Why your phone is not your friend
This is a piece I have been thinking about for a while now, as it became apparent to me that the devices that are supposed to make our lives more convenient actually drain away what little free time we have. I think that phones are not the friend of photographers, let me tell you why.
There is no escaping it, mobile phones are now a standard feature in most of our lives. Except the gadgets we have in our pockets (honestly, who keeps theirs in their bag?) are no longer just phones. They are a phone, walkman, calculator, diary, book, games console, camera and so much more all rolled into one. This is incredibly convenient, you would think. But it just means they take up so much more of your time.
Stop and look around you the next time you are on the train platform or waiting for a bus and you will see people completely absorbed by their device. Not looking where they are going and not concentrating on what is going on around them. God knows, I am just as guilty. My phone helps me keep updated on the site, orders and helps me to find moar cameras.
So if it can do all of this, and take pictures, why is it not your friend? After all, it makes you life that much more convenient so that you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy, right?
Wrong. As we become more dependent on the devices, we become more dependent on being spoon fed information and we forget what it is to think and what it is to be aware of our surroundings. We use them for every time we are lost, or bored, or when we cannot think what to say. We use them to pass time, to pretend we are busy and to avoid actually interacting with people. It just seems to me like people find more and more excuses to stay completely glued to their device. Soon it will be that people won’t know how to communicate directly.
As a photographer your phone is not your friend because ultimately it is stopping you from doing what you love to do. The camera on your phone is not a real camera, it is a convenience and that should not be forgotten. Now before you all get your nose out of joint saying “but there are street photographers who only use a smartphone”. You are right, there are. But they are using the device in a way that it was not originally intended (and in some cases beyond the devices capabilities) and they are making sure they are aware of their surroundings.
Because this is the crunch…When you are looking at your phone you are missing what is going on around you. You are missing the moments that you should be catching, because you are so absorbed by Candy Crush Bullshit or watching the latest cat video on Youbook.
It may sound obvious, but this is really what it is all about, by checking your phone constantly or chatting on LINE you have removed yourself for the observers point of view and you have merely become another part of the street furniture.
So here is my idea. Switch your device off, put it in a bag, get your camera out of said bag, look around you and go shoot.
I have made it a rule that when I have the my camera in my hand, my device will not be. In fact I have taken to turning it off completely when I want to go shooting, so that there are no distractions. This is a decision that I really think benefits not just my photography, but also my ability so see what is going on in society.
When I don’t have the device I am more aware of when is going on. I listen and look for cues, I watch people and the way they interact with others and I actively search for light. When I am shooting I don’t even listen to music, because I want to have all my senses at my disposal.
You don’t have to do this all the time, but just try it and see how it works out for you. I have days when I don’t have a camera because I am working, but if I do have a camera in my hand I put my device away and focus on what I love, taking pictures.
Of course I am talking about street photography here. But this is totally applicable elsewhere too. When you go sightseeing, do exactly that; sightsee. What is the point in going to a fantastic spot if you are only going to look at it through a tiny screen before you upload a shitty video facetubes or whatever? If you want to take a picture of a fantastic view, then take a bloody camera. That is what they are for.
Don’t become a slave to your device, make it work for you.