I applaud Damon Winter and his amazing prose, he is articulate and a fantastic artist. I want to take a moment and respond to the article and include some of my own photos which were used with the hipstamatic app.
I am a long time user of Hipstamatic, meaning I’ve had it for the past nine months or so, which is a long time in the life of an app. This is an important and thrilling conversation to be having about the role of camera phones in the photography world. This is important because, over time, these photos from camera phones are going to continue to crop up everywhere, no pun intended. No longer are the pictures from phones grainy, pixelated images–they are now mega pixel shots that can be edited with apps like the Photoshop app and then “effected” as an after effect. Hipstamatic shots are a unique bird though, they are pr-effected shots, meaning that the photographer doesn’t “do” anything with them after the picture is shot. The app allows you to choose the film, the lens and a flash. You swap them out like a, well, excuse me, a photographer would. The irony should not be lost on the audience that Hipstamatic shots are supposed to mimic some of the past niche lenses that have since fallen out of fashion, including the Helga or Robo Glitter lenses of a forgone era. They are supposed to mimic the Lo/Fi retro effect on an iPhone, a somewhat post modern statement, I know. However, consider the fact that this world of Lo/F lenses and cameras that did exist at one time in a greater popularity than the scant attention that their real life counterparts receive today–has given them a renaissance. The folks at Hipstamatic are smart, dead smart. They know that there’s something to the past lenses that have been all but forgotten. Their application has continued to develop in a sort of cheeky old take with new technology. Whether they will ever venture into the field of reproducing Lo/Fi camera phone pictures from the recent past of, “I just wish I could get back my Motorola Razr camera!” remains to be seen.
My take on this issue is as follows: Damon’s picture is quite amazing, period. The lighting is spot on and the perspective he captures is incredible. He has an amazing eye. The thing that is: “camera phone sucky” about his picture has nothing to do with any of that though–it’s the damn crummy border that he used: a throw back to the camera paper of the 60′s called “Inas” that’s what gives the picture a truly amateur camera phone effect. (Upon close inspection, it appears Damon faded the border of his shot as the camera paper that the photo is on is not a Hipstamatic paper, it still looks poor.) Just so you know, Damon had choices, as it the life of an app photographer! He had two other “film papers” he could have chosen, to achieve a better effect in my estimate, the “blanko” film and the “Inas 1935″ that would have eliminated the border. Just as he had many other choices. The border he chose crams the shot into a sort of shit bird mounting that you just don’t like to see in the art shots that these cameras produce (there, I said it”cameras”.) Let me put it another way: his shot is like the the Mona Lisa sitting on mildewed cardboard paper, doesn’t matter how much you dig it–it looks cheap.
Folks, the bottom line is camera phones are here to stay. As the cameras continue to improve in functionality one can never ignore the portability and ease of use. Do you really want to carry two cameras around? Consider the fact that your camera can’t access the internet, you can’t instantly share your photos with anyone until you plug the camera in? I mean, stone ages, dudes. Shucks, Damon could’ve took his 20 amazing shots, edited these pics if he wanted to, sent it into this contest, checked his email, let people know he submitted to the contest on Facebook, texted his mom letting her know he had a shot at winning a contest, all while listening to Lil’ Wayne kick it and STILL had time to get to target practice. This brings the question–should Damon have to work harder in developing this effect? Is he not, in fact, posing as a great photographer because he needs to work on it longer in a dark room and such with chemicals and ugly paper? My only response: why should he? I do not mean this statement to insult those that came before us and whose craft of film making, the work of processing photos in a dark room–the skills of rendering physical pictures on paper. No, I hold these men and women in the highest regard. We are aware and respect the fact that these shots take talent, skill and an earnestness that can not be attained in the world camera phones. However, this should not exclude the talent and the eye for photography that is rapidly developing in an increasingly wireless and converging technological world. This is the moment in the photography world that is much the same as the advent of color to films or sound before it. Those who only cling to the past and are unable to adapt typically scorn all things new with the fervor that they are heretics. Mellow out people, this stuff is here to stay.
I think that sums it up: Damon, chose a different background next time, brother controversy stopped.
Alexis E Santi