Digital photography, especially concerning smartphones, is taking the world by storm these days. It's become the norm to see people whip out their phones when something dreadful happens in public, or when they want to photograph that special moment with their friends while cruising down the freeway at some awful speed. When that wasn't extreme enough, there's the very recent case of the model hanging off the edge of Dubai's 307-meter Cayan Tower.
The constant need to have your photos liked and shared across the internet has become grossly intertwined orgy with an ever growing trend of narcissism. But what if there's some hope out there?
On the other side of the spectrum, you have people who genuinely use this new form of technology as a form of self-expression. And with one click, they're able to share their vision of the world with the rest of us.
Instagram is host to some of the most incredible imagery I've ever seen. Many, like myself, use Instagram to either post their images, search for inspiration, network with other like-minded creatives, or use it as a source for mood boards. This is how I stumbled upon one of my favourite Instagram Photographers, Lara Aucamp.
As a local, like myself, to one of the world's most scenic cities, Cape Town, nestled in the Southern most tip of Africa, I met up with Lara where she describes her work:
Photography is a form of self-expression. I'm not a professional, and I don't even own a real camera. I really only got into photography after I got my iPhone. I find the format of mobile photography liberating and empowering - I have my iPhone with me wherever I go, and can easily edit and share photos on the go. The convenience of it is perfect for my busy lifestyle.
At first, I was taken aback by this statement. With a history of a traditional photography background, this seemed completely alien to me. But the quality of her images and the number of fans she's gained over time, it seemed to have transgressed the barrier I've always had stuck in my mind when it came to Photography.
She was able to capture incredibly captivating imagery, using only a compact device. Not using a film camera, spending hours in the darkroom, processing and developing images. Or using a digital DSLR, spending hours in Capture One or Photoshop. Instead, she used an iPhone. A simple mobile device to capture and carry across her art; her self-expression.
I actually think mobile photography will change the way we think about photography in the future. It certainly has decreased the barrier of entry and made photography more accessible. I know of teenagers with iPhones that take better photos than some professional photographers I know.
The more I think about it, the more I actually agree with her.
Film photography had a foothold in society back in the day. It still has in the modern day, don't get me wrong. But what if this is just the next step of the photographic evolution? Instead of shunning it, why not adapt and explore this newly created platform of self-expression? Sure the technical specifications aren't nearly there when it comes to the latest DSLR's or even the medium format Hasselblad's, Phase One's and Mamiya's, but something inside me tells me that a picture is still a picture. And if the content of the image makes me feel a certain way, why is that such a bad thing? It evoked emotion. Isn't that one of the principals of photography?
What is it about Lara's photos that make her's so spectacular, you ask? You might as well ask what made Henri Cartier-Bresson's images so iconic. Or what about Ansel Adams, Irving Penn, Ernst Haas, Werner Bischof, or Richard Avedon? Lara has an eye for the right moment. Just like the aforementioned photographers, she captures an intrinsic moment between the subject and its environment which evokes a certain emotion to the viewer.
Scrolling through her Instagram feed, you get the feeling of loneliness, love, independence, beauty, and symmetry. She has a clear understanding of how movement and symmetry can stir up an emotion from the viewer and uses that to her full advantage.
In the end, it doesn't matter what medium you use. History taught us that if you have something to say, you'll say it regardless of the limitations of a smartphone or whatever medium you use to capture the moment.
Technical aspects aside, are there really limitations when it comes to a photographer using a smartphone? A hundred years ago, people took photos on an even more simplistic device and they were arguably more iconic than the ones we took today, even with the technological advancements we've had over the past decade. It would appear that the difference is the internet and modern media made it such day-to-day advancement that we became naive to the fact that it is indeed an art form.
After my meeting with Lara, I walked away not only with a newfound sense of inspiration, only wanting to pick up my phone and take photos. But I couldn't keep asking myself what photography was really about. Has modern day society turned us into techno-junkies, always looking towards the latest camera release? The latest upgrade? The latest lens release? And then delivering our opinion on that particular piece of technology?
Have we forgotten all about expressing our hatred, our love, and sadness about the world we live in?
Why are we not praising and adapting towards the latest invention in photography? It's a whole new playground. It's a place where dreams go to live and die. Why not explore it further and make the most of it?
Images used with permission of Lara Aucamp.