This article is written by Josh White, a street photographer that has traveled throughout Korea, Japan, and Canada. You can follow his blog here.
Josh: Photographic purists, especially ones of the docu/street genre will often argue that photography is a process. They will argue that photography should all be taken seriously and photographs should be left to permeate. They will argue that film photography is good for the up and coming photographer as it teaches patience and discipline. We are more likely to like the photographs taken more recently.
While I believe all this to be somewhat true, photographer’s itch. We itch to take photographs and to look at them. We itch to share them and get feedback. In this world of instant gratification and constant boredom patience doesn’t always come easily.
This feeling recently befell me. I have been working slowly on a film project since late last year. It’s a process, but I still feel the urge to shoot. I feel the urge to take photographs and share them. I need to to keep the creative juices flowing. Looking at negatives and letting files stew as if they are some kind of french alcoholic fruit beverage is hard for me. I appreciate the process, but I need something to scratch the itch.
Enter mobile photography. For purists, perhaps mobile photography is a fad in the way lomography once was (and still is depending on who you ask). Maybe this is true, but what it does for me is allows me to keep shooting and keep posting even when working on something “more serious.” I don’t do well with idle, nor do a lot of people.
Take last Sunday for example. Scheduled to get tattooed, I knew I was in for a monster session. Being Easter Sunday, not a single one of my friends was available to “document” the completion of what had been a very long and intense process for me. This is besides the fact that I was going to have to spend 10 hours in a chair with nothing to do other than endure pain.
The above photo is of the wording as my artist prepared it by hand. It’s not a font but his own free hand.
Translated it means, “The war is at its height — wear my armor and beat my war drums. Do not announce my death.“
It’s a quote from Yi Sun-Sin, a Korean Admiral whom is responsible for much of the build and design of the Turtle Ship. The words came minutes before his death in a 1598 battle with the Japanese. His nephew wore his armor for the remainder of the battle.
This is where mobile photography makes sense to me. Yes, it allows me to scratch the photographic itch in between projects but it is also an excellent documentative vessel. The library on my mobile phone reads like a diary, for better or worse. I don’t delete things from it anymore.
I asked my tattoo artist, Brad, why these drawings were on the wall. He said he draws in his free time to keep stimulated. He said he doodles everywhere and nearly all the time. Strangely ironic considering how I felt. It made sense though, that’s what taking pictures with a point and shoot or mobile phone does for me.
It’s an interesting thing. Up until the last year the only purpose my cell phone camera served to me would be on a “just in case” basis. Maybe if I was walking to the shops and the perfect photo presented itself I’d have my phone there and wouldn’t miss it. I think what I was actually missing was the point.
On a day like this particular Sunday I would have not photographed it. Why do it if I couldn’t do it the “proper” way? It’s bullocks. In the end, we all started taking photographs because we wanted to preserve moments. Street photographers often spend their time preserving the moments of others but rarely have much of their own story left over for themselves. At least not in photographs.
I guess you could say mobile photography has given me two things.
First, it’s allows me to keep busy and keep shooting. Sure, I don’t take it as seriously but I suppose that is the point. Communities like Instagram and Eyeem are not entirely meant to provoke as they are to enjoy. I took these photos all on my phone, edited, and then added them to a WordPress post all before I got out of the chair.
The second thing it does is allows me to document. I spend most of my “photographic” hours documenting other people and things. Sure, they are the way I see them but it’s still ambiguous. It’s projection. Here, these photos will bring me back to this day in a year, or ten years, and I’ll be able to see again what I saw. The details. The feeling.
In a lot of ways its a far more personal venture. It’s my life and the people in it. While I may never work for Magnum and have my photography mean a lot to a lot of people these photos will always mean something to me.
The moral of the story is to just take photos. If you love to do it, do it. If you want to post, post! It will keep your creative mind busy and allow you to keep shooting even if you feel you need a break from real photography.
When it’s all said and done they may very well be the photos you were most happy you took.
Special thanks to Soul Train Tattoo Toronto artist Brad Aum for allowing me to photograph him while he worked and post the photos.