Directions in Mobile Photography
Recently, I entered the 6th annual Mobile Photography Awards, one of the more prestigious mobile awards contests around, and also the longest running. Each year the competition has gotten tougher, and each year the quality of imagery has improved. But this year something happened that I am not so certain I am satisfied with. It is a nagging feeling about the directions an art form can take, for better or for worse. Mobile Photography could move in many different directions. Some of these directions are better than others. Unfortunately, I see the grand prize winning images as a trend in the wrong direction. This isn’t a slight against the winner himself, nor, if anyone should think it, my being a sore loser in some way.
Maybe it isn’t that mobile photography should be ubiquitous but instead grassroots. Mobile photography has always, up until now, been ubiquitous. Certainly, the fact that a phone can find its way into the halls of the UN might symbolize the fact of its legitimacy as a camera for documenting such settings. It isn’t grassroots however. I can’t see beyond the special access to the mobile images, great as they are. While I found the images the winner produced in some cases captivating, I simultaneously felt that all I needed to win this year’s photo awards was, not a phone, but a phone and a helicopter. Perhaps I simply have to accept that sooner or later, mobile photogrography, like all other artforms, will be professionalized and then stereotyped.
The idea of the inaccessibility of these photos is the problem. Certainly, we need to know about the events of the world, but not at the cost of an art form becoming an exclusive business of journalists. The question comes to mind: would the local villager do documentary work on his or her own village? And for West World judges to view? This is a critical point, and we can’t turn our eye from it.
This year I received seven honorable mentions. I am excited by the prospect that after these several years, with competition and skill increasing among all participants, and with a wider audience of participants as the Mobile Photo Awards becomes more prestigious, that I had my best showing yet. Although I didn’t win a single category, honorable mentions in 7 of 18 categories is for me a personal win. I couldn’t be happier. I am also excited to see the very wide variety of images entered this year. There are some remarkable photographers and artists out there, as ever, pushing the limits of the art. I don’t want the work I have done in this past year (and years, as some of the entries are from years past) to go unseen. These images are some of the high points of my artistry to date. They aren’t perhaps grand prize winning images, and don’t make judges lose sleep, but I can’t help but make the statement that this art form need not, should not, should never become, an art of exclusivity.
Mobile Photography is not just journalists who happen to shoot a portion of their work among the uber rich and the extremely poor. It is also people who in their day to day, don’t have any option but to use a mobile phone and their own two feet for almost all their creative needs. That’s where I think the heart of mobile photography is. Whatever directions mobilography might take, it must remain grassroots if it is to remain creative.
My contributions to the 2016 mobile photography awards are below. I’ve separated them into five categories of work, in five separate galleries: real, abstract, leaves, fractals, & space.
Leaves of Autumn