Passport to My Neighborhood — Relations between Fine Art Photography and Mobile Photography

When one views traditional fine art photography, there is a specific style and subject matter that has changed very little since the origins of the medium. However with the introduction of mobile photography, the traditional genre of fine art photography, has been virtually abandoned do to the lack of education. 

Though mobile photography has and continues to contribute to the medium significantly, it also has failed traditional fine art photography, at the same time, traditional fine art photographers have also failed by not embracing the new mobile technology.

It seems foolish that the ‘old school thinking’ traditionalists seem set on continuing to use either film or digital DSLR without exploring the flexibility that mobile devices offer, despite the lack of high end resolution and not being to shoot using RAW file format. As the years continue and transform into decades, a large gap reflecting traditional fine art style and subject matter that will have been lost, will only leave a blank in our future collective consciousness. 

It is not that there are at least a few mobile photographers who not only explore the new medium and contribute to its advancement as a new art form, but also continue to add to the tradition of ‘fine art’ photography by using their mobile devices. 

Jonathan, Samuel in the Kitchen with Herbe, San Francisco - 2015

So what is ‘traditional fine art’ photography ? Over the decades the only real change has been how we interpret and process ‘traditional photography,’ while the subject matter has remained unchanged.

At first glimpse there appears little difference to an untrained eye between fine art and mobile photography, but there are significant differences. It may not appear so when looking at this picture of two people and a dog in their kitchen, captured on the spur of the moment with a mobile, as it appears as nothing more than a ‘snapshot’ and not a traditional fine art photo. Yet even my friend stopping off at a fast food drive-in qualifies as a traditional fine art photograph.

Monica at the Fast Food Drive-In, San Francisco - 2015

It lies not only in how the scene was rendered and then treated in post process, but what the scene represents and says about our lives today. There is also a visual language, a poetry about fine art photography that comes through the majority of the photographs, in how one treats the subject matter.

Sea Gull, Mare Island, Vallejo - 2015

The death of a sea gull treated artistically and with reverence becomes not just a graceful photo, it also becomes elegiac in an idyllic way. Though there is nothing romantic about death, yet the morning dew lingering upon on the feathers like translucent pears until the sun rises over the obstruction that covers the bird in shade and between the natural recline of the bird amidst the wooden pieces and the photographers composition, makes this a classic fine art photograph.

Intersection Cesar Chavez St and 3rd St, San Francisco - 2015

A favorite traditional fine art subject matter are structures, buildings against the vast lonely and cold emptiness, especially abandoned iconic structures that are slowly reclaimed by natures elements, balancing memory and the romance of the past with the current condition of the scene.  

The Garage Workshop, Pescadero - 2012

Urban or rural landscapes in traditional fine art images are mostly void of any human inhabitance, juxtaposed against other structures or empty spaces, while reminiscing what possible stories these places could tell.

Traditional fine art photography has been primarily Black/White due to the esthetics of the medium, while color has successfully managed to get a good foothold, in part because of a print process known as Cibachrome in the mid 1970s, which gave color prints a little punch of vivid saturation. 

Rusted Metal Door, San Francisco Dry Docks - 2015

Abstract Metal Patterns, San Francisco Dry Docks - 2015

The relationship the viewer has with a color photograph and that with a Black/White one, are two extremes, as color provides an emotional response and a Black/White image causes the viewer to contemplate what is being viewed. Another aspect of fine art color photography is one were natural or vivid colors have been reduced and softened to appear like pastels tones, ensuring a more emotional response that evokes a personal memory.

Asian Man, San Francisco Chinatown - 2013

Street photography is a field all it’s own and not all street captured images are automatically considered traditional fine art, as photographs have certain elements ranging from snapshots to social documentary. Similar to the first two photographs representing slices of our daily lives.

Man with Beer Can, San Francisco Tenderloin - 2012

Mobile photography has certainly shaken up traditional fine art photography, as well as photography in general. While I  have nothing against the many divisions and variations of mobile photography as an artistic medium, I am simple concerned that by mobile users not embracing any aspect of traditional fine art photography or for fine art photographers not including a mobile device as part of their tools, traditional fine art photography cannot really advance as an art form.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 5S or 4S
©2015 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


Searching for Answers and Meaning on Mobile Photography

The last six to eight weeks I have been reading on the subject of photography, considering I have started to question the future of photography and especially mobile photography and what it represents as a whole as a photographic medium.

