Activity: The Filters of Citizen Journalism
Photography is an art form and as such there can be nothing wrong with using the medium artistically, even in post-editing. However, Damon Winter’s Hipstamatic work demonstrates that the application of such ‘artistic’ interpretation to (potentially) reportage or news photography does seem to strike a nerve with some – perhaps in the same way as were we to be greeted by a beautiful watercolour depicting the lead story in tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph, rather than the more expected photograph. We have come to expect ‘straightforward’ photographs in the press, so anything straying from that is bound to cause a flurry of comments and raising of eyebrows.
In my 35mm roll film days, I developed a passion for printing beyond the frame and producing as hard an image as Ilford Multigrade would allow: stark, harsh black and white, paying homage to the likes of David Bailey as well as Margaret Bourke-White, photojournalist for Life magazine, who insisted that all her negatives be “printed to black”. That was what I wanted to do – my interpretation of my work (well, in honesty, an interpretation that I had copied, but loved!). Sadly, without post-editing, it is no longer possible to “print to black”, telling the (informed) observer of the efforts you went to composing the image. Nor is it easy to achieve a high-contrast mono image in-camera. I am very happy to see post-editing applied to photographs, but worry that the single click applied filter is becoming the ‘norm’ where mobile phone photography is concerned – do we really want a high percentage of the 600+ images uploaded every second to Instagram to be re-rendered by Ludvig, Inkwell or Clarendon?
So long as we can be confident that images are telling an appropriate truth, then the device used to capture a given scene is, surely, immaterial? After all, the best camera is the one you have with you. However, what can be done to moderate the content supplied by the masses from mobile phones? Can we be sure that such material is reliable? Is there a code of conduct, even a moral code that underpins the quick snap from a mobile phone and the £50-for-your-image upload site that could see the image spread like wild-fire, unchecked?