Finding Your Lost Creativity

Finding Your Lost Creativity

{Previously published on, June 10, 2015. Additional content added.}

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” ~ Pablo Picasso

andrehermann-2Are we all born with the sense of creativity? Or is it truly a gift that is bestowed upon only a lucky few at birth? This question has recently commanded my attention. Teaching various levels of digital photography at a community college to a broad spectrum of ages, races, and economic statuses, I often hear people say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Or, “I’m not creative.” “I can’t think of ideas. I’m not artsy. I can’t see things in a creative light.”

Recently, I was talking with a student about a project. The person asked how I might solve a particular visual problem. I responded with my solution. The student commented, “you see! Look how easy that was for you. I could never do that. I’m just not creative like that.” This person’s comment really irked me. I was so sick of hearing this ridiculous statement, especially from students. What came next—this person received the brunt of a long-winded rant that went some thing like this:

You, me, your friend, lover, wife, husband’s uncle’s kid, we are all born with creativity. Yes! We are. All of us. Seriously. Creativity is what makes us uniquely human. But I bet you’re wondering, “So why the hell are some people really good at being creative, it appears that even their pinky toe has talent, while others swear to have never been introduced to the meaning of the word?”

Read Picasso’s quote again, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” We are all born with the gift of creativity. But, somewhere along the way, as we get older, someone and/or something tells us: “That’s not what that is suppose to look like.” “That’s not the right way to do that.” “You’ll never make a living doing that.” “Horses aren’t blue!” “Unicorns? Shitting rainbows? Baahhh.” Our artistic innocence is forever stolen from us. I bet if you think about it you can recall the exact moment, and the exact person who took it from you.

andrehermann-1For one small moment we all stand as equals at a crossroad faced with a decision. Do I continue down the path to exploring and developing an artistically creative mind, or do I follow the other path? A note here about the crossroad analogy: We don’t always have a choice. People and life events sometime play a vital role in choosing which path we travel. But that’s life. Those that continue to listen to their creative voice, or who are nurtured, learn to surround themselves with art, like-minded people, learn to be curious; always asking questions, taking risks, fucking everything up, making mistakes, all the while looking for answers and learning. Others? Well, they listen to that fucked up voice of ‘reason’ and find themselves chasing someone else’s dreams.

There’s a story I like to share with my photography students. Art and creativity has always been a major part of my life. But there was a time when I questioned it. Not by my own choice. Someone in my life was always telling me I would never make a living as an artist. “Become an engineer so you can make a real living,” he would tell me. The idea set in my mind, I went off to University of Missouri, Rolla to study Geologic engineering. Why? I like rocks, and fossils and plate tectonics. Anyways, while I was at school I found myself doing more painting, drawing, and daydreaming than my chemistry and calculus. The final clue came when I was sitting in a Calculus II class. I was taking a major test, failing. An extra credit question asked me to illustrate the previous question. I drew an elaborate picture. The next day the instructor called me to his office where he voiced his concern, “the only question you got right on my test is the extra credit question in which I asked you to draw picture. I think you’re at the wrong school.” I told him he was absolutely right. I quit. Came home and started studying graphic design. I never looked back. I started back down a new path to creativity; to what would become a well-paid creative career. I would never let someone tell me otherwise ever again.

The point I’m getting to is, when I hear someone say, “I’m not creative, or I can’t draw, or paint, or design well, or make amazing photographs.” It’s not really them saying it. It’s someone else. It’s a force, a barrier that you allowed someone else to put in place, keeping you from your true artistic vision.

andrehermann-3For some, it’s a long journey back to that fork in the road. Retracing your steps isn’t always easy, or pretty. Please. Whatever you do, don’t do it only for the sake of doing it. Do it because you want it, need it, because you want to make a difference in your life. Those first steps to defining your personal creative revolution are critical. The magic of learning to think creatively again truly happens when the eight tips listed below are religiously practiced.

