On January 1st, Apple launched its Start Something New campaign, sharing the work of 12 artists who use the iPhone, iPad, and Mac to make their beautiful works of art. Apple has since transformed their stores into actual art galleries, offering a glimpse into the creative capabilities of their products.
Seven of these artists are professional photographers, using iPhones to make breathtaking images.
But being labeled a professional "iPhone photographer" also comes with criticism. In a discussion with BuzzFeed, two of the photographers featured in "Start Something New", Austin Mann and Alistair Taylor-Young, discuss their work and thoughts on using an iPhone to produce art.
Austin Mann writes,
For so long in the photography industry, beginning photographers have oo'ed and aw'ed over high-end equipment… they discover their passion for capturing images and immediately start salivating over the next level of expensive equipment.
This is fine and I'm definitely one to seek the best gear - but the problem with this mindset is it makes us focus less on our vision and imagination, and more on gear. Gear doesn't create images. We do. Our vision is what we need to be sculpting but so often we obsess over gear.
I'm inspired by the dichotomy of light and darkness. I love to venture into unknown lands and find myself in environments basking in dramatic light and a strong sense of place. The iPhone, as an image capturing tool, adapts perfectly to this approach. It puts so much power in my pocket which means I can continue to explore, no longer bogged down by the weight or size of my gear.
The panorama featured in the "Start Something New" exhibition is a great example of this. This entire hour was completely unplanned. We literally stumbled upon this glacier and the shot just "happened" while we were trekking across the ice.
That's the beauty of the iPhone and the platform in general. It doesn't matter what people say it is, it matters what it does and what it delivers.
Consider this for a second… let's say I'm in a foreign country and speak zero of the language… I'm walking through a store and I see a piece of wood shaped much like a hammer. I buy it because I need a hammer and begin to use it as a hammer. Turns out, one of my local friends comes over and tells me this is not a hammer, this is a uniquely shaped wooden stool.
So what is this piece of wood then? A hammer or a stool?
Who cares what it says it is -- a tool is defined by what it delivers… the iPhone can be almost anything it wants to be and that's the inherit power of the platform.
Alistair Taylor-Young thinks about the iPhone from a historical perspective.
The comparison to photographer Vivian Maier is easy to make, as her subjects are not looking at her camera, but in her eye. Her camera was a 120mm film camera at waist level, hidden perhaps, but not a physical barrier between subject and photographer.
It is the same with the iPhone. Everyone has one, everyone uses one, it's non threatening, we are relaxed in the company of an iPhone. With a normal camera it's still considered an event having a picture taken. Preening takes place, we make sure we look good in front of the lense.
The beauty of Maier's work is that it's beautifully observed and the moment snatched.
The iPhone has become unbelievably connected in the photographic world, both the art world and commercial. The images I've made with the iPhone, without any manipulation, remind me of the old sx70 polaroid.
The street photo reportage of the past occurred through the advancement of equipment, the advancement of film , size and cost of cameras. Ease of use and consistency of results. Like Cartier Bresson and Lartigue, they always had cameras with them every day. Accidentally, everyone now has a camera with them every day…
Everyone is a photographer now with the possibility to make even a mediocre image look cool.
My photographic process over the years has been an evolution of course.
I'm not wedded to any technological piece of equipment, it's all there to be discovered and used. I began photographing with 35mm film, after I grew to love the 10x8 film camera, then polaroid, then the opposite way to 120 film… then digital arrived so quickly it was impossible to ignore.
Photography evolved overnight. Became another form of expression with more possibilities but less soul, adding something but in the process taking something away. I don't feel photography has improved with technology yet, it's become different.
More doors have opened up, but aesthetically better? I wonder.