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  • Launching the Mobile Photo Network with Misho Baranovic

    I'm really excited to launch the Mobile Photo Network (MPN) with Misho Baranovic.

    MPN gives both Misho and myself a new way to explore mobile photography, and I’m looking forward to sharing this journey with others.

    Why is mobile photography important? It’s important because millions of people around the world are discovering photography through their mobile phone camera. This shift in photography is intrinsically tied to a global shift to mobile communication. The technology is new, as are the social networks and apps. MPN wants to explore what all this means for visual communication going forward.

    I believe that mobile photography is a incredibly personal journey, shared by millions of people around the world.

    MPN is not just about showcasing pictures because they're taken on mobile devices. Instead, we’re looking for photographs that harness the opportunities provided by mobile connectivity, photographs with a clear sense of vision and purpose.

    I would like to share my purpose for founding MPN:

    • MPN is not a photography group or collective, it’s open to all.
    • MPN will feature mobile photographers whose work we believe has a sense of purpose and
      vision. We hope that the work MPN Features will be a source of inspiration for other mobile
      photographers.
    • MPN is a platform for people to explore and discover quality mobile photography from around the world.
    • MPN will explore how mobile photography is changing the purpose of photography around the globe.

    Please contact us at MPN if you would like to contribute. We're always looking for images, ideas and insights into the world of mobile photography!

  • The Mobile Photo Group - an Obituary.

    Mobile Photo Group – an Obituary.

    The Mobile Photo Group (MPG) was formed in 2011. The purpose that the members shared was to set a standard for quality mobile photography; through exclusivity. That purpose continued to be the driving force through each call for new memberships. We looked for people who individually inspired literally thousands of people.

    This initial exclusivity was seen as a threat by some, a slight by others, and ultimately an inspiration to most. Members contributed individually to the idea, through individual efforts. The group rose to prominence with members appearing on national television programs, and being invited to teach at photography and art institutions.

    Now, with thousands of quality mobile photographers, this idea of exclusivity is no longer as important as it once was – back when the question of “is mobile photography, photography?” was still being asked (it is, I checked).

    Now, it’s time to bury the dead. But first, let me tell you how the Mobile Photo Group died.

     

    Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained?

    Last week seven new members were suddenly added to the Mobile Photo Group.

    This decision to add these seven new members was made by a single MPG member. No other MPG member knew that these photographers were going to be added to the group.

    The existing members had not been consulted and they were not involved in the recruitment process at all.

    MPG had always taken a very restricted approach to new membership. By only adding one or two members at a time the group was able to continue to engage in conversation and collaboration without ever needing to centralise the group around a single member.

    As the members were usually already high achievers in the mobile photography landscape, they were usually already committed to several of their own projects. Several were writing articles for the connect.dpreview.com website, and I was teaching mobile photography at three Sydney institutions and also at the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence, as well as consulting in PR and judging a local photography competition. The result of all these individual projects was that the MPG grew very slowly, although the overall focus was still on sharing quality mobile photography.

    Despite the potential, MPG was still simply looking to set a standard and inspire others.

    And MPG did inspire. Weekly emails would arrive asking for potential membership from every corner of the earth. It was humbling to think that the group was being recognised so widely. We would thank the interested photographer for their email and inform them that our call for submissions for new membership would occur early in the New Year.

    Internally, we tried to change the purpose of MPG.  Conversations, many of them heated, dominated the group's internal discussion.  The purpose of MPG had never evolved, let alone really been defined.  Exclusivity and high achievement in mobile photography were all that MPG had to offer.  It simply wasn’t purpose enough. 

    To some MPG members, a model of participation was required; where members would either contribute to the group projects, or be asked to leave.  In arguing for this structure conversation turned to examples from existing photography collectives.  We used examples of the importance of internal debates at Magnum and also Oculi for inspiration.  However, as some members opposed the proposed changes, or simply never participated in discussion it soon appeared that the only outcome was a stalemate.

    Despite the capabilities of the members individually, a new purpose could not be determined collectively.  Eventually, after some members had abandoned the discussion completely, founding members Star Rush, Sion Fullana and Anton Kawasaki departed. The remaining members waited to see if the New Year would allow for a refreshing of the group, and clarification of purpose.

    And then, seven new members were added, without consultation or deliberation from any other member.

    This blatant deviation from the collaborative nature was simply the final twist in the current of events that swept the potential of MPG away.  It was also a snub to hundreds of mobile photographers who had been promised the opportunity to apply for membership in the New Year, in what would be a transparent, fair and collaborative process.

    In the days that followed this event, existing members (including myself) departed, leaving the new members feeling both uncomfortable and confused.  Soon, several new members also decided to leave, realising that rather than being a part of the MPG experience they had been used like pawns in a game.

    Finally, without warning or notice all material disappeared from Twitter and Instagram.  At the same time the website went offline.  In closing up without any communication, no respect was shown to the supporters of the group and for that I am truly embarrassed.  On behalf of MPG I would like to thank all of you who have shared your support for the group, we were very appreciative and humbled that you followed our work.  

    Finally, to the seven new members who had been caught up in the mess I am incredibly sorry that you were put through the turmoil of these past few days. You are all passionate mobile photographers, and I look forward to hearing of your future success.

