JoziFolk - images of everyday life in South Africa


Is the cellphone the best street-photography tool ever invented?

street photography with mobile phone
  When it comes to digital photography I am a dinosaur. A grumpy old curmudgeon.
 For years I held out with my film cameras, constantly finding reasons why analogue was superior to digital photography. I still have somewhere north of 30 very fine film cameras, a sack full of lenses and a deep freezer filled with frozen film.
 It was only when the process of getting the film developed and scanned became too onerous and time-consuming and, when clients wanted images delivered on-the-spot, that I reluctantly bought my first DSLR.
 But I continued to try to convince clients that film offered a unique look and three-dimensional quality (I still believe that) but the truth was, they did not care, couldn't see it, or didn't want to. Certainly, they weren't prepared to pay more for a wedding or portrait session shot on film.

Mobile phone cameras

 And, if the truth be told, I began to see very few advantages of shooting anything, other than the odd personal project, on film. But I drew the line at mobile phone cameras! I hated them as well as the people using them, who got in the way of guys using real cameras. Even when I saw prints made from mobile phone camera files, printed a metre wide, that truly were magnificent, I dismissed them as 'gimmicky' and pointed out they were probably pixelated - if you held your nose against the print.
 "With a real camera, they would be better!" I declared pompously and self-righteously. My fellow pros and 'serious' photographers nodded in agreement. But no-one else gave a crap. They simply stood back and enjoyed the images.
 However, all of this changed a couple of weeks ago. I attended a photography evening and part of the proceedings was a presentation by Instagram photographer, Zeno Petersen (@zenography). He shot everything on an iPhone and I was absolutely blown away. His work is remarkable. Maybe, I thought, this mobile camera photography business is a real thing. It would certainly make life a lot easier for me out on the streets, where no-one takes notice of cellphone photographers.

iPhone 4S

 By happy coincidence I was due for a cellphone contract-upgrade and my provider was offering a great deal on iPhone 4Ss they were trying to get rid of. I probably would have been just as happy with something from the Android stable and the apps I use are available for those phones as well.
 Bottom line: this is the best street-photography camera I have ever owned! And not because of the quality of the images. They are good but nowhere near as good as those produced by my DSLR. The difference is, the camera is always with me, something I can not say for my DSLRs or film cameras. It is the ultimate instument in sneakiness. No-one knows you are taking their photo, especially when the shutter is tripped with the volume-control toggle on the earphones. I've stood with the camera two feet away from a subject's face and clicked away without their being any the wiser.
 I get pictures that would result in any other camera being jammed up that part of my anatomy where the sun don't shine.
 By now the photographic 'measurebators' are no doubt in a froth, convinced I am rubbishing their beloved Nikons, Canons, Fujis and Leicas. Settle down a moment there, Hoss, I'm doing no such thing.
 All I'm saying is, for the type of street photography I do and my personality, the iPhone or its Android equivalent is the best. I realise it lacks image quality in certain circumstances, most particularly low light. I know it can't be used  with studio flashes, or is useless for sport, high-speed motorcycle racing and a thousand other examples the haters will present but, as an inconspicuous-always-with-you street-photography tool, it has no peer!
 Will I dump my Nikons, Minoltas and Mamiyas? Not just yet but I truly can't see an occasion where I'm likely to use the latter two brands.
 Yeah, I know. I'm fickle.


street photography with mobile phone
street photography with mobile phone
street photography with mobile phone