  1. Stop saying you are not creative. You are. Remind yourself everyday. “I am creative.”
  2. Carry a sketchbook or a journal everywhere.
  3. Doodle, cut-and-paste, draw, or write your ideas down as soon as they come to mind. This is very important. Don’t think you can wait until later. You’ll forget. Believe me. Again, I said it wouldn’t be a pretty process at first. Don’t expect perfection. The important part is to get it all down on paper no matter how ugly the drawings are or how horrible your writing is.
  4. Keeping a visual journal is practice. The more you practice the better you become.
  5. Seek inspiration from the world around you. It can be found everywhere.
  6. Stop and smell the flowers. Literally. Slow down and embrace life.
  7. Be curious. Ask questions. Seek answers.
  8. Surround yourself with creative, like-minded folk.
  9. Consume. No. Ravenously devour visual creative content of all forms.
  10. Build a library of books about your favorite artists. This is a source of inspiration. If you don’t like collecting books use, Pinterest.
  11. Embrace your creative fuck-ups. Failure is essential for success.
  12. Have many mentors. Ask for feedback constantly.

andrehermann-4You will find your way back to the fork in the road eventually. You’ll notice by the time you reach that point you’ve already begun watering the seeds of the imagination, and cultivating the fruits that blossom.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Stop saying you’re not fucking creative. Just hearing those words gives me hives. You ARE creative. It’s just that at some point in your life something got in the way, and you forgot how to be. Now it’s your job to remind yourself. Picasso once said that it took him 80 years to paint like a child again. So stop, turn around and march your ass back to that creative crossroad. It’s never too late. So get to it.

Defining The Box Before Exiting

If you’ve ever gone to school to pursue a career in the arts you know how important assignments were. Whether we liked the assignments or not, they guided us, gave us reason for being, kept us inspired and creating. But we all know those assignments wouldn’t last forever. All too often you’d hear people give one very important piece of advice, “stay on top of giving yourself assignments”. After you graduate there is no one to provide you with those thought provoking assignments, well, until you begin acquiring work. There is no longer the responsibility of performing or earning a grade to get that expensive piece of paper. If you talk with most graduates from art school, or any creative degree program, they will tell you that the scariest aspect of graduating besides job availability is staying motivated and producing new work.

If you do a Google search for ‘photo challenge’ or ‘photo assignment’ you will face 458 million search results. Yes friend, you read correctly. 458 million. Now narrow your search to the reasonable first three to ten pages. Everybody and their brother has a page dedicated to the ‘photo challenge’ or ‘photo assignment’. There is one for every genre and sub-genre of photography as well. The problem is that these challenges and assignments are dominated by the 365-selfie, 52-week, 30-day, 24-hour, photo-a-day challenges. Are you seeing the pattern here? It sounds like a diet. Believe me, I’ve tried all of these and found myself in most cases miserably bored and quitting. Photography was no longer fun. It actually became more of a chore. The problem is that these challenges and assignments do not give us any real world parameters that could spawn creativity besides a time frame. Yes, the time constraint is a real world challenge, but the creative limitations our environment or clients challenge us with are far more helpful in sparking creative, new ideas.

Just telling someone to think outside of the box isn’t always enough. You have to challenge people with limitations. By doing so you draw a line in the sand and dare them to cross it. Parameters. Boundaries. We need to define the box before we can step outside of it, right? If you look closely, the one thing that these challenges listed above are missing, are rules and guidelines. No, I don’t mean “your image must have these dimension, at this ppi, titled this way, uploaded here, by this time”. No, what I am talking about is a set of parameters that we have to work with. We all know what happens when we are put in a box. We want to get out. When we step out from the confines of the box we take our first risk. This first risk leads to more risk taking. In photography, when risks are taken, scary and interesting things happen. We learn about ourselves and others. We find our voice. We discover some new worlds. Most importantly, we create new work.

The whole point to my story here is to share with you a collection of challenges and assignments. Some are my own, and others I have found scouring the web (sorry, not all 458 million search results), looking for the most interesting challenges and assignments. These are blogs, websites and books that offer other-than-the-normal tired assignments and challenges. In some cases I might have found them inspiring to begin with— adding a few parameters of my own. Lastly, I was inspired to write this after giving my Fundamentals Of Photography students at Houston Community College a final assignment to photograph a bench. You can read about it here. Otherwise, enjoy the list. I hope you find inspiration and begin seeing things a little differently.

