This is certainly not the only event dedicated to the matter. The Mobile Photography Awards, in its second edition, has just announced that it is now accepting entries through December 15. A Grand Prize of $3,000 will be awarded to the MPA Photographer of the Year. And then there is the iPhone Film Festival, the third edition of the global exhibition The Third Wave, as well as countless other competitions, sites and blogs (these, for instance).
According to Nielsen, “55.5 percent of mobile subscribers in the U.S. now own smartphones” and “two third of new mobile buyers are now opting for smartphones”. No wonder world famous tripod manufacturer Manfrotto just launched an iPhone accessory line. We are talking about a growing population of mobile device users who are now shooting and sharing pictures at a hitherto unthinkable pace.
Photography has been evolving for about two centuries. Right now it’s going through a radical democratization that is having a deep impact on our society and our culture. Mobile cameras are owned and used by both top photographers and regular Joes. Annie Leibovitz praised the virtues of the iPhone in a TV interview: “it’s your snap-shot camera… it’s a notebook, it’s the wallet with the family pictures in it…”
Mobile photographer Anton Kawasaki just published a very interesting analysis on the subject underlining that “mobile photography is perhaps the most radical change to be seen yet — as it doesn’t just involve a change in how (and what) photos are taken, but also in the growing number of people taking them, and how they are now shared, consumed and ultimately viewed”. Anton Kawasaki teaches a mobile photography workshop for students seeking to take better photos with their mobile devices.
He is right, the fact that a growing number of people own a camera doesn’t mean that they know how to take pictures. And that’s also why there are so many applications and filters out there that automatically transform a boring image into a very interesting picture. “Like clothes, filters allow us to hide our insecurities,” we read in an intriguing article in Wired that concludes with “when everything is filtered, the absence of a filter is what becomes interesting.” But… why would anyone want to shoot unfiltered, when filters give you a more beautiful result? And if automatic manipulation is the trend, is photography progressively going to lose its documentary value? What kind of impact on our lives is the democratization of photography going to have?
I asked iPhoneography guru Jack Hollingsworth what he sees in the future of mobile photography. He publishes the daily online-newspaper iPhoneography Times, the homonymous blog, and is currently working on a new blog and website completely built around mobile photography. “I see nothing but blue skies ahead for iPhone photographers in particular and mobile photographers in general,” he answers. “Mobile cameras are inevitable going to get better, faster, smarter, lighter. More people in the world will own and use smartphones. Sharing photography, at both a personal and professional level, will reach an all time high over the next few years.”
Now, when I first got my iPhone, I wasn’t even interested in learning how to shoot a picture with it. I don’t take pictures of my private life because I prefer to enjoy the moment rather than being busy documenting it. Then I started using it from time to time as an instrument to take visual notes, not really pictures. Just a fast way to remember a shape or something else. I found it useful. I don’t expect I’ll be bringing my iPhone pictures to an iPhoneography festival or something similar any time soon, but I am starting to enjoy it. It’s a very different way of relating to photography.
A few weeks ago I was in New York. I opened my eyes early one morning (maybe just one eye) without really waking up. The pale sun was creating some lovely shadows on the wall and it was so beautiful that I grabbed my iPhone and shot a picture. Then I forgot. Yesterday I found that picture in the memory of my iPhone and it gave me the idea to write this post. Apparently iPhoneography is slowly landing here too…