Appiphilia: A Chase to legitimize iPhone photography


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Does having a 2- or 3-megapixel camera on your cellphone make you an artist or a photographer? Chase Jarvis would argue it does.

“Yeah, everybody is an artist,” he said.

The 38-year-old commercial photographer is a kind of platform-agnostic photo-evangelist. Still buzzing from the limited sleep and excitement of the recent launch of a 256-page book of his iPhone photography (‘The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You’), a new iPhone app (Best Camera) and related photo sharing social network, he told us he’s hoping to generate a bit of a pop cultural movement.


Now that nearly everyone has some kind of camera in hand, ‘there’s no barrier to entry,’ whether a kid playing with Dad’s phone, a professional photographer or a grandmother tapping out snapshots of her day.

“My [65-year-old] mom is a great example. She was never programmed that she is a creative type,” he said. But when she got an iPhone, “it enabled something in her…. There’s no drama in this thing that you’re supposed to talk to your friends on.”

A bit of an iPhone freak himself -- Jarvis has bought every iteration of iPhone upon its release -- he found the device has served as a visual journal for him, the way artists have sketchpads and writers have notepads. Typically, these rough creative playgrounds aren’t ever seen by the public – at least not while the creators are alive.

But Jarvis has been working to turn that inside out. “This is a legitimate tool. This is a book-worthy topic.” A publisher agreed; thus was born a book featuring more than 200 images he shot and edited using only his iPhone and apps on the device. His work is to be featured in a traveling gallery tour this fall in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.

He said that, although he has some of the best equipment out there at his disposal, the iPhone ‘gave me total freedom,’ despite the embedded camera’s constraints and parameters. “We think we want more choice, but we really want less.”

More choice in his early iPhone shooting efforts meant using many apps to do all he wanted with his pictures. One to shoot, one for a filter, one for sharing on Twitter, another for Facebook. This helped to inspire him to develop an all-in-one app with Ubermind. Best Camera boasts 14 easily applied (and easily removed) filters and the ability to share photos via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and on his new website with a tap.

With his site, he hopes to envelope this burgeoning community of iPhone photographers, give them a platform and shared language to help them engage with one another about their art. The site features the photographs shot and shared via the app, complete with details about the photographer and filters used. Those who have the app can track live the photos shared -- and vote them up. Unlike Flickr, this site features photos taken or shaped using only one device: the iPhone.

So far, the $2.99 app has been doing fairly well, ranking No. 3 among paid photography apps within just a few days and No. 11 among paid apps overall, according to the iTunes App Store.

Although Best Camera’s first iteration launched just days ago, version 1.1 is in the works. Initially, Jarvis and the team are looking for feedback. The upgrade, he said, would likely include expanded sharing and enable deeper dialogue.

‘There’s virtue in making the perfect picture,’ he said. ‘But there’s also merit in pulling something out of your pocket.” As he said, “this gets you taking pictures…and gives [us all] permission to suck.”

-- Michelle Maltais

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