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Afghanistan through an iPhone
July 31, 2011 11:30 AM   Subscribe

The War in Hipstamatic: A rare and beautiful look at Afghanistan, through an iPhone.
posted by homunculus (98 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related, previously.
posted by hermitosis at 11:35 AM on July 31, 2011


What bothers me most about making these pictures look vintage is that it obscures the fact that these are events happening right now. It's almost a reflection of how isolated and distant our current military presence is from day-to-day life. What's worse is that it almost fetishizes older wars and conflicts, stylizing current wars in a Vietnam-era nostalgia.

If you're going to be a photojournalist, then do it without framing it this way, because otherwise it can only worsen the dissonance between daily American life and our current military occupations.
posted by spiderskull at 11:45 AM on July 31, 2011 [25 favorites]


Yeah, I hate to chime in to hate on this, especially early on in the comments, but really? So many of these photos would be effective enough without the random bs of a $1 iphone app. The fact that the fucking thing has "hipster" built into it earns it instant scorn as far as I'm concerned.
posted by nevercalm at 11:51 AM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, Errol Morris will not weigh in about this/these.
posted by progosk at 11:51 AM on July 31, 2011


I don't agree with the "rare and beautiful" characterization of applying a quirky filter to phone cam pictures, but there is an interesting angle here. Hipstamatic and other similar programs do offer a way, however artificial, of seeing present events as already past. A sort of counterbalance to the idea that something happening recently is somehow fundamentally different than something that happened previously.

Applying this to wartorn Afghanistan and dressing it up as a photojournalistic manifesto seems a bit crass and fishing for pageviews, however.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:52 AM on July 31, 2011


Laura Logan visits Afghanistan: A relentless enemy. U.S. commander on AFPAK border: "We have lost."
posted by HLD at 11:54 AM on July 31, 2011


There are two adjectives that should never accurately apply to photographs of war zones: "Rare" and "beautiful." Either on its own would be bad enough; both at once is worthy of outrage.

Also, those are some seriously crummy tattoos.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:55 AM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh thereare so many FAR WORSE tattoos out there that I wouldn't even glance twice at those.
posted by hermitosis at 11:58 AM on July 31, 2011


The one on the right here....that will be in my brain forever, like so many other war photographs.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:02 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Re-watching it, the commander actually said, "if we leave tommorrow---it's lost."
posted by HLD at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2011


FWIW, the disconnect of present and past that others are mentioning did not occur to me upon viewing these, only when I read it in the comments. I'm so used to seeing the particular green-y style of the Hipstamatic used on present-time subjects. Namely, hipsters.

There's something distinctive enough about the processing and final output of the app that it doesn't ping my "this is from the past" thingy, just my "this is a hipstamatic photo" thingy.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


> There's something distinctive enough about the processing and final output of the app that it doesn't ping my "this is from the past" thingy, just my "this is a hipstamatic photo" thingy.

Yeah, I think most people who are familiar enough with it also have that same opinion. I was speaking of the potential for such apps, not so much what everyday users experience. So, in that case, it just becomes even more tedious and gimmicky.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:09 PM on July 31, 2011


Lot of grar here. I don't have that app and haven't played with it, but I found many of the photos themselves rather striking.
posted by Thistledown at 12:11 PM on July 31, 2011


To me, they call to mind the images of the Vietnam war I grew up seeing, which, compared to our present wars, were ubiquitous. They were in the paper and in magazines and on the 6 o'clock news The war was in our living room and seemed very real. These photos have the same feel.
posted by rtha at 12:12 PM on July 31, 2011


This is very intriguing. The photographer Balasz Gardi seems to be a seasoned freelancer and I'm assuming he had a very good reason to runs his photos through hipstamatic. The photos have that typical vintage, almost nostalgic feel to them. But we know of course that the war in Afghanistan is on-going, so there's this paradox and thought that someday even this war will be old and forgotten. Maybe these photos are intended as a lesson in humanity and never forgetting about the human aspects when study history?

By the way, I wonder how people would react if they only saw these photos in monochrome?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:17 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think these are nice and I agree that the effect is somehow strikingly modern, in using the Hipstamatic app, and also a bit vintage in style, bringing home the message that war is an everyday, immediate reality and also a part of all of human history.

Maybe these photos are intended as a lesson in humanity and never forgetting about the human aspects when study history?

I agree with this, and I think this is part of what makes them beautiful.
posted by sweetkid at 12:25 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, maybe if you had these as worn prints in a shoebox, and I saw you pull the shoebox off the shelf and take these out, it would feel like "vintage." To me it just feels fake.
posted by BeerFilter at 12:34 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought that the whole faux-vintage photo thing was annoying when it was just pictures of drunken hipsters but using it in a war zone seems really inappropriate and borderline offensive to me.
posted by octothorpe at 12:39 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's a photo processing program that compensates for a lot of the weaknesses of smartphone cameras, and gives a variety of very fast processing options, which is going to be very appealing to a cameraperson in the field who wants to share their photos very quickly. It doesn't look especially old fashioned to me -- instead, it looks like what a lot of photos taken with phones look like nowadays. I bet a lot of soldiers take photos that look like that.