     

    Something Gained, Something Lost.

    I am grateful for my time at MPG. All the members are truly fantastic people and inspirational photographers in their own way.

    Yet I am also grateful that the group no longer exists.

    Although the photography coming out of MPG was quality, for me the exploration of mobile photography is no longer in simply proving the capability of mobile devices to capture and share quality images.  With thousands of talented photographers accepting mobile photography as a medium for sharing images the focus for exploration has shifted.

    There are so many new ways to harness the potential of mobile photography; the best example is Misho Baranovic’s recent effort to curate a stream of quality images as they appeared out of New York from Instagram in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

    Unfortunately, the decision to shut down the MPG website has removed the original article, although you can read about the process here at connect.dpreview.com website: http://connect.dpreview.com/post/0914189863/tracking-hurricane-sandy-on-instagram

     

    Something New.

    I look forward to announcing a new project that I have been working on with Misho in the next few weeks, once he gets a chance to breathe over at the FORMAT festival in Derby.

    (If you’d like to participate in the FORMAT festival, check out the Eyeem blog post here!)

     

    The Mobile Photo Group is dead, long live mobile photography. 

  • PHOTOGRAPHY - THE PASSIONATE JOURNEY

    On Thursday 30 August at 6:30pm I will teach the first iPhone Photography class in Sydney at the Australian Centre of Photography (ACP).  I am so excited and honoured to be teaching at this prestigious photography hub in Paddington. I'd like to start this blog post by thanking all the people at ACP who were involved in making this class a reality.

    Michael Baranovic and I used to joke about one day teaching iPhone Photography at ACP. But teaching at ACP is no joke. It's an amazing opportunity to meet and teach people with a passion for photography.  However, photography is a journey - not a course, and there's only so much I can teach in the three hours.  I have received a huge amount of support from family, friends and other photographers. I want you all to know that your support means more to me than I can really convey in words. As part of this process I have also seen and received a range of negative feedback since the course was announced, but I’ll address that all later. First, I’d like to talk briefly about the course.

    It's not just a course at which you learn a range of iPhone photography techniques and tricks. It’s a chance to teach each person the importance of content, composition and context when creating (and sharing) an image. It's highly likely that the people attending the course will already understand these photographic principles, but I want each of them to walk out of the class with the confidence to try to create (and share) quality personal photography with an iPhone.

    I want people to use what they learn in the class to help them shoot and share their own world with clarity, and vision. I believe that by giving people the confidence to shoot quality images with an iPhone it will encourage them to explore and experiment with photographic imagery, and that they will use their iPhone as a part of their own photographic journey.

    Lighting Lightning

    I mentioned the three elements of content, composition and context because I think that the majority of “personal” photography I see (mostly shared online) is lost in translation. The majority of personal photography I see fails to communicate and engage because of a lack of content, composition or context. Yes, these elements aren’t “rules”, but they’re an easy way to define some common reasons why many images will fail to connect and communicate with the audience.  

    I'm not just talking about the failure of mobile photography; I'm talking about photography as a whole. I've seen beautifully bound and presented “personal” photography books failing to engage (and thus sell) for lack of context, just as I've seen highly personal images on the Nat Geo Instagram feed suffer much the same fate, where although the Nat Geo photographers are bound by a beautiful photography brand they’ve failed to engage with an audience.

    I want to teach people to capture (and share) their iPhone photography with an emphasis on content, composition and context. So I'm not really teaching anything new, as it's all just photography, right?  So why bother?  

    Well, because the journey is everything, and I know that from my own experience. And there are millions of others with the same device, on a similar photographic journey.

    So, let us talk about the negativity. 

    Dancers, preparing for the Chinese New Year Parade in Sydney

    I've seen negative responses to the course from people who I really admire as photographers.  What I’ve realised is that most of these people are being negative about the course because of their passion for quality photography. They don’t like the way that much of mobile photography trivialises photography, and neither do I. They don’t like the reliance on faux retro filters in mobile photography instead of understanding lighting, composition and the importance of self-editing, and neither do I. We all want to see great works of photography with quality photographic elements of content, composition and context. These photographers may have a different ideal for the aesthetics of an image, but their concerns about this course are welcome because they take their photography personally and passionately. Their passion is inspiring.

    I can't argue with the passion of these photographers, although I do think it’s a bit disappointing that several people have simply concluded I’m going to be teaching the use of faux retro filters (I’m not, and how these people would jump to such conclusions after looking at my iPhone photography is a mystery to me). In the end their passionate concern has actually made me feel that we're really on the same photographic journey, just on different paths. I think it’s important that I tell these people (and anyone else who feels concerned) that I want people who attend my class to walk out with the potential to explore photography; and to use what they learn as part of their own photographic journey.  I want them to use a device which dominates much of our personal lives as a means to explore and develop their personal relationship to photography.

    I believe that when it's personal and passionate, photography is a journey.

    Mobile photography is a new and exciting part of the personal photographic journey of millions of people around the world, and I'm really lucky and excited to have this opportunity to teach at ACP.

    Light Speed, George Street, Sydney

    (all images copyright Oliver Lang)