Cell phone photography as art

Esra Erdogan/Life! Editor

Scrolling down a Twitter feed, one could easily come across a tweet like the following:  “I love Instagram, but I kind of hate that [it promotes] the idea that iPhone photography makes you a [legitimate] photographer.”

This kind of statement, which has become increasingly popular, brings up an interesting discussion: whether or not cell phone photography can be art.

Instagram, the popular application for the iPhone, allows users to take and edit photos in various filters and then upload them to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Other apps like it exist for Android and Blackberry phones. The apps focus on improving pictures taken with cell phones to make them appear as though they’ve been taken with a much better camera.

Cell phone cameras have improved a lot over the years, with some featuring megapixels that come close to rivaling digital cameras that can cost hundreds of dollars more. But the thing that makes cell phone photography so appealing is that a cell phone goes wherever its owner goes, meaning that the photographer will always have a camera with them.

“I like to photograph things in everyday life that make me happy or I want to remember and it’s way quicker because it’s right there on your iPhone,” said junior Anna Drescher, an architecture major.

Now, with a variety of apps that can enhance, distort, decorate and share photos, anyone can become a sort of novice photographer with a camera they already own that is sitting in their pockets.

The question of whether or not cell phone photos have artistic value remains.

Dr. Carol Damian, the director and chief curator of the Patricia and Philip Frost Art Museum, thinks so. “[Using a cell phone as a camera demands] the same process to conceptualize and take the picture,” said Damian.

In very basic terms, what makes an image interesting is what the photographer captures and the way he or she captures it.

Sometimes, the camera doesn’t matter. Photographers uses their skills to make an image: lighting, focus, contrast, texture and other techniques. The camera is only a tool and it can’t teach photographers any approaches to a “good” image without the photographers having the knowledge or experience themselves.

Where a cell phone camera lacks, the photographer can make up for by using their technique and creativity. A cell phone camera can also provide a different perspective for photographers than through the lens of a film or digital camera.

“Whenever I didn’t have my camera, I always took pictures with my phone. It would help me out when I didn’t have my camera because it helped me notice a different view,” said senior and photographer Sophya Vega, a fine arts major.

Shows and exhibitions of cell phone photography are already popping up. The Lunchbox Gallery in the Wynwood Art District, which focuses on contemporary photography by emerging artists, has premiered a show called “iPhoneography: Updated Visual Dialogs.” The show will be running through April 7 at 310 N.W. 24th St. Miami, Fl 33127.

The show features the work of 134 “iPhoneographers” from around the world, with images that act as a visual diary of the photographers.

Oftentimes, cell phone photos can capture smaller, intimate moments in a photographer’s life that can be overlooked by the lens of a more traditional camera.

Applicants were asked to submit up to three photos for the show. The submissions were accepted from anyone who took a picture with their cell phone—photographers or not.

“In order to be honest with the iPhoneography movement (since nowadays everyone is taking pictures with their phones), everyone who applied was accepted. That was our sincere approach: the good next to the not so good, next to the conceptual, next to the landscape, next to the artistic, next to the quotidian,” said Elaine Minionis, a gallerist.

The aim of the show is to mimic an Instragram feed; the viewer walks through the gallery and, instead of scrolling, a number of images are taken to communicate something, or nothing.

“Many of them aren’t necessarily artists or photographers. That’s the fascinating thing of taking images with mobile phones; it can really expand you at some point, and you don’t have to be this or that to take a wonderful picture,” said Minionis.

Cell phone photography, whether it has been edited to look older or is grainy and rustic on its own, offers a different perspective.

If the image was calculated by the artist, it doesn’t matter which camera he used, whether it was a Nikon or an iPhone.  The images have flooded social media, which may lead artists and critics to dismiss many if not most of them, but they are still undeniably art.

Additional reporting by Alexia Escalante and Sana Ullah.


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