the photoshooter's journey from taking to making




I HAVE CARPED PREVIOUSLY (AND MAY WELL AGAIN) over the fact that cell phone photo apps are, at once, a spark for creative manipulation and, ironically, the kiss of death for pictorial quality. Fer shur, apps giveth the chance to carry a photo lab, with all its flexibility and instant gratification, in your pocket, and that’s truly exciting. However, the same apps also taketh away sharpness, contrast and nuance. Oh, you wanted both a work of art and an image that’s visually conherent? Good luck with that. 

Digital platforms provide quick sharing for any work, but there is a price tag. Once a picture leaves its original domain, which in for the sake of argument, let’s say, is the cell phone that created it, mischief begins. The main toll your image must pony up on its way to an app, from Instagram to Twitter to thousands of others, is compression, which removes data from the original in order to squeeeeeeze it along on its virtual way. Problem is, the same toll is collected again when the app sends the modified file back to Facebook, Reddit, and so forth, and collected at least a third time if the result is so compelling that you elect to share it back out to other apps or friends. The result is like the old office memo that was Xeroxed from a Xerox of a Xerox. In other woids, gobbidge. 



When Time Itself Exploded (2017)

Let’s look at a test case: in the above image, the master shot was of an ornate Art Deo-era door grate which I snapped via phone in a museum. The original was sent to the Hipstamatic app for color modification and contrast adjustment. That second version was then shoved through Tiny Planet Pro to produce the spiraling effect, then shared back to my Phone, then sent out to Facebook, and back from there to this platform, WordPress. The final result was a bit like starting out a race with a thoroughbred horse and limping across the Finish line with a legless hamster. 

One of the more obvious by-products of all this bouncing and slicing is that the color shift in the image is violently out of control, as if the blank wall that originally served as the photo’s background has been replaced by a psychedelic lab slide of angry protozoa. If that was what I had been going for, mission accomplished. Photography is rife with works that were deliberately degraded for effect. But here, all my choices have been degraded without my permish, leaving me totally at the mercy of whatever penalty the various apps have exacted in order to perform their various parlour tricks. Someday this may no longer be the case; however, for the time being, it’s a pricey tradeoff for the photographer. I made something that made you want to see, but I hate how it looks



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