“For many years I was the self appointed inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms and I did my duty faithfully.”
Henry David Thoreau
The Molokai morning sun hadn’t been up long enough to erase the long shadows of palm trees when Dewitt Jones and Rikki Cooke started pontificating on the porch.
On this day, Dewitt went first. He wore khaki shorts and a crisp Tommy Bahama aloha shirt that he professed to have purchased off eBay for less than $20. String bracelets hung off both ankles and a wrist. The same wrist was also adorned with a finely-crafted puka shell bracelet and a rubber one imprinted with Dewitt’s life mantra, “Celebrate What’s Right With the World
“Photography is merely a residue of the experience,” Dewitt said. “Cool. But not as cool as the experience. The experience is more important than the photograph for your life.”
Dewitt’s longtime friend and fellow National Geographic photographer Rikki Cooke sat behind him, one Jack Russell terrier mix draping his lap and the other perched like a princess on a pillow beside him. The two longtime friends couldn’t be more of a visual contrast. In place of Dewitt’s Tommy Bahama look, Rikki wore t-shirts tinted with Molokai’s red dirt. Red dirt appropriately defined Rikki. It was embedded the pores of his skin, under his fingernails and shellacked onto the Croc clogs he wore to threadbare-thin soles. But both Rikki and Dewitt wore the same puka shell bracelets, made by a local artist--and soon the purchase and “family crest” of my fellow workshop participants of Creative Photography for the Soul
The two friends echoed each other. “We have this notion of us taking a photograph, taking something,” Rikki said. “What if we could show up and allow ourselves to be taken. Like the little child seeing things for the first time. Wonder. I want to unleash that.”
Imagine going to a photography workshop and hearing that the photographs didn’t really matter.
Dewitt quoted photographer Minor White, an early master of the form. “In my head, I keep hearing Minor White's famous words, ‘When I go out to shoot I don't ask, 'What will I take today?' But rather, 'What will I be given today?'"
What these two masters were really sharing—as we acolytes sat at their feet—was a reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment. Others might say it like this: Be here now.
“We’re beauty hunters, and if beauty doesn’t change us, what does it matter?” Dewitt asked. “Expose your soul as you expose your images.”
Let’s be clear: The photographs do matter. And Dewitt and Rikki both agreed to that. They matter in three ways. One, the mere act of seeing as a photographer allows us to slow down and look more closely at the world around us. Two, the process of making a photograph—in a dark room or by way of a computer—allows us to have another experience with the image and sometimes in an equally extraordinary way as when the shutter was clicked. And, three, sharing that photograph can give a multitude of others a multitude of additional personal experiences.
A big gift that I was given last week turned out to be another way of thinking about my photography. As Dewitt would say, “This is a both-and seminar; not an either-or.” So, now, in addition to viewing my photography from a journalist’s point of view, for which I have long been trained and conditioned, I am also seeing photography as art. As art, the possibilities are endless. There is no right or wrong. No black and white. Grey abounds. Especially with the advent of the iPhone, which is really a camera that sometimes rings.
“Now, we have the ability to make art in our pocket,” Dewitt said.
Imagine two National Geographic photographers hooked on iPhoneography. Sure they have the latest, greatest DSLRs, and they carry around fancy, carbon-fiber tripods. But they don’t hesitate to pull out their iPhone, compose a shot and run it through a slew of iPhoneography apps. Then, smiles plastered on their faces like boys in a candy store, they turn their iPhones your way and share their art. Wonder unleashed.
At the other end of Dewitt’s and Rikki’s porch-side pontificating sat Jack Davis. As expert as he was with Photoshop, he is equally taken by the daily proliferating world of iPhoneography apps, proving it’s not what technology you have but what you can do with it that matters. And Jack knew the in’s and out’s of what you can do with iPhoneography, from A to Z and back again. (Of course, now I’m jonesin’ to upgrade to the iPhone5 and break down once and for all and obtain an iPad.)
I keep going over my notes from the week—and I take copious notes—and here’s what I’ve distilled as a good process for me in continuing to make art with the iPhone—whatever version it may be—in my pocket. Of course, I’ll continue to tweak this list as I go, much the same way I process my photography. And I encourage you to join me. Borrow what works for you below or create your own process, but, most importantly: Make art. Have fun. Say thank you.
1. Show up. Stop. Say, “Wow. How fascinating.” (Or, alternatively, “How inconvenient.”)
2. Remind myself that I’m just playing with a big, box of fresh crayons. (Oh, the smell!)
3. Ask myself, “What’s in the frame? What am I responding to here--pattern, light, line, texture, what?”
4. Ask myself, “How can I enhance that, whatever it is that caught my eye, and get rid of everything else?”
5. Consider whether any iPhoneography apps can help the enhancement? Bracket Mode. ProHDR. ClearCam. 360 Pano. AutoStitch. Slow Shutter.
6. Press the shutter.
7. “How can I make it better?” Will either of these image processing programs help: Snapseed? Lightroom?
8. If need, use Photosynch
to move photographs around—from phone to iPad or laptop.
9. Release the need to make a difference. Just a make a contribution—put my art out in the world—and go from there. Stay in neutral.
10. Remember to think, “Look what I have been given.” And to say, “Thank you.” Out loud.