I love film. I love its depth, granularity and challenge. Film cameras are old friends and they have a heft that is comforting. And when one is shooting film there is a tendency for one to be self-editing and judicious with resources. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me, someone who views the analog world as this mythic wondrous place, to find such pleasure in iPhone imagery.
Early in my career, I began shooting photos for editorial purposes—to support pieces of my own journalism or public relations. During those years, back in the seventies, I learned the Zen-like satisfaction that comes from developing one’s own film. To this day, if I try hard enough, I can conjure up the powerful smells of D-76, Dektol and fixer. Still, with all the professional and creative rewards I received as a devoted film photographer, I was constantly nagged by the image that got away—the journalistic visual, the piece of whimsy or irony that would have made a compelling image. That changed with my first iPhone. Suddenly I had no more excuses. I had a serviceable camera with me virtually all my waking hours.
Like anyone with an Instagram account, in the early going I was a fool for the cartoonish filters one could apply to one’s images. Thankfully the worst of that phase passed quickly, and I began to find joy in the unedited image or at the most the lightly edited picture.
I still like to think I have my original tools: the desire to capture interesting pictures and a willingness to approach charismatic subjects for an environmental portrait. I still miss the darkroom and its charms. I really miss the power of true depth of field. But I’ve made a deal with the devil. What I’ve lost with the equipment and some of its magic, I’ve gained with having a good camera with me all the time.
As Chase Jarvis notes in the introduction to his book “The Best Camera Is the One That’s with You,” “…an image can come from any camera, even a mobile phone. Inherently, we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple—sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical –effect it can have upon us.”
The iPhone has renewed my love of taking pictures and sharing them with an audience. You are still left with the task of discerning the merits of the image. Like always.