Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Lost Photography, But Got A Ton Of Likes

There are many thoughts that surface as you find yourself shooting an entire story with your phone for Time Magazine's The Wireless Issue.

How did it begin?

Photo editor Neil Harris called acknowledging the constant flow of iphone images he witnessed daily on my Facebook page, wondering if I'd want to shoot the story in that manner. This was that "nothing" moment that stuck with me, the sentence that makes you question the thousands you've pondered putting into the Workbook spread, all the trees clear-cut for the promo cards I've carpet bombed the nation with over the years...all of that. But times change fast.

But rather than write it indicates the end of photography as we know it, say?  Or the changing face of marketing or something boring like that, I thought I'd just share some thoughts on what is undoubtedly a trend of the moment, and maybe something that is never ever going to go away.

Writer Harry McCracken and I got together in the afternoon everyday for a week to create a first person story about the pros and cons of trying to live your life wallet-less and pay for everything with your phone. Using a phone to make these photographs was a natural decision for the magazine and seemed conceptually appropriate, to me at least. Once we started the story, we realized that one of the positives about shooting the story in this manner concerned access. Come into a store with your phone and start shooting and everyone smiles and goes about their business. Maybe they ask you if it's an iphone 4s or a 4.  Stop snapping and ask if you can take a picture of something, show up with a DSLR or larger and the fun stops there. Employees get nervous and are on the phone with corporate headquarters, who will discuss the possibility of granting permission at next month's meeting maybe? In other words, "No".

The other concern, of course, was that it allowed a novel and different way to shoot a kind of visually mundane story. If we could tell the story in little pieces, with a Facebook sensibility of annecdotal images as well as scene setting shots, we may actually have a cool looking package. Maybe...just maybe? So...let's try.

Excited as I was to tackle this, I realized that this tipping point may have already hit, noticing that Forbes ran an all Instagram story ( about Instagram ) shot by Christian Peacock. The cover of the The Wireless Issue is made up of Instagram images sent in from the public. And there probably are more permutations cooking as we speak...and more in the past that have snuck past me.

Now, let's look at the end result. Is it great? No. Is it interesting and kinda playful? I think so. For me, I wanted the story to look just like my Facebook page looks like when I go out and do something with the kids and make alot of shots. I've always admired the work of Andrew Hetherington and Martin Parr, who are able to run around at all sorts of events and come up with a ton of images that all look like their work, no matter what they point the camera at. Typically my work is slower and more portrait based...more methodical, and I could never find a way to shoot loosely and still feel like I had my shot. With the iphone, my shooting starts to hint at the fluidity of that approach.

Will this work look dated and signify 2012 in a way that The Hosemaster defined commercial photography circa early 90's and the Polaroid Transfer was the defining technique for crafty hobbiest photographers in the later 90's? Maybe. But these are the things we need time to get perspective on.

A chunk of the story that lay on the cutting room floor involved a visit to a big box pet store which curiously yielded my two favorite images from the shoot, top and bottom. All I had to do was push the button.


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