The Smartphone Aesthetic


pertaining to a sense of the beautiful or to the philosophy of aesthetics.
of or pertaining to the study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty; of or relating to the science of aesthetics.
having a sense of the beautiful; characterized by a love of beauty.
pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality.

the philosophical theory or set of principles governing the idea of beauty at a given time and place: the clean lines, bare surfaces, and sense of space that bespeak the machine-age aesthetic; the Cubist aesthetic.
Archaic. the study of the nature of sensation.

I've started (yet) another group on Google+

The Smartphone Aesthetic
The ART of point and shoot using Smartphones, Mirrorless and Compact cameras. For photographers who value their images more than their gear.  

So what is this somewhat pretentiously titled group all about?

It's obvious to everyone who spends time sampling it, that the photographic internet is predominantly about photographic gear and it's ownership. It should be about taking, making and creating worthwhile images that mean something to somebody, but it's not. It's subdivided into types of camera gear, brands of camera gear and classes of camera gear, in much the same way that rigid sub-genres have taken much of the interest out of modern music, it could be argued that it's sapping the life blood from photography itself. It unfortunately also goes hand in hand with a lecturing style of writing that attempts to exploit and exaggerate these divisions, often for commercial considerations. 

Too often, the discussions in this photographic internet are about things that don't really matter - DSLR 'versus' Mirrorless, Canon 'versus' Nikon, 'Full-Frame' 'versus' APS-C and Smartphones 'versus' everything else. And yes I've been just as guilty as others in perpetuating this by writing about the differences in picture making devices as if it meant something or was in fact important. When in fact the cameras / picture making gear that we use should be one of the least important part of the process of creating two-dimensional images. 

At the same time as we endlessly bicker about which system is 'better' the rest of the world just gets on with taking pictures and sharing them and these days that usually involves a smart phone or a camera phone or phone camera or whatever else we call these multi communication devices we all carry around with us. 

Added to this partisan photo buffery, which takes us as a group of nerd like gearheads even further away from the photographic evolution that is going on around us, is the nature of digital photography itself. Film and the chemical production of photographs had it's disadvantages in terms of convenience, pollution and the time taken to see what we captured when we pressed the shutter, but it also seemed to have a lot less predictability about the results and was much less concerned about the means of producing images than the images themselves. 

As a general rule film images also looked different. The somewhat 'sanitised' look that digital sensors produce is often a marvel of technological achievement, but unless significant editing is performed can appear somewhat soul less. Some think the answer to that is 'Lomography' Holgas, Lens Babies and the like, but that's as much as a creative cul-de-sac as obsessing about pixel counts, sensor sizes and high ISO performance. 

In the meantime, creeping up on us unobserved is the smart phone revolution. Phones that have cameras in them that seemingly are very restrictive. They mostly have fixed lenses, fixed apertures and very limited functionality. They are in fact pretty much point and shoot devices only and intended to be so. However since using my phones to create photographs I've found that lack of options incredibly liberating and have reconnected with a desire for experimentation I thought I'd lost. It has also moved the creative emphasis of what I do from the means of photographic image production to the images themselves.  

By using a fixed lens, fixed aperture camera I have somewhat surprisingly stumbled into a way of making pictures that is in fact more and not less creative and interesting to me as a photographer. And while I make no claims about the technical abilities of these cameras, the simple fact is that I seem to be creating more worthwhile pictures with them.

The sub-heading of this new group is 'The ART of point and shoot' and that's the essence of what this is all about. The Smartphone Aesthetic is about forgetting about the gear I use and concentrating on composing the image I want and pressing the shutter to capture that image at the right time and in the right place. And for me that's the fundamental reason to own a camera and create an image. Smartphones, with their lack of options frees me up to do what I do best, see things that I think will look interesting in a rectangle viewed on a page or a screen and capture them. 

And of course the simple fact is that you don't in fact need a Smart Phone to do that. Any modern camera is capable of being used as a point and shoot life scanner or image grabber. I / We don't have to explore all the options outlined in the copious instruction manuals that come with our technological wonders and to that end if you feel you would like to join the group and post pictures then you can do so with any camera. And if you don't want to say what camera or picture taking device you used then that's fine as well. Because I'm trying to create a little corner of the photographic internet where the camera or lens you used doesn't matter, but the content of the images means something to you, the photographer.

I may get no takers, but I live in hope that there are other like minded snappers out there who do care more about the pictures they create than the brand name on their camera strap. 

So if this makes any sense to you and you have a similar attitude and approach to myself then please come and join me in a small oasis of analogue sensibility in an ever increasing photographic desert of digital anonymity. 

The Smartphone Aesthetic Community on Google+ 

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