A considerable number of people consider photos taken with the iPhone to be automatically not photojournalism, no matter the content or composition. Despite that, there is a significant body of work in conflict photojournalism by very talented photographers that uses the iPhone, often filtered using the Hipstamatic app, to depict scenes of countries in wartime. Damon Winter did it. David Guttenfelder did it. The very interesting documentary project called Basetrack is doing it. Recently, to accompany his New York Times story, “The Bad Guys vs. the Worse Guys,” Ben Lowy shot photographs in the same way. He says of using the iPhone,
iPhones enable a greater intimacy with a subject in a way that traditional cameras can’t. People are so used to seeing you pull out a huge camera and then acting a certain way. iPhones are still new enough that you get more realistic, less subjective, images contentwise because you aren’t pulling out this huge camera.
And indeed, the photographs taken by the iPhone give more of an air of actually being there, and have a far more candid, intimate tone.
The FJP: Let me agree and disagree.
Here’s the agree: It’s silly to say that a photograph taken with a type of camera (in this case, the iPhone) necessarily is or isn’t photojournalism. The iPhone-as-camera is a tool. Nothing less, nothing more. I’ve experimented with it in news situations and find that because of its limitations you need to get closer and more personal with with your subjects. There’s no megazoom on these. And getting closer and more personal is a good thing.
Here’s the disagree: Back in September we quoted Nathan Jurgenson’s essay about faux war photography and the nostalgia of war. Jurgenson’s critique of filtered apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic rests on their approximation of reality. Yes, they can produce amazing photographs. But by adding the nostalgia that filtering apps provide, we’re stylizing the present to give it a sheen of the past.
The results produce very interesting documentation but I don’t think you can call it photojournalism. There’s just too much fabrication going on. —Michael