When NYT photog Damon Winter went to northern Afghanistan to catalog the efforts of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division, he took all the fancy camera equipment you would expect. He’d shoot video of firefights with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, sure. But he also grabbed still photos using Hipstamatic, an app that lets you choose among a huge selection of filters…
As he notes, this isn’t the first time a Hipstamatic photograph has been published by a major publication. The publishing of such photos is significant for the following reasons:
- It’s not the gear you have, it’s the gear you have at the time.
- Editorializing/editing of photos for publication
Chase Jarvis preaches that The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You. Sure, you can lug two Canon 5Ds, one with a 35mm prime and another with a 28-200mm 2.8 zoom, and with that weight you’re going to get quality shots. But the iPhone (and other cell phone cameras) with various apps for editing and processing photos, is making the investment in gear moot. In the case of war photography, the thought of a photographer following a platoon with only an iPhone seems comical, however, in a connected era, telling the story as it happens or as soon as it happens becomes paramount. The work flow–take picture, edit as needed, upload to photo desk–to do this now can happen in minutes. Photographers of the Civil War didn’t have that work flow capability.
The instant work flow, coupled with the photo editing apps in an iPhone, a photographer can file a photo that has a distinct, editorial feel. Photographers who know their craft can capture photos in camera without any editing, but normally, photos edited beyond basic cropping and dodging and burning receive the note “photo illustration.” So what’s being illustrated? The story or what photographer or the editor wants the story to be or the reader to feel? This is a tricky line, a line that photojournalism has always run against. Photography is an art to evoke feeling, and photojournalism is an art to capture events to evoke feeling. As one Gizmodo commenter, OrtizDupri, states,
I can guarantee you, nothing I saw in my 16 months in Iraq looked like the view through a Lomo or Holga camera. The reality of war isn’t meant to be vintage colors and soft edges.