Using it in a war zone is only offensive if you think photographing something contemporary, using contemporary technology and contemporary photo software, which is likely shared by the subjects of the images themselves, is offensive, merely because it vaguely -- but not especially -- looks like the photos taken by toy cameras a few decades ago.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:27 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


One more reason for me to despise the iPhone and it armies of joiners.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:35 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am always flabbergasted by people who take pride in their contempt for others based on their purchasing choices.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:36 PM on July 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


I thought that the whole faux-vintage photo thing was annoying when it was just pictures of drunken hipsters but using it in a war zone seems really inappropriate and borderline offensive to me.

Only 12.6 megapixel color-corrected photos shot with a 50mm lens are respectful and appropriate.
posted by verb at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


One more reason for me to despise the iPhone and it armies of joiners.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:35 PM on July 31 [+] [!]


Well aren't you precious.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:43 PM on July 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


One more reason for me to despise the iPhone and it armies of joiners.

Is it safe to assume you hate anyone who uses another kind of vintage phone app on a different camera phone? Or are they cool and different, and can therefore avoid your hatred?

inappropriate and borderline offensive

Can you explain why? I don't understand.
posted by rtha at 1:45 PM on July 31, 2011


ethnomethodologist: "One more reason for me to despise the iPhone and it armies of joiners."

Don't worry dude, you'll be able to afford one some day.
posted by Splunge at 1:47 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Don't worry dude, you'll be able to afford one some day.
posted by Splunge at 1:47 PM on July 31 [+] [!]


The voice of a generation right there.
posted by timsteil at 1:50 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


inappropriate and borderline offensive

Can you explain why? I don't understand.


I can't speak for octothorpe, but my own opinion is that the App makes things look "cool," but there is nothing "cool" about the situation in Afghanistan.

Only 12.6 megapixel color-corrected photos shot with a 50mm lens are respectful and appropriate.

A lack of overt emphasis on style over substance would suffice.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:53 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The voice of a generation right there.

Which generation is that?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:54 PM on July 31, 2011


The Pepsi Generation.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:56 PM on July 31, 2011


I don't see how running iPhone photos through Hipstamatic is any more offensive than shooting RED footage at 24fps. The qualities of "vintage" photographs are often more pleasing than straight iPhone output, just as 24fps footage tends to look more cinematic than 60i footage. Hipstamatic offers a pleasing, intentionally-designed set of qualities to photos, just as particular stocks of film have their own intentionally-designed, unique, repeatable "looks."

Further, the Hipstamatic app is so common nowadays that it has an added meaning for war photos - he's using the same technology, both hardware and software, that many people use to take pictures of their own humdrum lives. As a result, these photos don't look like they're from the past - they look like they're from now, using the visual idiom of folk photography.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:56 PM on July 31, 2011 [9 favorites]


I can't speak for octothorpe, but my own opinion is that the App makes things look "cool," but there is nothing "cool" about the situation in Afghanistan.

I would suggest that this is a highly subjective aesthetic assumpition on your part. Black and white has likewise been used in the past to make things look "cool," and I suspect nobody wouod have a complain if these images were taken with a typical news camera and then photoshopped into black and white, although doing so, in its own way, causes things to look vintage.

A lack of overt emphasis on style over substance would suffice.

What about these photos seem to lack substance to you. Ignoring the filter, of course. You seem to ge saying that these images rely on the filter, and without them would be unsubtantive. I don't agree, and am curious to hear an explaination of why you rhink so.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:59 PM on July 31, 2011


I couldn't be more sick of seeing every child that every acquaintance of mine has ever had in pictures processed as though it were a day at the beach in 1972.
However, this is one of the first times I can remember thinking that these filters add something great to the meaning and context of the photos.
Using Hipstamatic here on these photos takes them away from the world of photojournalism and into the world of fine art, for me, and I believe that's the intent. If not, they've still had that effect on me today and made me think about the timelessness of war and suffering, and the role technology plays in how we interpret these events.
posted by FeralHat at 2:08 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


*Downloads Capamatic*
posted by Haruspex at 2:10 PM on July 31, 2011


Do you mean Capramatic? Because if there were an app that could make my photos look like they'd come from a Frank Capra film, I'd use it!
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2011


rtha: "inappropriate and borderline offensive

Can you explain why? I don't understand.
"

I don't know what there is to explain. Someone's applied a cutesy social media driven iphone app to one of the great human disasters of our time and you can't see how that might be inappropriate?
posted by octothorpe at 2:48 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


it obscures the fact that these are events happening right now. It's almost a reflection of how isolated and distant our current military presence is from day-to-day life. What's worse is that it almost fetishizes older wars and conflicts, stylizing current wars in a Vietnam-era nostalgia.

