Living with the iPhone
I don't remember much about the first year of using an iPhone as a camera. At that time I was a 'proper' photographer and that meant big cameras, long and heavy lenses and a big pixel count. It certainly didn't mean poor image quality and a cheap plastic lens. Then something changed and I started to ask myself a very simple question - why couldn't I use an iPhone as a serious camera? With this question reverberating through my sub-conscious I suddenly embarked on a whirlwind exploration of the iPhone and its limited photographic capabilities. In 2011 I even gave a talk to a rather bemused gathering of elderly photographers espousing the virtues of iPhone. They were not convinced and why should they be? After all the iPhone 3G, my iPhone at the time, had a 3MP camera which was just under a quarter of the pixel count of the Canon 5D. By 2011 however the revolution that the iPhone ushered in had already started to take hold. With every subsequent new model a better camera and with every new camera came more and improved photography apps.
By 2011 I was all but abandoning my previous photographic practice. Other creative avenues opened up to me and the thought of carrying kilos of equipment around started to lose its appeal. Exactly what part the iPhone had in this change is unclear. The first phase of my photographic practice with an iPhone consisted of experiments to try and explore the outer limits of what was possible with this very underwhelming camera.
In many respects the latest iPhone is a very limited camera. However, when the images captured are then worked on in post production then they become something much more. Of course in the era of Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook any post production takes place on the phone. Instead of reflection on what the image could be the need for instantaneous self expression take precedence. This is not the route that I have followed with my iPhone images. I do have an Instagram account but it is rarely used.
Photography as we know it is less than 200 years old. Now many photographers may not agree with this but in that time there are only three cameras that have had a profound effect on the world of photography: the Kodak Box Brownie in 1900; the Single Lens Reflex camera (SLR) and the 35mm film stock in the 1930's and the iPhone in 2008 (I know that the SLR isn't one camera but a type of camera but taken as a whole they have had the most profound effect on photography). Each of these cameras allowed photography to evolve in ways that few would have thought possible. What is different about the iPhone is the timescale and the way the change took place. The SLR camera, for example, was introduced in the 1930's but it wasn't until the 1960's when it really took hold and even then the change was driven by young professional photographers. In contrast the iPhone in a much shorter timescale has completely reshaped almost all aspects of how photography works in the 21st century with any need for professional champions. The iPhone wasn't the only agent for change but its genius was that it was the first product that was able to bring together the intertwined digital/social media world into one one easy to use tool. The camera exploded the boundaries of what is private and public in ways that could not have been foreseen just a few years before. The rest, as they say, is history.
So there we have it. The cameras on iPhones have recorded horrors and helped right injustices around the world. The images have not only been used to exploit the weak but also to embolden the brave. The world was never the same again. These are grand words but do the images here live up to such hyperbole? Unfortunately if that is what you hope to see then you will be disappointed. The selection isn't put together to change the world but rather a reflection of how I have used the iPhone to record my world over the last 10 years. It is an edited view rather than the chaotic maelstrom of many of the most followed people on Instagram. This is, of course, a statement in itself. These are my photographs. This is my iphoneography.
Simon Marchini Sept. 2018
(To view the images click here or on the Showcase link at the top of the page