Thursday, February 16, 2012

iPhoneography in Print. An Article on My Cellphone Photography in the Somerville Journal

The February 16, 2012 issue of the Somerville Journal has a full page article about my cellphone photography.

So Meta It Might Explode! A Cellphone photo of my cellphone photos printed in the Somerville Journal.
Old School / New School: iPhoneography on the printed page.

I was contacted by Jillian Fennimore, a reporter from the Somerville Journal, who had seen my iPhone shots in various tweets and postings online and asked about doing a brief article on them for the "Somerville Life" section of the paper. I was happy to oblige! The world is infused with little moments of visual poetry if we pause to look. I try to share that online and I was pleased for the opportunity to share my images, with perhaps a different audience, in print.

In the article, I mention the wise saying that when you see something extraordinary, the best camera to use to capture the image is whatever one you have with you! For most people these days that is their cellphone.

Since getting an iPhone, even I admit that I'm less inclined to carry my Nikon around with me, in favor of knowing the iPhone, with its halfway decent camera, is as close as my pocket. This is convenient and makes me look less like a photo dweeb.

However, I'm also more likely to miss out on serendipitous moments that might demand high resolution and the capabilities of a professional camera (such as my fortuitous luck, in capturing the Harvard Square meteor in high resolution with my Nikon, last year).

As a visual artist, I'm drawn the slightly surreal and unexpected beauty in the everyday things around us. These images, I find, are almost always unexpected and unplanned. They rise up out of the environment like a sort of visual haiku. Even hitting with the force of a poem, a visual poem, if you will, if you can look for a moment in a mood of contemplation. Perhaps, the visual equivalent of a William Carlos Williams haiku, like his famous poem about the Red Wheelbarrow:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

This reads, to me, like the perfect description of a great iPhone photo of a poor American family's backyard in the 1920's. Provided, of course, that the iPhone had been invented then, and possessed by an iPhoneographer of William Carlos Williams' sympathetic imagination and a good 99¢ iTunes photo app.

Nothing enables a (post) modern visual haiku-ist better than a cell phone with a decent camera. I'll admit I'm partial to the iPhone, but I'm sure there are Droid phones and Blackberries, etc. with equally competent cameras in them.

It's a fact, however, that almost any cell phone photo needs a little post-processing work, to bring out its best. Most shots come out a little flat to begin with, by design. That's where the apps come in. The article mentions a 99 cent app that I use. For me, that's Camera+. ($.99 when I bought it - seems to have gone up to $1.99, for the moment) Truly, 90% of what I post online has gone through this app. It's not perfect, but it does a great job, overall. There are plenty of free photo apps, too, that do amazing things, including the ever popular Instagram (as well a some very cheesy apps).

So much of what we shoot these days never gets printed. In fact, the definition of what a photograph is has probably actually changed. For many, printing their photos today, is a rarity. And even more so with small, low-res mobile photos. Witness the demise of Kodak.

Consequently, I've rarely printed an iPhone photo, assuming them to be too lacking in pixels to look good. So I was pleasantly surprised with how good these ended up looking printed on newsprint in the Journal. Long live print! There is something to be said for a photograph that has an actual physical presence.

This issue of the Somerville Journal will be on newsstands until next Thursday. Get yours soon, as it's sure to be a collectors item! Some years hence, there may be no physical paper published anywhere, having all moved online and to iPad-style devices.

But, for now, here's visual poetry on the printed page. Little visual haikus of Somerville life!

Rosebud Diner / Windshield / Rain
Outtake: Rosebud Diner in the Rain

UPDATE: The Somerville Journal has now posted the article online.