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During 24-year-old photographer Jeremy Edward’s walk to the El, he will likely identify a graffitied, abandoned storefront in the city, snap a quick photo, manipulate the image using an iPhone application or two and upload it to his online portfolio—all within the five to 10 minutes before the Red Line appears.
Chicago-based iPhone photographers, much like Edwards, are embracing their point-and-shoot, three megapixel camera phones for a desired aesthetic—one that is akin to a Polaroid—in order to create art with intention, which is then showcased in
galleries around the country, as opposed to frivolous party pictures.
While living in rural Kentucky, Edwards discovered peculiar subjects for photographs and began shooting regularly at age 15. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Edwards graduated from college and experimented with digital photography. Though he describes himself as always being “a photographer at heart,” he pursued international development work in both Japan and China after college.
Edwards, now an Edgewater neighborhood resident, launched the “From the Pocket” project in 2008 as a series of pictures taken exclusively with an iPhone camera and edited with iPhone applications. He generally documents fragile parts of the city that have character, he said.
“I think there’s something organically beautiful about the limitations of the iPhone,” Edwards said. “It’s just a simple point and shoot and there’s not that much you can do. What’s unique about it is that all your post-imaging processing is all done in the same place.”
A strong advocate for editing iPhone photography with only one or two applications as opposed to handfuls, Edwards insists that people who wish to take iPhone photography shouldn’t “push the limits of what a camera can and can’t do,” which is one of many tips he listed on his “From the Pocket” Web site blog.
Shake It, an application that transforms an iPhone picture into a Polaroid with a white border, and Lo-mob, an application that alters the color scheme to appear warmer and more distorted, are among five applications that Edwards said he uses regularly to edit his photography.
About 100 of Edwards’ photographs will be featured in a book that he is self-publishing with an expected release date of either April 1 or May 1, he said.
“I wanted to put together something really substantial that gives a good illustration of how something as simple as a phone can actually be artful,” Edwards said.
Chicago-based photographer Sarah Best describes her iPhone photography as an extension of her love for New York poet Frank O’Hara, whose poems were conversational and usually centered around being out around town with his friends, she said.
“I want to make you feel like you know the people who are in my picture,” Best said. “That warmth comes out when the pictures are a little washed out and the colors are distorted with the Polaroid application.”
Trying to create a sense of immediacy is important to Best, which she said adds an element of chance to her art—comparable to any other medium such as ceramics if a pot loses shape in a kiln, for example.
Best, the Web specialist at Chicago Office of Tourism, compiled iPhone photographs for her “Daily Photos, on the Project Wall” exhibit, consisting mostly of portraits of friends. The exhibit is showcasing at Antena Gallery, 1765 S. Laflin St., from Feb. 19 to March 20.
Everyone is invited to bring their cell phones with them to the gallery so that she can send them her work via multimedia message if they’d like to take the image home with them, Best said.
“I like the idea of people being able to own their own art and also experience art while they’re out having dinner or with their friends,” she said.
Whether a photographer can afford an expensive SLR camera is no longer an issue.
Kay Frederick, a 38-year-old accountant, was given a first-generation iPhone as a gift in 2008, which is when she began to take iPhone photography and build a body of work on Flickr, an image and video hosting Web site and online community.
“I can take a picture of those same Marina Towers every single week and how I’m feeling, or what applications I’m into that week will make it totally different each time,” Frederick said.
Though she said she has downloaded about 50 photograph editing applications for her iPhone, she only uses a few applications—occasionally as a layering effect—depending on what the specific picture merits.
Frederick also explained that people are reluctant to change, which is why iPhone photography can be criticized for being amateur.
After submitting her work to a contest, three of her photos were chosen to appear in exhibit at the Giorgi Gallery in Berkeley, Calif., called “Pixels at an Exhibition—the Art of the iPhone.” The 200 selected photographs will comprise a book as well.
For more information about Jeremy Edward’s “From the Pocket” project visit, JeremyEdwards.Tumblr.com. To learn more about Sarah Best’s work, visit TryLessHard.com/Sarah/. For more of Kay Frederick’s work visit, Flickr.com/Photos/SparkyLuck/.