CELL PHONE CAMERAS AND ‘PHOTOGRAPHIC ORTHODOXY’

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Illustration – pages 62,63 The Camera, Life Library of photography, Time Life Books

Cell phone cameras are becoming in the 21st century as were the 1st 35mm rangefinder cameras in an age of then bulky unwieldy cameras. When Henri Cartier Bresson first held a Leica M rangefinder camera in his hands, he had a camera that was small and easy for him to use, just as are the cell phone cameras in so many of our hands today… The Leica M camera has always been about a focus on the basics of aperture, shutter speed and ISO; and leaving the way open for the individual’s capture of the moment.

All cameras are just a light proof box with a controlled hole that lets a momentary light in onto a light sensitive surface where a image is recorded. There are just 3 controls in this regard: the aperture, the shutter speed and ISO.

“The quantity of light that reaches a piece of (photographic) film (sensor) inside a camera depends on a combination of aperture size and length of exposure (shutter speed). In the same way, the water that flows from a faucet depends on how wide the valve is open and how long the water flows. If a 2 second flow from a wide open faucet fills a glass, then the same glass will be filled in 4 seconds from a half open faucet.” – Editors of Time Life Books, 1976

The technical side of photography is simple. But as a photographic teacher I have had many learners who’s whole focus has been on all the buttons on the modern camera rather then on the images produced by these essentially simple devices, prompting the idea that these learners would be equally satisfied with a new multi buttoned torch in their hands.

Photography should be about the moments framed and not all about the gadgets framing. I have a client that does not mind if I use a digital or analogue camera, rather minding the picture produced by me. Just as the Leica M cameras changed the way we saw things when Henri Cartier Bresson first got one, we now have changed again the way we see things through the lens of the cell phone camera.

The cell phone camera has cut us loose from even the 3 basics of photography by dealing with these remarkably well on the whole, letting us focus on the moments in front of their tiny lens.

Now it is just for those who sill look down their noses past the ‘chimp’ screen on their DSLR camera at the little smart phone that could just as well frame the moments unseen in front of the ‘photographer.’

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