Some interesting links:
A really interesting way to rethink time constraints
National Geographic is always a great source for assignments – They have a page dedicated to assignments. If you knock it out of the park, you may get chosen for their online gallery.
• ‘Gain access to…’ and, ‘It would it be interesting if… – A student’s reflection on her instructor’s assignment that she continues to give to her students now.
An interesting way to look at people in their cars on the freeway.
CNN has a page dedicated to assignments
Project Soul PancakeReddit picture challenge
The worlds longest list of photo contest ideas (challenges)
Google’s page dedicated to photo challenges
An interesting list of words to to challenge yourself visually with

Interesting assignments I’ve given my students in the past, or that were given to me while I was a student in school:
• A portrait or self-portrait without showing us a person.
• Tell a complete story in 3 images.
• 10 photos, one subject (Shoot from the hip. You cannot look through the viewfinder).
• Light as subject (photograph light as if it is a person).
• 4×4 space. Find a space and map out a mental or physical perimeter and photograph everything you can within that space using multiple camera angles, perspectives, and POVs. (Try to capture a sense of place, space, mood, tone, and structure.) Explore photographing something that lies beyond the boundaries (box).
• Get out of your own head, “How would [enter person’s name here who isn’t a photographer] photograph it? My favorite person to think about is Gene Simmons of KISS in full make-up and theatrical garb.
• Make an ordinary object look unrecognizable.
• Visualize a classical music piece, or your favorite song using only colors and textures as the subject.
• Sometimes just a phrase can offer challenging parameters, “I can barely remember…”.
• Visualize the scent of a woman, or a man.
• Photos from your neighborhood from someone else’s perspective. Walk around and have someone else tell you what to shoot.
• 25 strangers (one of my favorites). No, not your friends and family. People you don’t know. You have to be close enough to hear them respond when you ask their name.
• Walk blindfolded (with help from someone) and when you bump into something photograph it.
• Recreate an image or mimic the style of a photography master.
• Photograph a park bench. You only get 36 frames. No more no less. Choose your 8 best images.

Books with some thought provoking assignments:
The Photographer’s Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas

I know there are so many more amazing assignments and challenges out there. Hell, I only made it through the first 10 pages worth of millions of search results. Give these a try. Search flickr, or other photo sharing communities, for groups who are creating amazing challenges. Don’t be surprised if all you find is words to visualize. If you are that type of person who likes visualizing a word like ‘blue’ or ‘love’ or ‘sorry’, try challenging yourself by creating an image visualizing the word using the ‘LIFE formula for visual variety’. I’ll leave that one for you to research on your own.

Learning From The Masters (A Photography Challenge)

Learning From The Masters (A Photography Challenge)

Emulating Edward Weston

Its been a long time since my last post here as a juxter now grryo. Earlier this year I moved from San Francisco, California to Houston, Texas to teach photography full-time at Houston Community College. Now that I’ve made it through my first semester and settled into my new digs, I am ready to write about photography again.

I’m no stranger to the classroom. I taught documentary photography, and multimedia storytelling in San Francisco, California for two years at The Academy of Art University. During this past spring semester I taught ‘Fundamentals of Photography’ for the first time in Texas. Besides introducing my students to the importance of the exposure triangle, the importance of carrying a camera everywhere and practice, I introduced them to the ‘masters of photography.’

Without learning about the masters and what makes a great photo, well, great, is like operating in a vacuum. In order to develop our skills, our photographic eye, in order to become better visual storytellers we must have a mentor, a photography hero, a source of inspiration. Yes, everyone should have one, actually many.

Emulating Irving Penn

After students have an understanding of how the camera works, along with a general understanding of light and composition, I give them their first major creative assignment: Explore the masters of photography. Choose one photographer from my impressive, yet far from complete list of masters, who’s work emotionally connects with you. “And there will be,” I tell them. Study that person’s work, style, subject matter, and composition. Think about ‘intent, content, and composition.’ Ask questions. Search for answers, and then try to emulate the person’s work. They are given one week to research a photographer and two weeks to create 6-8 images. For some students this will be a truly emotional experience that will transform them.

This assignment, my friends, is what inspired me to write this post. Besides learning the fundamentals, this assignment plays an important role in the development of any photographer. I have seen it change students who entered the classroom lacking vision, understanding, or inspiration in the beginning. They left the class with a new found passion, excitement for photography, and personal vision.

Today I am going to share this assignment with you as well. No matter where you are at in your photographic career everyone should try this assignment. You might just find a new source of inspiration.

Emulating David LaChapelle

One thing to keep in mind: Intent, content, and composition

What makes a photographer and his/her work great? This is a question that is often asked by anyone remotely interested in looking at or practicing photography. In many cases these photographers do not just have one great image, they have many—portfolios of amazing images that have helped them earn the title of ‘iconic,’ joining the group of the photographic immortals that are talked about in classrooms, galleries and museums.

