Of iPhones and Photography

Dec 7, 2011
Photographer News

Over the past months, I’ve noticed a lot of chatter on smart phone photography; most of it negative. Minus an optimistic Chase Jarvis post, I’ve followed numerous tweets, blogs, and conversations expressing concern over the flood of iPhone photography. It seems much of the photo community has deemed the photography world “doomed,” due in large part to cell phone cameras. Most recently, concerns rose higher when CNN announced the lay off of roughly 50 photographers and editors because of the accessibility of cameras and “citizen journalism.”

However, not everyone is lamenting the introduction of camera phones. Photographer Forest Woodward has decided to explore the advantages of smart phone cameras in photography. On top of using his Canon 5D Mark II to create “playful and adventurous” lifestyle images, Forest has also started shooting with his iPhone. He explains,

I’m addicted to taking pictures. I saw the iPhone as just another picture box, and a logical fix for my addiction. I started shooting with the iPhone in 2010, and have yet to sign up for any sort of rehab. I see it not as a SLR substitute, but rather as another tool to use for capturing spontaneous moments. Moreover, I have come to find that there are cases when the iPhone may be more appropriate than the SLR because of its portability and accessibility (hipstamatic war photographer Damon Winter comes to mind).

An obvious reason to use an iPhone camera is the simple convenience of it. People almost always have their phone on them these days, and as some photographers contend, the best camera in the world is simply the one you have with you. However, Forest also offers a less obvious advantage: Inconspicuousness. He continues with the idea that, “their small size and lack of public recognition of photo abilities don’t command as much attention as larger cameras, and thus can be used in a less intrusive manner that’s conducive to street photography.”

Forest has put his iPhone to the test on several projects, both video and still,

My first realization of the power of the iPhone in photojournalism came upon seeing that I could use it to document a round table of wild old poker players in a saloon in Montana that didn’t allow me to take pictures with my SLR. From there, I began using the iPhone to document street scenes and other situations where the SLR drew unwanted attention.

More recently, I used the iPhone to film a summer road trip with a couple of friends from Colorado to Montana. I wanted to take advantage of the phone’s unobtrusive nature to try and capture some of the uniquely spontaneous lifestyle moments inherent in road tripping. The result was a full length music video spliced together from footage shot over the course of our 24 hour drive. If you’re wondering how it took us 24 hrs to get from Colorado to Montana, well, that has a bit to do with my map skills, and a lot to do with a truck that runs hits its max speed going downhill in neutral.

Watch Forest’s iPhone music video, “Left of East” here:

Forest wants to continue experimenting with his iPhone on top of his typical SLR work. When asked where he wanted to take his photography in the future, he replied, “I’m less interested in where I can take my photography, than I am in where it can take me!” He did add where he’s currently going with his iPhone though,

As the technical quality and capabilities of the iPhone continue to improve, I think that there are exciting opportunities to continue using it as a storytelling tool. A tongue-in-cheek (and perhaps entirely hypocritical) project I’m currently working on, is using the iPhone to document how the pervasive use of smart phones is resulting in strange cases of human disconnect—what I’ve come to call the “cell phone zombie” syndrome.

Of course, Forest acknowledges that the technical quality and finished product of an iPhone image cannot match that of a DSLR. At least not yet.

View Forest’s non-iPhone photography on his website, forestwoodward.com.

– Maria Luci

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Tags: forest woodward iphones