I share that feeling, but couldn't we respond to these pictures just as well in the opposite way? The faux-vintage look might serve as a reminder of the continuity between the present war and the ones we've consigned to the past.
posted by Beardman at 2:49 PM on July 31, 2011


I had a similar reaction as stitcherbeast, I often expect photos of 20-somethings to be done with Hipstamatic these days. It's kinda what people do when they don't have their real camera and want to take a snapshot. Combined with the subject matter, I think it can make things seem more intimate and contemporary. Of course, it is subjective, so I can also understand how some people won't get that vibe.

If it is a gimmick to get people to pay attention to war photos, so what? I think it is good if people, particularly people from the US and other countries with troops there, are looking at war photos regardless of the reason. It's not like these photos are distracting us from the five hours a day we look at serious Afgan war photos. I mean, it's a war, it's a big deal and I think we should be reminded of it even if it's lasted nine years too long to still be on the front page.
posted by snofoam at 3:33 PM on July 31, 2011


They could at least have been somewhat genuine about it and shot all those pictures with a real cheapo film camera.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:38 PM on July 31, 2011


Also, as much as I think anyone is entitled to their critical judgement of something, I think before jumping in with things like crass, inappropriate, offensive, etc. it might be worth remembering that the guy has gone to a war zone to take photos. I'm not saying that he's automatically beyond reproach, but there are a lot of assumptions in this thread about what he is trying to do and why. There must be easier ways to get pageviews. Maybe he's there because it's important to him.
posted by snofoam at 3:42 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, here's the thing, an iPhone and it's myriad apps can function the same way as "real cameras" with the benefit of not carrying around 6 cameras with different lenses and film. Would we have more respect if someone took an actual Holga to Afghanistan and had to worry about carrying hundreds of rolls of film in the heat and then changing our the rolls every 12 shots. Would it make you angry that someone wasn't respecting the war enough to use a "real" camera? What does that even mean these days? Only film SLRs? Maybe there a megapixel requirement? Only lenses of a certain size and quality? Or would you give them props for the hassle of carrying all that crap? Why? Honestly, the app does it better and gives you more choices and it fits in your pocket, which seems pretty smart when you're in a war zone.

Photojournalists have been making practical and aesthetic choices since there have been choices to make.
posted by smartypantz at 4:21 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a slight worry the hipstamatic angle might trivialise things, but I another way of looking at it is that it gets people thinking about afghanistan.

Some very good pictures though, the duststorm and the dogfight are standing out for me at the mo, theres about 8-10 real good images in there. This thing of using a mobile to take pics is very sensible, you're not so much of a threat, you might not even look like youre taking a picture.

It says he went to wales uni in cardiff, I think they got that wrong, its probably the documentary course in newport wales that he went to, which is the worlds best school for documentary photographers at the mo ( not everyone needs a school of course).
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:35 PM on July 31, 2011


I think the proliferation of technology is making these questions increasingly difficult to resolve, and as smartypantz mentions, they were already impossible to resolve. Should photojournalists be allowed to use an iPhone when covering a war? If they do, does it mean they're making fun of soldiers? For now, I think the only way to reduce the confusion would be to require photojournalists to include an artist's statement explaining their choice of equipment so their audience will know what they are supposed to think. With an exemption, of course, for those using cameras that were previously approved for photojournalism.
posted by snofoam at 4:38 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm actually surprised at how sharp a lot of the photos are. I think the biggest benefit of Hipstamatic-type processing is to cover up for poor image quality, but the cameras in these phones are getting quite a bit better.
posted by snofoam at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would we have more respect if someone took an actual Holga to Afghanistan...
No. The Holga is even more of a hipster pose than Hipstamatic.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:12 PM on July 31, 2011


Actually, I have an iPhone 4 (duh). Apologies to ethnomethodologist for the snark.

I don't have Hipstamatic, only because I have a bunch of apps, several that have the same effects. Most of them are free. Just go to iTunes put photo in the search and knock yourself out.

As for the quality if the photos, yes, they are pretty good with enough ambient light.

And the actual FPP, I didn't like it. But I guess I understand the concept. Just not for me.
posted by Splunge at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2011


What about these photos seem to lack substance to you. Ignoring the filter, of course. You seem to ge saying that these images rely on the filter, and without them would be unsubtantive. I don't agree, and am curious to hear an explaination of why you rhink so.

