South London Photographer: Phone photography​

Just before the end of the summer term, I was invited to lead a photography workshop with an enthusiastic group of eight to nine-year-olds at my local school as part of their Arts Week festival. The work they created was great!

One of the things I always impress upon children when doing these workshops is how accessible phone photography is nowadays and why that is a very good thing. Not only do we have ever-improving cameras in our pockets, they can be accompanied by a host of editing programmes, many of which are free or don’t cost very much, and which are becoming easier and easier to use. This is great news. Traditional software can be prohibitively expensive and darkrooms obviously out of reach for many, many people. What that means is, everyone with a phone can engage in creative photography. All they need is the desire to do so.

When I first started getting into photography I remember reading comments made by photographers who lamented the ease of digital photography and all its related software. I recall being shocked to see someone moan how any old mother could potentially set up and become a photographer nowadays – as if this was a terrible thing which threatened to kill off photography altogether. Not any old mother??  Good lord, how dreadful! I mean, whatever next, mothers taking photographs and becoming skilled at something creative which might just fit in with their role as parents. Shocker!!!  Stop it now, please before the old order it overturned entirely!

Last week a famous filmmaker said something equally daft about phone photography. Phone photography is, according to this highly successful man with access to all the cash he needs to pay for Polaroid film, killing off real photography. In fact, it’s so dire, we need a new name for photography. Photography, when translated back to its Greek roots, means drawing with light. I think the word fits perfectly fine and what we actually need is a new attitude. Photography is not for a select few. Phones have made it possible for everyone and anyone to start playing and creating and having fun with the recording of light. What’s more, there are lots and lots of avenues for people to go down, from making commercial images to creating obscure experimental work, meaning there is space for all sorts of photography out there.

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I am one of those terrible mothers who had the audacity to just set myself up as a photographer. Of course, just setting oneself up is a complete fallacy in most cases – I suspect very few people can just do that and succeed. The business of learning is long and at times tortuous whatever the equipment. As a financially strapped single parent, a darkroom is pretty much out of the question for me, and film is prohibitively expensive, so I am enormously grateful to the whole digital process which has allowed me to learn and develop a skill which would have been very much harder to access otherwise. My learning has also been significantly enhanced by the apps I use on my phone, not only in terms of ease but also access.

Next term I have more workshops booked in and as well as teaching people how to edit, blend images, cut out and make montages, incorporate moving image alongside still, I will continue to promote the idea that photography is for everyone. You don’t need lots of money or space. You need your phone and the desire to create. That’s’ not to say phone photography is everything. Of course, it isn’t. But it’s an amazingly fruitful and egalitarian route into photography which anyone with a phone can access.

Below are links to my own creations all made on a phone and here is a link to some images by digital artist Stina Walfridsson which go far beyond in terms of editing. And let’s not forget you can also make films on a phone  – check out this film by director Micheal Gondry called Détour. Next time you hear someone say phones have killed photography, roll your eyes, say “what a load of rubbish!” and think of all this amazing creativity.

(c)SJField2018

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