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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

iPhone Photojournalism

Michael Christopher Brown uses an unlikely device to create iconic news photos that wouldn’t be possible with a DSLR


This Article Features Photo Zoom

Brown stood in front of this bookstore entrance in China for a couple of hours. There were security cameras and personnel surrounding the building, but because he pretended to make phone calls or text while taking pictures of people exiting the bookstore, he wasn't approached.
Brown's vision is nothing short of remarkable. His iPhone photographs capture moments that not only would have been more difficult with a traditional phone, but which would be impossible without a tremendous understanding of what makes a photograph work. This is particularly important for a photographer working with a phone—the device that has single-handedly democratized photography and conditioned humans to expect a certain satisfaction from a snapshot.

"The resistance is mostly generated from the vernacular," Brown says, "the countless millions of people using camera phone applications that utilize excessive color or exposure manipulation to, in general, create not 'good' photographs, but 'pretty' photographs. What is a good photograph? The boundaries of a good photograph vary widely and depend on who's looking at the picture and for what purpose. In some ways, I don't think the good photograph exists, or that it even matters. What matters is the degree of power the photograph contains for a particular use, and if it's powerful enough. Anyway, this prettiness is often excessively dramatic, and this has, in a sense, damaged the opportunities for those interested in making serious work with phones. But strong work is strong work, and eventually it's recognized as such."

It may be easy to say that Brown's iPhone photographs are strong work solely because of the photographer's vision—which certainly sets his work apart. But the fact remains that these photographs are successful on some level because they were made with a mobile phone, not in spite of it.

"The phone is simple," Brown says. "I don't need to think about the process of photography or enter the mind-set of photographer, concerned with lenses and apertures and shutter speeds, to use it. Everything is decided and I just need to press a button. In war, one shouldn't spend a fraction of a second more thinking about equipment, and the phone is easy in this way."

While documenting the civil war in Libya, Brown utilized his phone to better become a part of events rather than remaining apart from them. Access was granted, doors were opened, subjects invited him in. From that, Brown made remarkable photographs.

 

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