June 22, 2017

Week 4: The filters of citizen journalism

By In Discussions, Falmouth University MA

Read the following short articles that deal with citizen journalism, combat photography and smartphone images. 
Damon Winter talking about his series A Grunt’s Life on Poynter.org: http://www.poynter.org/2011/damon-winter-explains-process-philosophy-behind-award-winning-hipstamatic-photos/119117/
Stephen Bull ‘Digital Photography never looked so Analogue’ in Photoworks (Spring/Summer 2012) Available at: http://frameandreference.com/digital-photography-never-looked-so-analogue-retro-camera-apps-nostalgia-and-the-hauntological-photograph/

Write a short response to these articles (200 – 500 words). Identify one or two questions or challenges that citizen journalism and its related aesthetics raise, and critically articulate your own conclusions. 

Is there something wrong about using phone apps to capture a mood? Even if the picture taker is too young to know anything about pre-digital photography that doesn’t mean they don’t have an artistic vision, that the near instant application of a retro-filter helps to visualise. The very ease of using a camera-phone and a filter can indeed make art. Showing off (as Graham Land says in his own response)? Possibly, but I view it more as trying to find a artistic level that pulls that shot out of the pack and sets it apart. This is how it is done if all you have is a facebook account and Instagram. There is no need to even know about how photos were taken in the past. This is how it is done now. While it doesn’t take much thought or time but can make you look ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’.

The use of apps and smart phones is generally viewed as gimmicky and cheesey; the number of cat and dog photos (about as far removed from ‘citizen journalism’ as you can get) that stream from those people I follow, are proof of this. Certainly a camera phone is not something that a ‘professional’ would use. Not for ‘serious’ work. Although as demonstrated in A Grunts Life, a full sized camera can be terribly intrusive, put the subject ill at ease, and therefore miss ‘that’ shot or produce one that is different to a phone snap. If someone is proficient at using such a device all well and good. It is just a tool, however it is viewed by people. I myself only use my smart phone for snaps and rely on Lightroom and Photoshop to process my ‘proper’ photographs from my SLR. Perhaps my phone camera isn’t that great which puts me off using it or maybe I just haven’t worked out how to get the best from it? But the sheer profusion of phone cameras and the ease of taking an image (even my aging mother takes photos using her phone) degrades the output to the ‘snap’ and when someone produces an incredible image using one the majority of people are surprised, impressed and left in wonder and question what app they used to create such a top image.

I was once told by someone snapping away with a phone camera that “no wonder you take such good photos using that equipment“. I wish I had replied with “no wonder you make such good pies using that Aga“.

The Shard taken using a smart phone and processing app

The Shard taken using a smart phone and processing app

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