As visual storytellers it is of the utmost importance that we know the masters. There’s a lot to be learned by studying their images, and contact sheets. I remind my students to not only be producers of images but also be consumers. Be ravenous. Devour as much great visual content as you possibly can. Collect images, start a scrapbook or a pin board on pinterest. Collect photo books of the photographers you admire. Study them regularly. Pick their images apart. Try to understand how and why it works. Study their Composition—how have they consciously decided to arrange the visual elements in the frame. Intent—Why did they create these images, and for who? Content—What have they chosen to include, or exclude from the frame? How does it make you feel?

Emulating Berenice Abbott

Assignment instructions, and your chance to be featured here on the grryo blog

This assignment can be challenging yet very fulfilling. Please click here to download the .pdf explaining the assignment in more detail, including the list of photographers. You will have two weeks to explore the list and create 6-8 images. Post your images to your preferred photo sharing site, particularly IG, flickr, FB, and eyeem. Include the name of the photographer you’re emulating in the description. Hashtag your image using #grryoMOP After two weeks of this assignment being published to, we will review the images and curate a gallery of the best images with the hashtag. I will choose the most interesting images and highlight those photographers in part 2 of this post. You can have as much time as you need. In order to be featured in the online gallery you must meet the deadline.

My students love this assignment. I hope you all will as well. Have fun with it because it is only photography, right? I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s work.

André (shutter_se7en)


Old School Portraits with a New School Camera

Old School Portraits with a New School Camera by Andre H

I am not a fine art portrait photographer. I am a mobile phone shooter. I love having the ability to use my mobile phone like my old Speed Graflex 4×5 camera. Combining my Lumia 1020 with Hipstamatic’s Oggl app, I did just that. What most excited me about the Oggl app paired with the Windows phone was a new film roll that emulated the old tintype prints of days past, and the razor sharp image quality from the optics in the device.

On Christmas Day, 2012, I began exploring the Oggl app and it’s ‘D-type plate’ film roll and various lens combinations. I immediately fell in love with the ability to duplicate this old historic process by digital means. I began creating portraits of friends and family. Soon this experiment blossomed into a portrait project that grew beyond friends and family and began attracting strangers and friends of friends.

At the time of this writing I have photographed 50 people. These portraits explore the very concept of identity. Since a good number of people are photographers who made portraits with me, my intention was to explore  how people perceive themselves when asked to be, well, themselves, in front of the uncaring gaze of an, oddly-enough, mobile phone camera.
Creating these portraits were challenging. I did not have the benefit of hiding under cover of black fabric to look through a large 4×5 framed piece of ground glass to focus through. That would have been easy. No, I faced my subject with a fairly small, undiscerning digital camera, entertaining the questions and comments of how I was going to do this with a mobile phone. I assured everyone it would all be good and they wouldn’t know the difference. So what I am about to share with you is a step-by-step guide to how I used my Lumia 1020 and the Oggl app to transform my mobile camera into an antique medium format camera, creating beautiful tintype-like portraits.

Image #1-2: Before you get started, set the Oggl app to ‘portrait mode’ for shallow DOF (see image #1.) By choosing this setting you are telling the camera app that you want a shallow depth of field. Remember, large aperture (big opening) is a small number i.e f2.2. In portrait mode the Nokia 1020 will utilize a f2.2. aperture. When making portraits make sure to stand at least 2-3 feet away from your subject to avoid wide angle distortion. Focus on the corner of the mouth, (see image #2) to ensure all of the face is in-focus (this is an old/trusted technique.) This will come in especially handy if you’re trying to focus on the eyes of someone who wears glasses. The frame of the glasses will be in focus leaving the eyes soft.

Image #3-4: Open the image in ‘Photo editor by Aviary.’ (See image #3.) There aren’t that may good photo editor apps out there for Windows. This one I found to be pretty good, and there’s a Mac version as well.
Click ‘Effects’ choose ‘Clyde.’ This will immediately warm your image (see image #4.) Yes, apply ‘Effects’ before ‘Enhance.’ It makes a difference when it comes to filter stacking. Either way, please, experiment.

Image #5-6: Click ‘Enhance.’ Choose ‘Balance.’ This will adjust the white balance of your image, cooling it down slightly. If you look closely (see image #6), it is a minute change but a significant one in regards to toning. The slightest shift in color temperature can really make a difference sometimes.
Image #7: My image is now finished. At this point I can continue to tweak this image to my heart’s desire. And, I have experimented with adding/subtracting contrast, brightness, sharpening—the whole gamut. What I came to realize is that this final ‘magic mix’ was a good combination that resulted in an image that still felt organic, not over-processed. Feel free to give it a try and find a combo that works best for you. My next step would be to print or transfer these images on to tin plates to complete the process.

