My iPhone Photography Journey
nim•ble | ˈnimbəl |
adjective (nimbler, nimblest) • quick and light in movement or action; agile (of the mind) quick to comprehend.
As I sit here reminiscing about my 40-year career in photography, I can’t help well up with deep seated emotions about the journey. What a trip! It’s a dream I never imagined possible. For me, from the beginning, it was never really about having a photographic career but living a photographic life. And that is exactly what I have done – with every ounce of energy, enthusiasm and dynamism in me. Day-in, day-out. All of me.
I have two Masters Degrees. One in Instructional Design (with a concentration in Photography) from Indiana University and another in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. But neither of these formal education experiences are where I learned my photography chops. I learned photography through the school-of-hard-knocks tirelessly shooting with any camera and lens I could get my hands on, reading books, attending every workshop, seminar and conference I could afford to go to. I like to think of myself was self-taught.
I was obsessed with photography then. I’m still obsessed now.
I guess you could say that photography completes me. And connects me to life’s memories and moments in a way that I just wouldn’t have been able to do without her.
I’m a better person, lover, father, friend, citizen of planet earth…because of photography.
It’s that simple and it’s that clear to me.
I’ve been blessed to enjoy a very successful, even enviable career and life in photography. Over the past 4 decades, while journeying the highways and byways of the globe, I have photographed for some of the best, biggest and brightest clients in the Travel, Leisure, Destination and Lifestyle sectors.
I am followed by over 50k photography fans on Twitter and 8k users on Instagram, and was recently ranked in Eyefi's top 100 most socially influential photographers and in Chillisauce's top 100 travel photographers of 2015. My legacy work, "See the World”, features 30 years and 900+ DSLR images in 3 minutes.
Just when I thought I had seen enough, traveled enough, done enough, photographed enough… along came a surpassing love-affair with my iPhone camera.
Love At First Sight
It was February 2011. I was shooting some assignment, big-camera images for The Crane Resort on the island of Barbados – rooms, food, exteriors, local color, etc. While out capturing the morning sunrise, with my Canon 5D in one hand and my new iPhone 4 in the other hand, I took my very first iPhone photo. OMG. It was love at first sight. I was hooked beyond belief. This casual and accidental happening left my heart palpitating. Literally. I knew right then and there, in that very moment, that the iPhone camera would play a significant part in my future photography journey. Little did I know how significant that event would be in my photography life. Since that game-changing experience, I have used my iPhone camera to shoot over 700k iPhone images, on 8 different devices, in over 30 countries of the world. Here’s a look at an early video about that special iPhone conversion story.
The Day Steve Jobs Died - October 5, 2011
Not long after this riveting Barbados experience, I took my first iPhone-only content trip to Italy with my good friends from Filmic Pro. What was unique about this adventure is that, for the first time in my photographic career, I left my stand-alone cameras at home and only shot with my iPhone. That was to see if the iPhone camera could hold a candle, in quality and style, to the 30-year aesthetic that I developed in my Travel Photography (spoiler alert – it did!)
That memorable day, I happened to be shooting on the island of Lipari, off the coast of Sicily. Steve Jobs passing moved me, deeply. I fixated, all day long, on the influence and contributions the iPhone camera had and would have on the landscape of photography. That solemn evening, after the sun went down, and I had a chance to catch my breath, I wrote down three lessons that, to this day, still fuel and inspire my iPhone Photography efforts:
Technology is not something that we do, but something we are
The heart of iPhone photography is not technological but emotional
The iPhone isn’t just a device, but a platform and ecosystem for shooting, beautifying, and sharing photography
Enjoy this short video of my Italy travels, “Filmic Pro Presents: On The Road With Jack Hollingsworth”
Keeping Austin Weird
Like most everyone who first discovered their iPhone camera, I was app happy. I field tested almost every app I could get my hands on. In my own Austin backyard, I photo-walked and photo-wandered, every day, for months and months. I shot thousands of new iPhone photos. This Instagram video shows that, without apology, my style is understandably all over the place –straightforward photography, grunge, filters, textures, light leaks, text on photos, over-processing, the list goes on and on. But it was this intentional photography experience that, slowly but surely, helped me better understand and appreciate the transformative power of the device I carried in my pocket at all times
Developing A Photographic Approach
It wasn’t until I began commercially blogging (yes, I was paid to do both) for Camera+ and Adorama TV, that I began to see my iPhone device less like a phone and more like a camera. This is when my whole world of photography changed. It changed what I shot, when I shot, where I shot, how I shot, who I shot, even why I shot. It changed everything!
I began developing a photographic approach to my iPhone photography. That was what I knew . And that is what felt right to me.
The amazing thing about this seismic shift is that my iPhone photographs began taking on a similar look and feel to what I was getting with my stand-alone cameras.
The time has come to no longer be defined by the device you use to take photographs but the body-of-work you create.
The Love Affair Continues
The Heart Beats Louder And Stronger
It’s funny, as you deep dive into the craft of iPhone Photography, you realize that there is way more here than meets the eye. You have in the palm of your hand a fully-stocked camera store, a tricked-out darkroom and an accessible and proven publishing company to share your visual creations, around the world, with like-minded family, friends and followers.
I’m not sure that I can accurately put into language, the sentimental migration of what I felt, going from a stand-alone camera to almost exclusively shooting with my iPhone. But I can tell you, at least for me, it was a revolution and not an evolution.
Thanks to my beloved iPhone, the concept of photography, as I had always known it, was shifting, transforming, changing, morphing. From a high-barrier-to-entry profession to a low-barrier-to-entry pastime.
From a physical, tactile product shared only by a few to a digital product shared by millions, even perfect strangers. From specialized events, traditions and milestones to everyday moments, memories and occasions. From trained craftsmen to everyday folks like you and me. From planned, purposeful, intentional outings to shooting everything, anytime, everywhere. From an almost exclusive focus on technical quality to a more balanced focus on realism, authenticity, credibility, believability. From a polished, slick, staged and crafted aesthetic to one that feels more unplugged, editorial, casual. From craft to content. From dumb cameras to smartphones. Can you feel the change in the wind? It’s powerful and transfiguring.
We are living in the Golden Age Of Consumer Photography. No doubt. Stand-alone cameras and optics still own the commercial space and likely will for a long time. But smartphones own, outright, the consumer space. I do believe, when all is said and done, that the iPhone camera could very well go down in history as the most celebrated and influencing camera of all time.
Business as Unusual
If you keep shooting the same old things in the same old ways, then wouldn’t it be natural for you to expect the same old results? My iPhone journey started as an accidental crush. But, over the past 8 years, it has blossomed into an intense love-affair. And the journey is far from over. The love affair continues.
To-be-nimble means being quick and light in action and movement.
That’s just how I feel with my iPhone camera in hand. Jack-be-Nimble.