every camera i own: the iphone

It’s the first week of spring but the weather hasn’t been conducive to photo walks with old cameras that have limited controls and need good light to get a decent exposure. And really, I’ve been unmotivated. The self-guided projects  I’ve assigned myself give me some sense of occasional direction but there are frequent nights when Saturn wins and I want to hide under the covers with a bag of Chips Ahoy. So far, I’ve resisted the crumbles, cookie-wise. But please don’t talk to me about Doritos.

Many days and nights, sun or rain, the only camera on my person is an iPhone, and that has become my go-to lens even when I’m carrying other cameras – my Canon S95, to name just one instance,  has lain fallow in my satchel for weeks. But the iPhone is there, its apps calling me like crack to a back-alley whore, allowing functioning asocial members of society to connect and detach. Hi.

It is maybe a little ironic that the picture above was talken with one of eleven filters available for the Instagram app, which is the new share tool for people who share their photos taken with the Instagram. I’ve been on Flickr for the better part of a decade now and that is still my primary photo-networking outlet, but the company has yet to come up with a more than barely adequate app. So I can understand why Intasgram is popular. It allows for easy sharing and browsing and also comes with those keen filters, which increase or decrease contrast and saturation to a finite variety of degrees, many of which you end up cycling through as you decide whether to Lomo-fi your picture or Kelvinize it. I think I’m Cross-processed (a filter named for the analog practice of developing E6 transparency film in chemicals for C41 negative film, or vice versa) above.

But as far as image manipulation goes, the golden statuette goes to Hipstamatic, an app that pretends to be a film camera: you select “films,” “lenses,” and while all this processing is going on the app even tells you to wait while the “prints” are “developing.”

If those seem like quotation marks of disapproval, perhaps the disapproval is a kind of analog self-loathing for digital transgressions. Before I had the opportunity to try the myself I’d regard friends’ Hipstamatic photos with mixed emotions of scorn and jealousy. “Oh, that’s cheating,” I’d silently pshaw, not taking into account any number of darkroom tricks that have accompanied photography since the beginning of the medium. Chemical techniques of course require a far higher skill level and lower tolerance for error than downloading the free Tejas “lens,” which in combination with the Shibuya-themed Float “film” results in a nicely subdued palette. Which I can now share.

The filters are keen and frankly addictive, a neat tool to have in the toolbox, and convenient too. The results may be easy to dismiss in terms of effort, but such ease of use does inspire aesthetic experimentation. Is this somehow a metaphor for the 21st Century Condition? Every generation seems to be distracted by a new set of cave shadows, and someday a new technology will make the iPhone seem quaint. But the old technologies are  still there calling from rotary phones and reminding you of the satisfaction of turning that dial and cocking the shutter. Tomorrow I will shoot real film. And take a real nap.

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