iPhone turns 15

The iphone turned 15 recently, it has had a profound impact on my practice as an artist, but my experience clearly differs from many photojournalists use of the device.

Two articles dropped in my inbox recently, that demonstrate this. One from the AP News the other The Guardian. Mostly written by photojournalists, they seem either to venerate or denigrate this device. There is some shade of nuance between each extremes, to be fair. Many talk about using the viewfinder as a kind of extension to their seeing. Clearly none have worked with a medium format film camera, or large format film camera which requires the user to step back and take in the whole scene or think about a back to front and or upside down view on ground glass. In the 1950s these were common cameras for the press of the day. The iPhone actually mimics the ground glass of a 5×4 monorail or studio camera in terms of physically moving your face away from the device to compose the picture. This seems to have escaped most of the interviewees in both articles.

A blurred image of a moving car only made possible by a smartphone, in this case an iPhone, caused by shutter roll
A blurred image of a moving car only made possible by a smartphone, in this case an iPhone, caused by shutter roll

This then raises some issues about a professional versus an amateur. I myself have never sold or made an image for a client for money. Yet I have used film cameras of many types and sizes for more than 30 years. I have been an educator specialising in photography in all its forms since 1993. Taking the time to consider what is in the frame forms a large part of what I do all the time, regardless of camera used.

Also, I use a third party app to make pictures with my iPhone, this alone has impacted on my picture making experiences, with this device.  Yet I sense none of the professionals in the articles think this way? This third party app allows me to capture RAW DNG files and process them as I would any other digital capture.

In the early days of phone cameras prior to the iPhone my own experience with phone cameras, was one of being highly experimental . I had no preconceived ideas about what the device could achieve and no expectation that it would replicate the real world in any way shape or form. As I  experienced it. So why should a device with better optics and more resolution, interchangeable lenses amongst other things ever be expected to do this?

These days, having a camera in my pocket at all times is both liberating and exciting. As of todays date I have over 147 thousand iPhone images alone. Are they all earth shattering works of art? No! Is it possible to look back over this archive draw conclusions about what the images can “say”. Yes. The pandemic alone has prompted me to consider photo opportunities themselves. Some may see some light at a future date. Could I have done this without an iPhone? No. Would I ever have contemplated it? No.

About the author.
Stuart Murdoch is an Artist and Part time Photo Educator, with over 30 years of teaching experience. He contemplates many things photographic. His ruminations include his own work as well other’s and the aspects of technology that impact on the sharing and consumption of Photographs. And of course the act of making and taking photogrpahs in the 21st century.

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