I'm not saying they inherently lack substance. I'm saying the emphasis on style distracts from the substance. The substance is important, and would have plenty of impact--indeed, probably more--if that stupid goddamned filter wasn't in the way.

I would suggest that this is a highly subjective aesthetic assumpition on your part.

Dude. It's called Hipstamatic. I'm assuming nothing.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:44 PM on July 31, 2011


No. The Holga is even more of a hipster pose than Hipstamatic.

I'm beginning to think the real issue here is that some people dislike a mostly manufactured social trend, and anybody or anything they can wedge into it. It's starting to sound like the complaint is "How dare anybody address a serious subject in a manner consistent with what I assume a group of people I think are frivolous might do?"
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:46 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm beginning to think the real issue here is that some people dislike a mostly manufactured social trend

When it's used in war photography? Fuck yes.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:53 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, to each his own. i find the images very moving, and think if you're getting caught up on the filter that is used because you associate it with people that you've decided are contemptable, the problem may be yours.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:00 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would the images be less moving without the filter?
posted by Splunge at 6:11 PM on July 31, 2011


Well, to each his own. i find the images very moving, and think if you're getting caught up on the filter that is used because you associate it with people that you've decided are contemptable, the problem may be yours.

Wha? Who's making assumptions now, AZ?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:12 PM on July 31, 2011


(I happen to be wearing thick plastic glasses and a DEVO-tee this very moment. I have absolutely nothing against 'hipsters.')
posted by Sys Rq at 6:13 PM on July 31, 2011


Do you mean Capramatic?

No and yes. Robert Capa was the definitive 20th century photographer of war, but his name was indeed an homage to the famous director.
posted by Haruspex at 6:14 PM on July 31, 2011


Would the images be less moving without the filter?

That's a question you can ask any photographer about any processing he or she does to any photo.

As to making assumptions, sys req, I am responding directly to your response to me. If you do not mean that you are disregarding the photos because they are associated with hipsters, than I am puzzled about why you chose that comment to respond to.

Please don't call me AZ.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:14 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm not asking the photographer. That's not the point of the question. I'm asking you, the viewer if you think that the filter added anything to the pictures. You found the images moving, or so you said. Was it the image or the filter that made them so?
posted by Splunge at 6:21 PM on July 31, 2011


As to making assumptions, sys req, I am responding directly to your response to me. If you do not mean that you are disregarding the photos because they are associated with hipsters, than I am puzzled about why you chose that comment to respond to.

Me: the App makes things look "cool," but there is nothing "cool" about the situation in Afghanistan.

You: I would suggest that this is a highly subjective aesthetic assumpition on your part.

Me: Dude. It's called Hipstamatic. I'm assuming nothing.

You: I'm beginning to think the real issue here is that some people dislike a mostly manufactured social trend

Me: When it's used in war photography? Fuck yes.

You: if you're getting caught up on the filter that is used because you associate it with people that you've decided are contemptable, the problem may be yours.

I guess I just don't follow how you got there from anything I said, is all.

Please don't call me AZ.

Fair enough. Don't call me sys req.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:25 PM on July 31, 2011


I think the filter did contribute. The advantage of these filters is, when well chosen, the contribute to the mood of a photo, help identify the focus, and give the image a sense of deliberateness. Additionally, because it is a filter I identify with vernacular photos, it contributes to a sense that these are unposed. I find that with news cameras, because they are so precise, and are processed in such a consistent way, that news sometimes wind up feeling like a photo shoot, rather than an instant that has been captured by an eyewitness. These pictures give me a very different sense -- they feel unposed and spontaneous.

So, for me, the filter adds quite a lot.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:25 PM on July 31, 2011


I don't think it is surprising that there are people who don't like this because they don't like Hipstamatic. I don't mind Hipstamatic, but I can totally see the viewpoint that it is totally played out. I also don't think it is surprising that some people don't like it aesthetically (regardless of what they think about Hipstamatic or iPhones culturally). When the photos are published under the title "War in Hipstamatic" it definitely invites this type of criticism. No one titles stuff "War in Nikon 3Dx."

The comments where people are making a moral judgement about the photos seem odd to me.
posted by snofoam at 6:26 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me: Dude. It's called Hipstamatic. I'm assuming nothing.

So your problem is the name. It was named after the Hispatmatic 100, an analogue plastic camera from the 1980s.

My apologies for the mispelling of your name.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:30 PM on July 31, 2011


So your problem is the name. It was named after the Hispatmatic 100, an analogue plastic camera from the 1980s.

