Photography is photography. Whether it is an expensive digital camera, a daguerreotype or an iPhone, it’s what and how the photographer sees. Not what the photographer uses. And it doesn’t matter how an image is captured—the important thing is what is captured.
We discovered the joy of using applications such as Hipstamatic and Instagram while on assignment in Nepal documenting water rights. It began on an Amtrak to Chicago for our flight and continued throughout our trip. Sometimes we grappled with the merits of using a camera phone over our "real" cameras. Yes, it is easier to pull a camera from our pocket and "shoot from the hip." And yes, we are limited to how the camera applies the settings that we choose to the light, shadows and color. But the spontaneity of documenting with a smartphone was freeing and non-invasive. It’s street photography for the 21st century. And some beautiful images can be made with it.
We do not need to explain why a phone is non-invasive. Nearly everyone has one and it is as commonplace as umbrellas during the wet season in Nepal. Phones are now an extension of who we are. And when we weren’t focusing on telling our story with specific subjects, our phones became our go-to for documenting life.
It’s freeing because one obstacle we faced as two visual journalists working together was that most often we were experiencing the same situations visually, although subjectively, and we were conscious of interfering with each others compositions and work styles. The phone eliminated that to a degree and neither of us really knew when the other was making an image. You lift the phone, frame, and move on. Discreet and instantaneous.
Presented here is a collection of our work side by side. Most of them are street scenes that highlight life in Nepal, though not necessarily about water rights.
We chose to present them side-by-side to recognize our shared experience, yet prove that whether it’s through a DSLR camera or smartphone, a photograph is made by the relationship between the photographer and the subject matter and not the device.
View a responsive version of this slideshow here.