Loosing Your Identity?

The other night I was enjoying a few drinks with some fellow photographers.  After about the fourth round we had already solved the worlds political problems, found a way to balance the U.S debt and figured out how the world’s major religions could finally get along.  It was at this point that the discussion turned to a more complex and controversial topic.  I had started to talk about my addiction to the iPhone, in particular how I was finding an increasingly important role for it in my creative toolkit.  One of the group argued that since the iPhone Apps created a finished product as soon as the photo was taken photographers that used such technology were in danger of loosing their identity.

Wow. I remember thinking each to his or her own, but it certainly didn’t sound right.  I wanted to respond but by this time my brain and mouth were no longer synchronized and I couldn’t possibly come up with a coherent response.  Several days have passed since that discussion and I have thought about it somewhat.  I have come to the conclusion that although an iPhone App can indeed produce a “finished” image without much, or any user intervention this alone cannot take away the photographers identity.

Ask any photographer to define his or her style and you will draw blanks, or at the very best, long pauses followed by mumbled, confused and, at most, irrational responses.  It is one of those intangible things that is almost impossible to describe, but somehow it carries the signature of the photographer.  Therefore, the photographer’s style must consist of a complex mix of things that is not based solely on what equipment is used, or any other individual thing for that matter.  In fact, one of the things I have found is that since the iPhone is so liberating I can actually spend more time creating final images that reflect my personal style.  I can’t describe what my style is but when I finish an image and it feels right then the image must contain some small part of me.  Therefore, as I have said in previous posts, it is not the equipment that defines style, but rather vision.  The camera and other equipment are simply tools that can be used to emphasize vision and therefore style.

By the way, the concept of producing instant images that cut out “user definable” post processing is not a new concept; Polaroid became a household name doing this very same thing in the 1970s.

The image included with this post was taken on the iPhone using the Hipstamatic App and includes some processing with the Filterstorm App.

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