Are you sure about that?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:33 PM on July 31, 2011


And, no, my problem is all that other stuff I wrote upthread.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:33 PM on July 31, 2011


Bunny Ultramod: "I think the filter did contribute. The advantage of these filters is, when well chosen, the contribute to the mood of a photo, help identify the focus, and give the image a sense of deliberateness. Additionally, because it is a filter I identify with vernacular photos, it contributes to a sense that these are unposed. I find that with news cameras, because they are so precise, and are processed in such a consistent way, that news sometimes wind up feeling like a photo shoot, rather than an instant that has been captured by an eyewitness. These pictures give me a very different sense -- they feel unposed and spontaneous.

So, for me, the filter adds quite a lot.
"

Okay. I asked, you replied. At this point we'll have to agree to disagree. Because I do not agree, at all. I feel that the moment alone suffices. The filter adds something that I don't like. As well something that lessens the image.
posted by Splunge at 6:36 PM on July 31, 2011


I had not hea it was viral advertising. I don't think it's especially salient. The intention of the creators of Hipstamatic is not at issue, it is how their creation was used by the photographers.

And I would ask that you stop personalizing this. My comments upthread were not directed at you specifically, until you responded in a way that seemed to say you shared the viewpoint I was articulating. I cannot support an argument with you that I have not been having.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:38 PM on July 31, 2011


As an aside, I think it's kind of interesting to think about why people hate certain things. For example, I hate HDR. Part of it is that I don't like the way it looks and part of it is that people often do it really poorly. (In fact, if someone did some really subtle HDR to the point where I didn't realize it was HDR, maybe I wouldn't mind.) But those things alone wouldn't make me hate HDR. Mostly, I hate it because when I run into some overdone HDR that someone's posted on flickr or facebook there are a million comments about how awesome the photo is.

I'm not trying to imply that other people hate hipstamatic for the same reasons I hate HDR, I just think it is interesting. I'm sure it also varies from person to person. I'm sure there are a few people out there who hate Hipstamatic with a passion, not because they think the vintage looking filters are stupid, but because they'd been doing filters like that in Photoshop for years and now, dammit, everyone can do it.
posted by snofoam at 6:47 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


> No and yes. Robert Capa was the definitive 20th century photographer of war, but his name was indeed an homage to the famous director.

Whoops! I was riffing on your riff - obviously too opaquely, doh - because I got the Capa reference, which always makes me think of Capra, which makes me think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington etc. it's boring you don't need to know the rest. Badly told joke is what I told!
posted by rtha at 6:48 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm willing to bet photo developers who had to mix chemicals to cross-process were a little put-out when it could get done in Photoshop with a few mouse clicks.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:49 PM on July 31, 2011


And I would ask that you stop personalizing this.

Some personalize, others make contemptuous sweeping generalizations about people being contemptuous. Vive la différence!

So, anyway, I actually like how the photos look. I just think using the Hipstamatic filter for war photography is incredibly crass.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:51 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm willing to bet photo developers who had to mix chemicals to cross-process were a little put-out when it could get done in Photoshop with a few mouse clicks.

Not so much. They actually hated contaminating all their chemistry for a couple of rolls. That's why they usually charged extra and made the photog wait 24 hours.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:55 PM on July 31, 2011


Some personalize, others make contemptuous sweeping generalizations about people being contemptuous

If you have an issuenwith me personally, take it up with me personally, but this discussion has stopped being about Hipstamatic, and I won't participate in that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:56 PM on July 31, 2011


Only black and white can truly capture the gravitas of war. The garish impertinence of color film has made a mockery of wartime photojournalism for decades.
posted by snofoam at 6:58 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


snofoam is it marginally possible that the word hate is a bit strong for someting like this?
posted by Splunge at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm not saying that everyone who didn't like these photos hated them. It did seem like some folks had a pretty passionate dislike for them, though. I would guess that there are people in the world that do hate Hipstamatic, though.

And personally, I have a pretty visceral hate for HDR, but I don't blame the photographic technique. It's like if The Eagles never got past being a bar band in Southern California, never made a record and never had a hit. If I walked into a bar and saw them playing, I wouldn't hate them.
posted by snofoam at 7:07 PM on July 31, 2011


Personally, I love film photography. I've done pretty much every aspect of BW from developing film to printing from my own negatives. I had a darkroom for a while. I honestly feel that there is a thing missing from digital photography. But as well, I like not having a heavy SLR camera hanging from my neck and the lenses and rolls of film in a second bag, or two.

I like the smell of the chemicals. I started doing this stuff in High School. Back then we used a bathroom for it. The stalls were used for the enlargers. Boxes over the urinals were used for the chemical trays. Since it was an old bathroom they didn't heat it. So all the chemical reactions were way slow in the winter.

But I have nothing against digital or even phone pics. I especially liked the first time I didn't have to buy film, usually 400 ASA BW. The PBR of film. A fine workhorse. You could push it and as long as you remembered what you pushed it to, you were golden.