While many recently published books on photography finally addressing the time period between 2000 to 2005, I have yet to come across a book dealing with mobile photography, other then just being an artists’ picture book or ‘How To’ manipulate mobile images. Even photographic magazines have not addressed mobile photography impact on social, political or anthropological issues or the general influences of mobile photography on photography as a medium.

Yes, these are academic questions and concerns which the greater majority of photographers are not interested in learning about or even discussing, but I find that mobile photography is having a major impact on our daily lives, that we need to have this discussion. We especially need to discuss mobile photography as a medium and the various directions it is taking on as an artistic platform, in order to properly educate individuals interested in using mobile as a personal artistic form of expressing a though or an idea.

Currently mobile photography is more than just a way to capture something one sees, for it is not only a still camera, it is also a video camera, but it does not end there, especially since one is able to alter digitally either form into a personal expression of art. 

Like all forms of art, mobile photography has not been defined or categorized into the various artistic mediums, as most mobile photographers blindly lunge forward having no idea as to the foundation and fundamentals of a specific diversion of the photographic medium. 

Mobile photography is ground braking in so many ways it can easily compare to one of the greatest upsets in paintings history, when Impressionists took on the establishment and altered our perception of the medium and from that point on opened up an entire artistic revolution that continued into the 1950s.

We are now revolutionising photography as a medium, branching off into various groups with no real consensus, especially whether an altered photograph is still a photograph or becomes a collage, or even a multi-medium art form.

At the moment I am only raising questions, while I search through the many layers of history and opinions on photography in general, therefore not offering any answers. Even if I produce in the near future some of my findings as possible answers, they are only opinions, since no discussions have taken place with other individuals interested in establishing guidelines for mobile future and a genuine foundation on which one can build on and thereby securing mobile art as a true and viable artistic medium.

For now I remain singular in my quest but I sincerely hope that very soon others will begin to question mobile photography and it’s relationship with fine art photography, including that as a social medium.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 5S
©2015 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


The American Flag Project

Like all projects, they are born from an idea, allowed to percolate a little, then given enough time to build over months and even years, so it is with the American flag. 

Though I am not a citizen of the United States, I have adopted this nation and cared for the direction it is heading. While I cannot vote, I still participated in political issues and grass roots campaigns. This connection has also caused me to feel something for the American flag, including the men and women serving in the military on behalf of the people of this country.

Back in 2008 I began collecting American flags with the intention of using them in the development as art. That very same year, I mounted the red, white and blue flag on canvas, painting over it and adding political statements made by then President Bush. A short time later, I came across a building by the railroad tracks in Berkeley, California, displaying a huge American flag. 

Berkeley, California — Sony camera

I was emotionally compelled to take a photograph, just like I was this last Thursday, while on board a vessel, the USS LCS (L) (3) 102 “Mighty Midget” docked at Mare Island Naval shipyard, Vallejo, California.

That day I was with a few friends on a photo outing, exploring this former military base, when we came across the Landing Craft Services “Mighty Midget” vessel.  After boarding her, we met a number of ‘old timers’ who volunteered restoring the last remaining USS LCS and sharing her most interesting history with us. 

Unknown volunteer aboard the USS LCS (L) (3) 102 “Mighty Midget” 

Three of the volunteers sat, resting and having their lunch in the enlisted men’s dinning room, where was hung a large American flag. While trying to position myself in order to photograph the flag, we all engaged in conversation and the three men shared with me a few more tales, when the discussion came around to the American flag, that I told them about my project. 

Taking only one exposure to simply record the setting, it was not until viewing the photograph on the laptop that I was pleased with the results. I now had image two for my American flag series.

I remain very optimistic that over the next several years, I shall have the opportunity to photograph other American flags in unique and interesting settings.


USS LCS (L) (3) 102 Mighty Midgetwebsite

All photographs taken with an iPhone 5S unless otherwise noted
©2015 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

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