The whole set of images can be seen here.

Many Possibilities For Many Reasons

Many Possibilities For Many Reasons by Andre’ Hermann

Never has photography been more questioned and debated as an art form, or as a continuously changing form of technology than it is today—Mobile phone photography. As another tool at our disposal as visual storytellers it is continuously morphing. One thing is for certain it’s here to stay.

As individuals and media outlets embrace the mobile phone camera as a serious storytelling tool the role we play in today’s media landscape as consumers and producers of content remains in a constant state of flux—that is sometimes a cause for people to quickly take sides over what we should call this tool, which type of camera is the better tool, and why.

Now that the honeymoon is over—technically photography is still photography. Now what?

Over the last few months I have interviewed pro photographers who are out in the real world utilizing mobile phone cameras to tell the world’s stories. We’ve heard from Ed Kashi and Michael Christopher Brown, two well-established photographers utilizing the tool (Rob Hart was also interviewed by We Are Juxt). Feeling the need to explore another perspective on the mobile phone camera tool, I recently took the opportunity to speak with the Director of Photography at one of the most prestigious news publications in the world. TIME magazine.

A little over a year ago Kira Pollack and her team made a crack decision to cover Super Storm Sandy through the eyes of five photojournalists, covering five different regions affected by the storm using their mobile phone cameras. This was by no means a revolutionary moment in photography, as much as it was an evolutionary shift in how content is produced and consumed. So gather around and hear Ms. Pollack’s thoughts on mobile phone photography—present and future, and what led up to the decision to embrace this tool at TIME Magazine.

How has the mobile phone changed photography and storytelling as we know it? How has it changed the way we consume media?

I think that the answer is, from my perspective, certainly the mobile phone has allowed anyone that’s in the right place at the right time to make a picture, whether that is by a professional photographer, or, by a normal citizen that is potentially in the midst of a breaking news story. That changes things quite a bit. The other part is speed. We can receive those pictures much quicker that we could, coming from a camera, just by the way they’re transmitted and emailed. So I think it changes the speed in which we can publish things, and that an audience can see them, and, Instagram has also enabled that to happen very quickly. That is just one form of technology. I think that Instagram has enabled us to send things straight from the field to an audience. That is really revolutionary. We used Instagram when we worked with Michael Christopher Brown and Ed Kashi for the hurricane—the Super Storm Sandy last October. That was the means in which we worked with them. They work on their cell phones often, and we commissioned them to cover that event. We haven’t done that very often. I think it really lends itself to certain, very specific kinds of stories that are breaking. But we have tried it, and successfully, I think.

Let me ask you this then, do you feel that now with the mass acceptance of the mobile phone cameras, and especially with the growing popularity of Instagram do you think journalism in it’s traditional form is more or less important?

Yes absolutely. I think journalism is more important than ever. And I think that these are new tools for journalists as much as they are for regular people. But journalism has never been as important as it is now because the journalists have the back ground to be telling these stories and these are just more tools to enable people to do that.

What was your opinion of mobile before Sandy? Was Sandy the first instance that TIME utilized mobile phone imagery?

During the campaign Brooks Kraft made photos in New Hampshire of Romney that we ran in the magazine. And they were great and he used his camera, and he used his camera phone. We just looked at both of them and that was sort of an interesting way to show that story. I think it really depends on what we’re covering. We have done it very infrequently to be honest. It’s not like we’ve changed the way we are covering things to mobile phone photography. But some photographers prefer to photograph on mobile phones. And I think that sort of dictates the people that we’re using to photograph that way. Its not like we’re asking people to photograph on their mobile phones, but sometimes, like in terms of Super Storm Sandy, that was what happened. We went to five photographers in three regions where the storm was scheduled to hit. Three of them were very, very familiar with their camera phones and two of them also had dabbled with it. They were all great photographers and journalists that we had worked with in the past. We commissioned them to shoot on their mobile phones. And because of Instagram we were able to see those photographs right away. They also photographed with their camera. And so we used some of the pictures as double truck spreads in the magazine. Those were taken with their cameras so it wasn’t just mobile phone it was both. And I think photographers are often shooting with both, and sometimes they’re liking the mobile phone pictures more than others.