Sorry, this old man has to go to bed. Heh, bulk loading a cartridge so much that it jammed. Heh. Get off my lawn.
posted by Splunge at 7:21 PM on July 31, 2011


Man, do I feel like....something lacking. Because I have an iPhone 4 and a bazillion apps and I'd never even HEARD of Hipstamatic until this thread...
posted by Thistledown at 8:58 PM on July 31, 2011


I favor Instagram. It's simpler than Hipstamatic, the filters are distinct in ways I don't find Hipstamatics to be, there's only maybe one or two filters that grunge up your image, and there's a social component I find appealing, although I take so many photos that my followers may not agree.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:32 PM on July 31, 2011


No one titles stuff "War in Nikon 3Dx."

Drawing attention to what equipment you're using for war photography is like bragging about the designer suit you're wearing at a funeral.
posted by Pyry at 9:34 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Drawing attention to what equipment you're using for war photography is like bragging about the designer suit you're wearing at a funeral.

The use of Hipstamatic was not about the equipment; not in the sense that you mean. It was an experiment in using new tools of telling visual stories, based on new technology, especially technology connected to social media. As photographer Teru Kuwayama explains:

I won a Knight News Challenge grant to launch an online, social media reporting network that follows a battalion of U.S. Marines throughout their deployment to southern Afghanistan. (Congratulations! You've won a year in Helmand Province, roadside bomb capital of the world...)

Further:

Ultimately, it comes down to the idea that we could do a lot more with the resources that we already have. Among other things, those resources include communication tools of incredible, and untested reach. (Consider the notion that 50 percent of the activity on the Internet occurs on a single website, Facebook).

And why?

The idea came from a Marine I'd met in Afghanistan in 2004 ... What if we tried a different approach, something both more autonomous, and more collaborative?

Execution and distribution might come down to the question: What's the social graph of a thousand Marines? I have no idea, but when I run a Facebook app to analyze my own social network, my MacBook spins, chokes, and crashes as it attempts to crunch the data, and plot the connections around a single person. That might just be buggy code over at Facebook, but I'd still guess the numbers surrounding a battalion-strength network of 19 year-olds are some degree of real big.

It may be that the Marine Corps had the same question, because earlier this year, it lifted a long-standing ban on social media for deployed troops. Translation: Marines can tweet and Facebook from Afghanistan.


He has several other stories on social media and the military. It's part of a larger project called Basetrack, "an experimental media project, tracking the deployment of 1/8 – 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines, throughout the duration of their deployment to southern Afghanistan. A small team of mobile media operators is embedded with the battalion, transmitting their reports and reflections from Helmand province as they travel across the battalion’s area of operations."

Some od their reasons for using the iPhone, and Hipstamatic, from an interview:

Maybe this is counterintuitive, but I wanted to demonstrate that it isn’t about technology, and that journalism (whatever that means anymore) doesn’t require “professional” gear. That said, I’ve been pretty amazed at how well the iPhone works — at least as a camera, I’ve never used it as a phone — but as cameras go, it might be the best piece of gear I’ve ever used.
...

From a mechanical standpoint, photojournalists don’t get any points for originality. They’re not like painters, sculptors, or musicians, who routinely experiment with making their own instruments and media. For photographers, just about all our gear, from the cameras, to the computers, to the software, is all generic, off-the-shelf technology. For at least a couple of generations, just about every working photojournalist used a 35mm Leica – it was considered “revolutionary” and “liberating” because it was so compact and lightweight compared to previous models. The last generation of photojournalists suffered through the digital beta-testing period where cameras got radically heavier and more expensive, and came with truckloads of peripheral gear that cost them decades of mobility, and jacked up the barriers to entry. The iPhone is basically the Leica of digital photography, although the Leica’s mobility and utility are quaint in comparison. Maybe it would be better to say the iPhone is the AK-47 of digital photography. Bottom line, professional photographers are just starting to catch up with the amateurs.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:55 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


These look pretty good, but though I don't use Hipstamatic I'm exactly the sort of person who would (and might) so I don't think it counts.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:24 AM on August 1, 2011


I should hate Hipstamatic, because I hate my iPhone and dislike the i-whatever fetishism. By the by, the best photo I have that wasn't taken on a proper camera went through Hipstamatic.

I like these pictures. They may be stylized, but they are striking.

I wonder whether, in colorizing everything to a narrow range of grey/blue/green, the photographer was making a point about what life on the frontline is like in Afghanistan - that life has a strong feel of conformity and boredom about it, perhaps visually that for a soldier life loses its vibrant pinks, yellows and oranges until one comes home.

This doesn't seem out of place to me at all and I struggle to see why they are somehow inappropriate or disrespectful.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:09 AM on August 1, 2011


This doesn't seem out of place to me at all and I struggle to see why they are somehow inappropriate or disrespectful.

