One can fear and/or loathe technology all one wants, but that doesn't change the fact that the world has shifted at lightning-speed over even the last few years. With smart phones permeating popular culture, trickling down to virtually every American's palm, the fundamental basis of many careers has changed. Imagine reporting without the iPhone's built-in voice recorder. Recall a moment when a significant work email remained unanswered while out jogging, dining or - gasp - stuck in traffic.
For Guy Reynolds, now in his fifteenth year as Dallas Morning News Photo Editor, the technology is a double-edged sword, both revolutionary and inherently - or at least currently - limited. Reynolds' exhibition, iPhoneography: Images Around While Rock Creek Trail opened this weekend at the Bath House Cultural Center, and we caught up with the newspaper veteran to learn more about the ways professionals of his caliber have adapted to and - in some cases - rejected the idea of "iPhoneography."
Reynolds' exhibition, curated by Enrique Fernández Cervantes, stemmed from both from his lifelong passion for photography and his love of biking around the trails at White Rock. Due to the impracticality of toting a larger camera on his outings, he began shooting with his phone, utilizing the Hipstamatic application to manipulate the photos in a manner he found aesthetically pleasing. Other local photographers, Frank Lopez, for example, have discussed the technology for occasional use, expressing appreciation for its relative sophistication. We wondered if, given Reynolds' storied career as a newspaperman, the technology could be used for more than mere experimentation. Is it poised to become the most significant tool in professional photojournalism?
Reynolds is clear, however, that the photos shot for this exhibition - and most of his work with the iPhone - are for personal gratification and artistic expression; he carefully specifies that, lest one get the wrong impression, he's not "out shooting daily news assignments with a phone." However, he does think that the portability and flexibility imparted through smart phone technology is useful, in its limited degree. "A camera is simply a tool regardless of its construction; strong results come from knowing how to capture moments," he says. "And for photojournalists a phone is less conspicuous than a real camera and that can work in one's favor at times."
He's not convinced that the field has been unalterably changed by the technology - at least not yet. "I don't think phones have fundamentally changed photojournalism done by photojournalists. What they have done is made it easy for anyone to make pictures at newsworthy events and share them quickly and widely via the internet. The image may be of poor quality but at times a poor quality image is better than nothing at all."
For professionals, he considers them more of a "sometimes tool," hindered by "serious shortcomings."
They're worthless in low light situations and that's a constant obstacle. The best new digital cameras can practically make images in the dark. The built-in lens doesn't offer much flexibility. You can add some of the after market gizmos for wide angle and macro applications. The built in zoom on the phone is not an optical zoom. It really just crops into the frame with a dramatic loss of quality in the balance. The built-in flash is pretty much a joke.
These issues aren't likely insurmountable with ever-evolving technology, but as it sits, he says the technology simply isn't up to par for daily assignments. "What we have our staffers do on a breaking news situation is shoot something quickly with the phone and upload it for web use then do their real work with real tools."
Guy Reynolds' exhibition, iPhoneography: Images Along White Rock Creek Trail is on view at the Bath House Cultural Center through September 29. Visit dallasculture.org for more details.
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