eXtensions - Sunday 5 August 2018
Wim Wenders iPhone Photography Frustrations: Have Faith, Trust the Device and its Users
By Graham K. Rogers
The comments were in a BBC video connected with an exhibition of Wim Wenders Polaroid photographs and I was able to read (and see the video) a report on PetaPixel (Michael Zhang). I also take the view that more people are taking pictures these days, but do not accept that they (we) are not looking at them.
Part depends on the intent of the user. And while this may initially be a teen's desire to snap food shots, funny little dogs and selfies, this is perhaps a blossoming of a potential artist. The ease of using the medium has brought about a snap-happy generation, yet some of these are also buying cameras like the Polaroid system that allow them to print out their shots and hand them to friends at the time of an event.
Apple World Gallery - Bangkok Displays 2016
Image taken on iPhone X
New devices have seen a tempest of apps (for good and bad). Many photo apps are concerned with input and editing photographs on the device, but some apps focus on output media. Two that spring to mind are Snaptee and Printastic. The former allows an iPhone image to be used for a teeshirt which is sent to the customer when printed (not silk screen). Printastic is one of several apps that produces books from users' photographs.
I have had several teeshirts made by Snaptee and several books from Printastic have been delivered to my mother and other members of my family in the UK, with the entire transaction, including payments completed on the iPhone. We may not print our photographs these days, because we just do not need to.
Perhaps because of the wide availability of such output options, Apple has recently ended its book printing service from Photos. This was only available in a small selection of countries (certainly not here) and users have discovered alternatives.
When I was a kid I had tiny plastic cameras and a Box Brownie: nowhere near the quality of the Leica and Hasselblad cameras available then (and now, still) but my output as a pre-teen was no less valid, even if the subject quality left a lot to be desired.
The move to digital cameras was a godsend for me as I could reduce costs: no more wasted film, just deleted bytes. The evolution of the smartphone camera has been every bit as important as the arrival of the Box Brownie (and the cartridge cameras of the 1970s) bringing photography - and despite Wim Wenders' doubts, I do call it that - to a wider and younger range of people.
Yet, this democratization and ease of use has had many people rethinking what photography is. This may be part of the video appeal from Wenders: trying to understand the direction, which is so wide that he wants a new name for the phenomenon. My use of the iPhone camera has led me to seek out scores of apps, especially those with unique features, and those that produce RAW output. Several of these RAW-capable apps have been developed by those with a keen interest in (and knowledge of) photography. These led me also back to film photography and the purchase of a medium format camera.
While my DSLR use decreased as I used iPhones more, apart from special events, a new camera has regenerated my enthusiasm there. I notice too that many young people are now walking round with Mirrorless and DSLR cameras, so presumably their interests have evolved.
I am currently examining the possibility of a Leica or other 35mm device (Olympus OM1, Nikon FM) to expand my use of film. I notice that here too, many more people have become interested in film as a medium and this extends to younger people as well. A few months ago in a Bangkok mall, I watched a teen buy a Leica M6 after some face to face negotiations and understood that the world of photography was still safe. I speculate that his first investigations were by way of the smartphone.
While I am certainly not (not yet) able to produce the high quality images that my Nikon D850 can produce, the iPhone can produce far better photographs than my earliest digital cameras could. The lenses are also far superior to those plastic ones in my tiny cameras of the 1960s.
Image taken on iPhone X Using RAW
What comes through, more in the video than the text is Wenders frustration at the universality of the smartphone as a camera. I take an entirely opposite view and see this as the cultural starting point. Photography is not dead; it has evolved. If it did not we would still be using glass plates and only a handful of people would be taking pictures.
Have faith: despite the millions of images being produced daily, some of those younger users seek to produce better output: first with the smartphone and then by investigating other forms of output.
Printed iPhone output on my office wall
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
For further information, e-mail to
Back to Home Page