I suspect some people would have the same feeling about an article about war written in the second person perspective, or the present tense. They're cheesy gimmicks, and they draw attention to the writers' cleverness rather than the serious content.
posted by verb at 6:09 AM on August 1, 2011


Interesting discussion here. I have all of the cameras alluded to in this thread (a DSLR, a Holga, several old 35mm and 120 film cameras, point and shoots, and an iPhone 4), and they are all equally valid to me, because I firmly believe that it's not the equipment that makes the photograph, it's the person taking it, and what he/she does with that equipment. What matters is what we see, and how we see it. Each piece of equipment renders it differently; an iPhone app (regardless of what it's called -- I mean, who really cares, when what matters is what it does?) does one thing, while a Holga or a fisheye or 25-mp full-frame DSLR or a 40-year-old Canon does another. At one time or another, all of these were seen as gimmicky. I love my iPhone as a camera, and have lately gotten back into using the Hipstamatic app, mainly because you can continue taking images while previous ones are being processed; this is a HUGE boon when you're somewhere where things are happening quickly. That said, a friend of mine once described cellphones as the pinhole cameras of the 21st century. I kind of dig that. So often it seems like the argument is analog vs. digital, but I think they can coexist, if not complement each other.

Many of these images are fantastic (left) and thought-provoking (right), forcing me to think about a subject that doesn't make the news much anymore. The filter of the equipment used adds whatever the journalist wanted it to add. What matters is that we're looking.
posted by flyingsquirrel at 6:14 AM on August 1, 2011


They're cheesy gimmicks, and they draw attention to the writers' cleverness rather than the serious content.

This still strikes me as misplaced. All photographs are constructed, framed, subject to decisions about light, focal length etc - and possibly additional photoshopping. It's just an argument about "realism".

The underlying thing that seems to strike people as inappropriate is that the guy has taken a hipster's phone, or non-serious camera, and some colorization software with a crappy name - it doesn't mean that a guy with rolled up trousers, a neomullet hairdo and a single speed bike is gallivanting around Afghanistan telling Pashtun goatherders that beards are, like, so last year.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The underlying thing that seems to strike people as inappropriate is that the guy has taken a hipster's phone, or non-serious camera, and some colorization software with a crappy name - it doesn't mean that a guy with rolled up trousers, a neomullet hairdo and a single speed bike is gallivanting around Afghanistan telling Pashtun goatherders that beards are, like, so last year.

Who? Who has objected to his use of an iPhone? Who has said he's a hipster, so he sucks?

NO ONE HAS SAID THESE THINGS.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:52 AM on August 1, 2011


ethnomethodologist did mention that this gives them another reason to dislike iPhone users and hipstamatic.

But if not that, then what? Use of filters? These particular filters, or are all filters bad when it comes to photojournalism? Is it that these were taken with a camera phone? Would there be so much dismissal if they'd been taken with an Android phone?
posted by rtha at 8:05 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if not that, then what? Use of filters? These particular filters, or are all filters bad when it comes to photojournalism? Is it that these were taken with a camera phone? Would there be so much dismissal if they'd been taken with an Android phone?

Really?

You could at least pretend to have read the thread.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:14 AM on August 1, 2011


Who? Who has objected to his use of an iPhone? Who has said he's a hipster, so he sucks?

NO ONE HAS SAID THESE THINGS


Come on. They really have.

"many of these photos would be effective enough without the random bs of a $1 iphone app. The fact that the fucking thing has "hipster" built into it earns it instant scorn as far as I'm concerned"

..

"I thought that the whole faux-vintage photo thing was annoying when it was just pictures of drunken hipsters but using it in a war zone seems really inappropriate and borderline offensive to me."

posted by MuffinMan at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2011


You could at least pretend to have read the thread.

Oh stop it. I have read the thread. You assert that the style gets in the way of the substance of these photos; that is an opinion, and you are entitled to it, and other people agree with you to one degree or another. But it's not a fact. Sometimes style does distract from substance; sometimes it adds to it.

You yourself said Dude. It's called Hipstamatic. I'm assuming nothing. So what about what's called? It's a collection of a bunch of different filters that have a similar stylistic feel. All of them are also available in other apps; if the photographer had used exactly the same filters from camera+, I don't know that people would get so hung up on the hipster hate aspect. Maybe they would. I don't know.

I'm actually trying to engage in good faith here, and don't appreciate your sneering snark. I'm the farthest thing from a pro photographer, but I like thinking about how choices a photographer makes in equipment, composition, post-processing and so on affect the viewer.
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


31 Days in Afghanistan: The U.S. withdrawal has started, but that doesn't mean the war is getting easier. Photos from the last month of fighting.
posted by homunculus at 1:46 PM on August 1, 2011


I'm actually trying to engage in good faith here

By taking my comment--Dude. It's called Hipstamatic. I'm assuming nothing.--out of its context, which I've already condensed and clarified? I'm sorry, but you don't seem to be trying very hard.

