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a phone. a camera. a book. an app.

Sep 29

In Books, Friends at 1:12pm

chase

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.)

dad

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…

27 Responses to “a phone. a camera. a book. an app.”

Mark says:

on September 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Beautiful post, Joe.

Rusty Bryant says:

on September 29, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Great blog Joe. I have been following you for about 3 months and Chase for about 1. I was hoping you would have came out with an app like this before him, but oh well. I love his app and will hopefully get the book soon, after I buy yours first. lol

Keep the blogs coming! I love reading them!!!

graham mcbride says:

on September 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Nice post Joe, so now that you my fun of him with the movie, you should make an app? Its competition TIME lol

Maik Dobiey says:

on September 29, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Convergence…
Instead of putting a camera in a cellphone why not a cellphone in the camera? Imagine answering your phones with your D3 :-D

david barrack says:

on September 29, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Check out CNNs just released iReport app. Take a photo with your iPhone and send to CNN with commentary with a click for possible inclusion on the web or for broadcast. Novel is mainstream awefully fast.

Richard says:

on September 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for the message in that bull and cows in the valley parable… no wonder I’ve been alone for 6 years.

tom aellis says:

on September 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Aw, but here is the thing Mr. Mad Bastard….

I think it is bang on awesome that we have all this techie gear to make photographs with, truly I do. But during a presentation I gave in my class I had to ask a hard question. One that has been troubling me for a long time.

We were asked to bring in the “oldest” family pictures we could find. (Art History Class). Me with no family that goes back that far I displayed a picture of Marlon Brando as the Don. Makes sense right? Anywho… I’m the oldest one in my class, amount 17 and 18 year old future citizens and when I was done I asked them who prints there pictures? Only 2 out of about 30 raised their hands.

I asked them to think about their kids when they have this project and would it be a good idea just to stop off the local CVS and put you card into the machine and make prints just to keep in a box somewhere.

I really kinda worry about this. Then again, I have no life.
Best and hugz…

Ranger 9 says:

on September 29, 2009 at 4:05 pm

“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…”

…and then set up a whole bunch of SB-900s, Tri-Grips, C-stands… >:-)

Ida Gamban says:

on September 29, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Great post, Joe.

Torsten Rehn says:

on September 29, 2009 at 7:07 pm

So I take it the “Two Times Better Than Yours” camera app is already in the making?

Annemarie Mountz says:

on September 29, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Joe, your posts are both incredibly entertaining and dead-on accurate in capturing the heart of photographers. “…the urge is upon us all to visually record our life and times.” Although for better or worse (most likely worse) my full-time professional photog days are long behind me, I still am one at heart. (I am reminded every day when I see my good friend who is a quickly rising, highly talented photog of what I might have become, if not for some twists and turns of fate.) Once again with this post you perfectly articulated the passion and compulsion we photographers feel to document our lives, whether or not we earn our living doing it. Thank you.

Mike Neale says:

on September 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Joe & Photography have taught me the secret to “Eternal Happiness”,…which is:

“Life is merely a series on moments,…Good ones and Bad. You hang on Good ones,…and let go of the Bad ones,…and you’ll always be happy! Pretty cool, huh?

Thanks Joe,….;-)

Marshal says:

on September 29, 2009 at 11:27 pm

“The best camera…”

How very true!

Doorgunner says:

on September 30, 2009 at 4:42 am

Joe, It was nice to see you in the wide variety of protestors at the G-20, as you protested against low pixel cameras and on camera lighting, but I think you got lost in the crowd. I was there and know you didn’t have the perfect light. Next time dress it up a bit with a “Sports Shooter” bandana over your face so no one notices you. The 30-foot poster about “meta-data freedom” was lost on most photogs because everyone was looking at all your models as they carried their banner against “Low Pixels kill the Earth”.
I don’t know how you can be everywhere all the time, but I do know from talking to the cops, they are looking at you for being responsible for better lighting and technic..
:), a friend

Charlie Flynn says:

on September 30, 2009 at 10:18 am

Joe,
If we allow the “No” sayers to continue to prevent us from taking pictures we will not have a photographic record of the 21st Century. Where would we be without the photos from the 18th, 19th, and 20th Century. Were model releases produced for every picture of the Civil War, WWI, WW II, Korea, & Vietnam? World history and civilization as we know it has benefited greatly from the skills of thousand of photographers.
CF

Chase Jarvis says:

on September 30, 2009 at 11:17 am

thanks for an awesome post, joe. you always inspire and i’m humbled to make a cameo in your post. we’re all learning from you all the time, buddy…

looking forward to making a video together where we both get run over … ;)

Andy Quadra says:

on September 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm

it has become my fav camera app- nice Joe!

Charlie Flynn says:

on September 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm

OK, 19th Century-1838 or 1839. Louis Daguerre.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Daguerre

Shoot me for 38 years.

WPclassifieds.net says:

on September 30, 2009 at 2:32 pm

We were asked to bring in the “oldest” family pictures we could find. (Art History Class). Me with no family that goes back that far I displayed a picture of Marlon Brando as the Don. Makes sense right? Anywho… I’m the oldest one in my class, amount 17 and 18 year old future citizens and when I was done I asked them who prints there pictures? Only 2 out of about 30 raised their hands.

Mary says:

on September 30, 2009 at 2:33 pm

“acoustic whiplash for the rest of the day”

ROFLMAO!!!!!!!

:)

JM says:

on September 30, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I’m sure Chase is a wonderful person and a fine photographer. However, I’m sick and tired of Chase, the stinkin’ iPhone, and all the apps and how wonderful it is! As a very large shareholder in Apple (since 1987) I and my retirement plan THANK YOU if you own an iPhone and some paid-for apps; even though I still prefer to use my Blackberry .
But, enough already! Let’s get back to making pictures!

John Batdorff says:

on September 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Great post…The app is a ton of fun to use and has really opened my eyes.

André Weigel says:

on October 1, 2009 at 10:29 am

I like to making images, i like the iPhone and the application too. I think, a perfect combination for pretty nice results… :-)

Ben Van Hook says:

on October 1, 2009 at 10:34 pm

joe,
i sympathize with you, since this app came out i’m shooting more stuff with my
phone than any camera i own..when i saw chase’s stuff i was shamed into stepping it up a couple o’ notches via iphone. c’mon, get your iphone out joe..we can “nail ‘em all”..
there’s a dr. pepper in it for you!

Sanford says:

on October 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Great post. There are only a few blogs I keep up with, This one of course, Chase’s and of course the Strobist. Chase is a great visionary as well as Joe. The Iphone is very cool I can’t wait until us Verizon people can step up to the plate. Thanks Joe and Chase for being the givers you are, it is making photography better.

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