Through My Eye, Not Hipstamatic’s

Robot, living in the future

Damon Winter ((warning: Flash based portfolio)) got some flack for his award-winning photos of soldiers in Afghanistan, photographed with Hipstamatic, and first published for the Sunday New York Times. He has some interesting thoughts on the subject.

What has gotten people so worked up, I believe, falls under the heading of aesthetics. Some consider the use of the phone camera as a gimmick or as a way to aestheticize news photos. Those are fair arguments, but they have nothing to do with the content of the photos.

We are being naïve if we think aesthetics do not play an important role in the way photojournalists tell a story. We are not walking photocopiers. We are storytellers.  We observe, we chose moments, we frame little slices of our world with our viewfinders, we even decide how much or how little light will illuminate our subjects, and — yes — we choose what equipment to use. Through all of these decisions, we shape the way a story is told.

Let’s look at how the images have been processed by the application. This is not a case of taking an image and applying a chosen filter later. A photo is taken and then you must wait up to 10 seconds, while the image is processed, before you can take the next one. In processing, every image receives what seems to be a pretty similar treatment: a color balance shift, the burning of predetermined areas of the frame and increased contrast.

These are all fairly standard parameters in Photoshop. And they can be done on a color enlarger. The problem people have with an app, I believe, is that a computer program is imposing the parameters, not the photographer.

“No content has been added, taken away, obscured or altered. These are remarkably straightforward and simple images.” — Damon Winter But I don’t see how this is so terribly different from choosing a camera (like a Holga) or a film type or a processing method that has a unique but consistent and predictable outcome or cross-processing or using a color balance not intended for the lighting conditions (tungsten in daylight or daylight in fluorescent, using the cloudy setting to warm up a scene).

(click here to continue reading Through My Eye, Not Hipstamatic’s: Damon Winter Discusses the Use of an App –

I’m of the firm opinion is that what matters is the artist, not the tool the artist chooses to use, or use incorrectly, or even ignore. Critics have a right to their opinions, but complaining about the tools the artist uses is a weak, meritless criticism.

Full disclosure: I love Hipstamatic, and have taken hundreds of photos ((if not more. 546 have been uploaded to Flickr, so I’m probably in the thousands by now)) with the photo app.


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