>>Who? Who has objected to his use of an iPhone? Who has said he's a hipster, so he sucks?

>>NO ONE HAS SAID THESE THINGS

>Come on. They really have.


No. They haven't. Here, let me show you:

"many of these photos would be effective enough without the random bs of a $1 iphone app. The fact that the fucking thing has "hipster" built into it earns it instant scorn as far as I'm concerned"

"I thought that whole faux-vintage photo thing was annoying when it was just pictures of drunken hipsters but using it in a war zone seems really inappropriate and borderline offensive to me."


People are objecting to the app being used in this context. That's all. Not because it's being used on an iPhone. Not because the person who is using it is a hipster.

You assert that the style gets in the way of the substance of these photos; that is an opinion, and you are entitled to it, and other people agree with you to one degree or another. But it's not a fact. Sometimes style does distract from substance; sometimes it adds to it.

I fully agree with this assessment. Thanks for making it seem like I don't, though; it's just ever so "good faith" of you.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on August 1, 2011


Your perception of your "clarification" is subjective; I read it, and did not find it clarifying in the least.

You object to the use of these filters in war photography. Fine. Others - including the photographer - do not. I think we can have a discussion about the relative merits of processing war images without accusations that I (for instance) am not engaging in good faith or that I'm trying to deliberately antagonize you. I apologize if any of my earlier comments offended you or accused you of taking a stance you have not taken.

Thanks for making it seem like I don't, though; it's just ever so "good faith" of you.

That is not in the least what I meant to convey.

I mostly liked the photos. They'd be good photos without the filters, too. To me, the seriousness of their context is not denigrated by the use of filters, and I don't think using them is disrespectful.
posted by rtha at 3:14 PM on August 1, 2011


The final part of the iPhone series: See No Evil
posted by homunculus at 9:23 AM on August 2, 2011


I wrote about this, in part, for my column today.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


From Bunny Ultramod's column:

I emailed Teru Kuwayama to let him know that his use of Hipstamatic is generating this sort of controversy online, and he emailed back to thank me and to say that he'll probably be writing a blog entry about the subject soon (he calls it the "hipstacontroversy"), rather than have to address the discussion in multiple online forums.

Neat, I'm interested in what he has to say!
posted by sweetkid at 10:37 AM on August 2, 2011


Me too. I'm very curious.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:37 AM on August 2, 2011


I sort of think this deserves its own FPP but I don't really have anything on the subject besides this one link, so I'll just put this here:

Drugs Found Ineffective for Veterans’ Stress
Drugs widely prescribed to treat severe post-traumatic stress symptoms for veterans are no more effective than placebos and come with serious side effects, including weight gain and fatigue, researchers reported on Tuesday.

The surprising finding, from the largest study of its kind in veterans, challenges current treatment standards so directly that it could alter practice soon, some experts said.
posted by Anything at 4:40 AM on August 3, 2011


U.S. Doubles Down on Afghan Air War; 650 Strikes in July
posted by homunculus at 6:10 PM on August 4, 2011


Taliban down U.S. helicopter in Afghanistan, 38 dead
posted by homunculus at 9:13 AM on August 6, 2011


Teru Kuwayama, a photojournalist, disagrees: “You could make an analogy to the advent of the electric guitar or electronic music. Much to the annoyance of classical musicians, those things made ‘everyone’ a musician. I grew up on punk rock, hip hop and death metal, so I welcome the post-classical age of photography, and the explosion of amateur expression that comes with it.

“Obviously, it sucks to be a professional photographer, and it's personally inconvenient to lose your pedestal and your livelihood to a $2 app, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing for photography.”

Kuwayama spent time embedded with US Marines in Afghanistan, collaborating with four other photographers on a project called Basetrack. They used new technology and social media tools to document the lives of the troops serving there. One of those tools was Hipstamatic and a Blurb book of their photos is currently up for an award in Blurb’s Photography Book Now competition.

“The cost and weight of my gear has decreased radically, with the added values of post-production, GPS metadata, video and audio recording, e-transmission, and god knows what else, integrated into a mobile phone,” Kuwayama says. “I pretty much walk out the door with the space shuttle in my pocket, which makes me just like everyone else.”

The typical Hipstamatic user isn’t doing war photography but Kuwayama says the app will encourage anyone to take more photos.

Systrom agrees: “It's made me too lazy to pick up a DSLR. I default to taking photos with my iPhone now, and I think that's a really big shift in how photographers will act. Smartphone cameras are improving to the point where the trade off of convenience and quality isn't such a trade off anymore.”
*
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:04 AM on August 19, 2011


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