A new kind of photographic aesthetic?

The world has changed.

Ten years ago the thought that we could take quality images on a mobile phone was laughable.

Since then we’ve had a revolution, and images – and video – taken on mobile devices are everywhere.

Apple has long had a knack of capturing the digital ‚Zeitgeist‘ and to peek into the future.

But has Apple got it right when recently stating that the new generation of iPhones offer „…the only camera you’ll ever need.“

I suspect that Apple has a point (but only to a point).

It could well be that in 5 -10 years no one will raise an eyebrow when seeing professional photographers shooting some of their images on a mobile phone.

And let’s not forget the ability to instantly sell images through the ‚cloud‘.

I think that photographers who ignore this will be wondering what happened.

It’s not unlike the shift we’ve experienced when moving from darkroom based processes to the digital darkroom.

This shift is still quite new in the context of photographic history. And there are many photographers who until today prefer film and never fully embraced the digital environment.

The quality issues with shooting images on a mobile phone are not overly problematic.

Most photographers would agree that it’s not the camera but the photographer who makes the difference, and that a technically deficient photograph can nevertheless be a great photograph if the viewer connects with it.

So there are limitations in what mobile phone cameras can currently achieve technically.

There is the limitation of the available dynamic range. There is also the problem of capturing 8 bit jpeg files that leave limited scope for post-production. These issues may of course be solved in the future. No one knows if Apple, or Samsung, or whoever, will offer RAW capture. I can’t see any reason why not.

Megapixels certainly aren’t an issue anymore for screen based publishing and small print reproduction.

But do technical limitations always matter in a world where the publishing of images is moving away from print based media to the screen?

I think not, as it’s often hard to tell on screen if an image was taken with a current iPhone, Nikon or Canon.

In the meantime I think we will experience a change in photographic aesthetics.

The clean, technical qualities offered by, for example, DSLRs will take a backseat and the more impressionistic/grungy/organic feel of mobile device images will become more ‚household‘. Just look at the popularity of the ‚Instagram‘ style images created using the freely available iOS and Android apps.

This change is not necessarily a bad thing as it shifts the photographic focus from technique towards image content, story telling and emotional impact.

My view is that the sooner professional photographers accept the change in technology and aesthetics the better off they will be in the future.

And it’ll still be the photographers with the best trained eye, sense of light, people skills and conceptual ability who’ll create the images that are sellable.

All images taken with my Samsung i5503t mobile phone using a 2 megapixel camera:

Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand

Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand
Hagley Park, Christchurch, New Zealand

Personal project 2 – Light in the New Zealand landscape

As I mentioned in a previous post, I love light.

Light offers an emotional as well as sensory experience.

Even though it doesn’t have physical properties that we can feel – such as weight and density – we often describe light in physical terms. We call it soft or hard, warm or cold, and we say that something is ‚bathed in light‘.

Light has character.

The light below is majestic. It elevates the landscape above what we normally see. It creates focus and emphasis and, for a moment, displays nature in its essence.

This image is a portrait of a landscape.

Shafts of light illuminating the hills around Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country, New Zealand
Shafts of light illuminating the hills around Lake Tekapo, Mackenzie Country, New Zealand.



On a different note

When I travel, or go on holiday, I take a lot of pictures of people I don’t know.

I rarely publish them due to the ever increasing possibility of getting sued when no model release was signed by the characters shown in the photographs.

Let’s face it, who would sign a model release – which is a contract of sorts – for someone who has just photographed you without being asked, who you’ve never met in your life before, and who you are not likely to ever see again.

You’d have to be rather naive these days to sign any piece of paper a stranger waves in front of you.

That leaves photographers in a rather tricky situation in regards to the publishing of photographs.

My general solution is not to publish as I rarely manage to get a model release signed by people who I photograph in the spur of the moment.

The exception in publishing decisions is when people can’t be easily identified.

I sometime ago resolved that I would not try for model releases, but to photograph purely for my own pleasure.

What I try though is to get an email address on the promise that I will email one of the resulting images. That works for me, and I often get permission to publish after sending an image.

While doing my thing I often end up in very interesting conversations with the people I photograph.

Everyone has a story and, for whatever reason, people tend to be happy to tell a stranger all sorts of things.

Maybe it’s the knowledge that what is said will remain confidential between the photographer and themselves. Photography certainly seems to encourage people to open their souls.

Beyond that, one of the main pleasures in spontaneous people photography is the ability to give something lasting to a complete stranger.

The below image is one such example.

I went to Wharariki Beach with a bunch of friends during our annual, and by now traditional, summer holiday.

While enjoying the beach I observed this family having fun jumping of a rather high and steep sand dune.

When I started photographing, dad, the gentleman at the top, was obviously wondering what I was doing photographing his kids.

He approached me and during a brief conversation I explained that what I saw was a slice of quintessential New Zealand life.

We exchanged email addresses and I promised to send a copy of one of the images as soon as I could. When I did he and his family were delighted with the photograph and I followed up by sending a full resolution file for printing.

Even though we are complete strangers both of us gained something positive from each other. I was allowed to enjoy and capture a special New Zealand moment, the family received an unexpected and – very likely – timeless gift.

It is part of the pleasure that photography has to offer. To quickly share something with someone without any agenda or expectation, purely because it is a nice and fun thing to do.

Family enjoying Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay, New Zealand
Family enjoying Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay, New Zealand.