The best camera is the one you have with you. True words indeed. Variations on a theme. Jay Maisel always says it’s tough to take a picture if you don’t carry a camera with you. Now Jay sports a D3, but Chase Jarvis has just elevated the Iphone camera to legitimacy with this new book. The camera’s quiet and cool, and doesn’t intrude. It is barely noticeable in the act of photography, but it is a formidable recording device, as he shows.
This book is sleek, small and well designed, not unlike the machine that made the pictures. Combine those qualities with Chase’s eye, and well, there you go. The other thing that ramps up here for me is kind of a quiet, heretofore inside thought I have thunk on occasion, which is, when I have a camera on my shoulder, I feel, you know, dangerous. I’ve got a camera, I can see, I know how to work it, and well, let’s just have a look at things. The act of making pictures can be considered inherently subversive, obviously. Why do you think there are lots of people who have jobs specifically designed to control us? Control where we stand, what we shoot, and how what we shoot gets used, where it goes, and how it is displayed. I mean there are cadres of folks out there just waiting to say, “No.” The people who are just so willing to put a velvet rope around the sense of possibility and imagination. Plus they’re generally kinda cranky. Maybe their shorts are too tight.
Okay, so I was raised Irish Catholic and I’ve got authority issues. Photography can be wonderful, friendly, healing, easy going, and enjoyable. It can be a window or a mirror, to borrow some words from my old managing editor at LIFE, Dan Okrent. But what a camera sees can also be really truthful and incisive. Clear headed. A camera can actually show us stuff. Imagine that! But hey, wait a minute, we can’t just have a bunch of people with cameras running around here!
Well, hate to clue you in Mr. You-Can’t-Stand-Here, but we do. It’s interesting to me. I have walked down corridors and paths in out of the way corners of the world with a 35mm camera or DSLR slung and it can feel like you’re walking around with the UCLA marching band on your hip. I mean, it’s an announcement, you know? “Hear ye, hear ye! Pictures are about to me made!” Sheesh. Part of the art of this is to segue, you know, slip and slide, see moments and instead of trampling them, kind of sidle up to them, quietly.
I guess it’s a variation on that old joke about the old bull and the young bull up on the ridge, looking at a whole valley full of cows. The youngster can barely contain himself. “Let’s run down there and nail one of ‘em!” he says to his elder. Who just smiles and says, “How ’bout we just walk down there?” Knowing wink. “We’ll nail ‘em all.”
Not that announcements are a bad thing always. David Turnley, an incredibly fine shooter who spent numerous years documenting apartheid in South Africa, was on assignment in Harlem, USA, for the Day in the Life of America book project in the very early 80’s. He walked into a pretty tough looking bar, and of course, he was an outsider. A white outsider to boot. He walked up to the bar tender and respectfully introduced himself and the book project and said he’d like to spend some time in the bar shooting pictures. The bar tender evidently nodded, and in a large voice announced to everyone, “This here fella’s gonna shoot some pictures. Anybody don’t like it can get the fuck out!”
It’d be nice to have someone around like that all the time.
I digress. I think what I’m getting at is that Chase has taken this camera, with its’ still nascent technology, combined it with a cool app (kind of home turf for the Iphone and many folks who use it) and also extended its’ reach to ink on paper. Everybody’s talking about convergence nowadays, and here’s a very cool, accessible example. It also gave me, along the lines of David Hobby’s recently voiced sentiments, one of those “coulda had a V-8″ moments. Christ. I mean I’m having giggles with my Iphone downloading things like Atomic Fart, and here Chase goes and builds his own app.
It pleases me no end to think of Chase roaming airports and such, and interpreting stuff people walk on, over and around into graphically striking photos. Iphone in hand, he sidles up to the heretofore unseen. Often the scene or moment is quiet, and via the Iphone, it is quietly observed. It is also pleasing to think of the combo punch of this accessible, almost invisible piece of hardware with a lens plunked into it and the potential it has for recording, interpreting, and taking in the world around us. Then launching and sharing those visual missives instantly. An updated wrinkle for the visual community. Another possibility. For me, it is doubly pleasing to think there might be some folks annoyed by this.
Photographers. Despite efforts to corral us and tell us what to do, we refuse to listen. We’re like a nerf ball. Squeeze us one way, we splurge out another. Be it the Iphone, the D3, the Red Camera, the point and shoot…..the urge is upon us all to visually record our life and times. Visual passion. Knowing. Seeing. Point, shoot, breathe.
Or maybe look hip. Below my daughter Claire shot dad on recent shopping trip. It was the only way she could think of me not looking tragically flawed. (How do people work in those A&F stores? I spent 15 minutes in there and had acoustic whiplash for the rest of the day.)
This guy Chase, man, he’s good. We’re friends, and respect each other a great deal. When I spoofed him a bit in a video not too long ago, he laughed a lot and in an email called me a “mad bastard.” Well, back to ya, man. Typically, he not only shot these for himself, but with the book and technology, he opens a door for all of us to take a ride. Good onya.
Check out his new book here.
Damn this guy, though. Here I’ve been happy shooting 2-4 Iphone pictures a day. Shit. I’m gonna have to go to 5-10:-) More tk…