn't the use of Apps start to make all photos look the same for example shooting with hipstamatic? Isn't there a danger it is more about app than content?

Jennifer Bracewell: I’d say the opposite actually. The wide variety of apps allows us to do anything from simply retouching a flaw or making an image monochrome to more radical manipulation such as using Decim8, juxtaposer, image blender, or the many painting apps to turn what was a simple photograph (or two, three or more) into something completely different. Even “just” using hipstamatic, with its multiple lens and film combinations, can produce all kinds of different results. It really is all about the photograph in the end anyway, isn’t it? A good eye, good concepts and execution are what set people apart regardless of the media. 

Janine Graf: Absolutely! One thing that is concerning about our medium is the dependency on apping and not so much on composition. Ansel Adams said it best: “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”  Composition should come first. If it’s a strong composition to begin with, then it will stand on its own. If the composition is then complemented with appropriate processing/apping, then it can move on to a whole new level of beautiful.  Relying too heavily on grunge, scratches or filters, is definitely something that we all should take into consideration when working on a piece. The processing needs to make sense.

Still time to enter the Mobile Photo Awards

If you are interested in the Mobile Photography Awards, you still have time to enter as the deadline is 15 December.

Till next week, you can you can find me at my cyber home on Hotshoe Blog or join the conversation on twitter @Miranda Gavin

Joanne Carter can be found on Facebook, at the Flickr Group- Mobile Photography & Imagery and on Twitter @theappwhisperer.

So why don’t you get moving and join the conversations?