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.
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.
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.
(all images copyright Oliver Lang)