Kenny showing us at dinner how he looked like Frankenstein
after dental surgery
As regular readers know I recently tried to embrace using a smartphone in order to engage with what's happening currently, a curative to my former anti-phone snobbery (which was admittedly pretty strong). I notice two strains in my smartphone photography today. One is the desire to make beautiful "public" images that might have been made with a more serious rig. The other is play—I just mess around with it—like, well, everyone does.
The first is a sort of fakery—trying to mimic with a phone what a good camera will give you. This sets up failure, because only when used well within its narrow "sweet spot" will a tiny sensor give you what a larger one can provide with ease. An example might be that "bird on a wire" picture from last May—I certainly would have benefited from having a better camera when I took that, although I still like the picture.
Sometimes I will simply take a picture of whatever I happen to be looking at, just because I happen to be looking at it. A scene, a momentary accident of light, a person I notice or someone I'm with, a detail.
Documenting your life is one thing everyone uses phone photography for. I tend to not so much "document" as "play"—I'm just curious about how things look and when I see something I like seeing, I like to see how it will look as a photograph. (That's almost cribbed from Garry Winogrand, but just because he said it doesn't mean I can't mean it.) Sometimes—most times—this play doesn't result in "good" pictures, but it does result in particular or peculiar pictures...pictures that are not generic or "general" but specific and particular.
There's absolutely no purpose to this. But it's fun.
I don't want to categorize all the reasons why I might take a picture of something—I'd only leave things out. Usually I guess it's just the joy of seeing, or some related cliché. It's just that. "That" is a pointer word—it says look! or pay attention over there or this is what I saw or for a moment this existed. (It's possible that the number one shortcoming of photographs is that the "that" in them isn't anything. It's not that there's no there there, it's that there's no that there.) Still, I really enjoy it—the smartphone ranks among my favorite cameras, and although it's not among the best it's no slouch for what it is. I would never talk it down now like I used to.
I suppose smartphone pictures are ephemera. Nothing exists for long. The picture survives the moment, but only for a longer moment. And then it, too, is gone.
(Thanks to Kenny and Jim)
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