Also during the campaign Brooks Kraft photographed Obama and Christopher Morris photographed Romney leading up to the final month in the campaign. They also used their cell phone for that as well. But I do just think that some photographers are interested in exploring that tool and some photographers are not. We just published our top ten photos of the year, our picks for the top 10 photos of the year. One of

those was a picture taken by a citizen in Australia during the forest fires last January. It was an incredibly compelling, emotional picture that he made. It was him, taking a picture of his five grand children and his wife under a dock escaping this fire. It’s an incredibly newsworthy photograph that a photographer wasn’t there to photograph. And this was the grand father that took this with his cell phone. The purpose of this picture was to send to his daughter so his daughter knew those children were OK. But it became a news picture. And I think that happens sometimes. That’s what cell phones have allowed to happen. There are, in some cases, newsworthy events being made by normal citizens because of the camera phone.

Andre: And I think that’s a really interesting point because there are a lot of purists out there who only believe in shooting film, and/or the DSLRs. And some people really look down on mobile phone photography as being a curse from the Devil himself, you know, and I think with an image like that one from the citizen in Australia, when I saw that image, I thought more of the emotion that’s created from the moment, the way it makes me feel rather than “Oh, that was shot with a phone.”

Kira: Right. And, it was shot by a regular guy. So it’s two things: It’s the shooting by a phone and its also citizens becoming journalist. I think they’re becoming witnesses more than journalists, and that is the distinction. I don’t think citizens want to be journalists but I think that there’s an engagement with photography that is just—the mobile phone has allowed us to communicate through pictures in a much more frequent way. It’s just like between all the things that you can have on your phone, and a younger generation that’s use to communicating through Snapchat, where photographs are actually disappearing. But that’s how they’re communicating quickly, there’s just a whole other way that pictures are moving. And it’s exciting. I think you have to use it in the right way at the right time. And some photographers are. Michael Christopher Brown is doing incredible work with his camera phone. Ben Lowy, also Ed Kashi. These guys are all great journalists. Most of them dabble in all different kinds of tools.

So back to Ben Lowy and the TIME cover, I understand you commissioned five different photographers from five various regions that were hit by the storm, so, why that particular image? If you can, share your decision making process that led to that cover.

It was the best picture. That’s why it made the cover. There was something emotional about it. It also had a painterly quality to it. It sort of transcended the news in a way, and it was about this huge wave washing in. There was just something, sort of a timeless feeling about it, and, it was an image that could hold type, which it needed to do.

Covers are tricky. There are a lot of decisions that go into it. Its easier if I could show you all the different covers that we tried that day. It was actually a decision that was made that morning that we closed within hours. We obviously had five very talented photographers on assignment for that story so we wanted to use one of our pictures. But we also always look at a wide range of pictures that were made. So that picture, it just worked on the cover. It wasn’t about saying it was a cell phone picture. It was just the best picture. And that distinction is really important because we got a lot of attention for that assignment and we were thinking that it really was the best way to cover the story because of the speed in which people could file. The fact that a lot of the power was going to be out, which it was, so you know, photographers were waste deep in the East Village wading through water, and they would have to go back into their computer to file the pictures to us. When Michael Christopher Brown was making those pictures in the East Village in the middle of the night, in the darkness, he was making them on his phone and he was uploading them to our Instagram feed, and TIME readers saw those pictures as they were being made. We were cut out of the process in some ways. We had those photographers file directly to our audience—really made it a very unique experiment. You can’t do that with every photographer. You need to very much trust the people you’re assigning, basically, the keys to the car, which is uploading right to the feed. And I think that worked because they were coming in from all different regions. It was Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Brooklyn and Queens. And I think they were all, kind of delivering, all of these different dispatches, you know, as they were happening in real time. So that was exciting. Ben’s picture just made the cover because it was the best. I know that’s not the most articulate answer, but it really was, it worked. There was an emotional quality to the way that picture felt, and it really worked. So I think it proves a picture that’s made with a mobile phone can work in a publication, or on a cover. It’s not every week that we’re doing that. It’s the first real cover that we made out of one photograph from a mobile phone but if that’s what it is, you know, it can work, and I think that to me the mobile phone is more of a tool, it really is just another tool to make pictures.

What kind of backlash did time get from the journalism community or other publications for running an image created with that type of tool?

I think generally the response was, was positive, because we were breaking through something, and we were trying something new. And the pictures were good, and, they-were-made-by-great-photographers. So I felt very confident in that assignment because we were going to true journalists to be working with their camera phones. I think that the backlash is exactly what you’re saying: purists that don’t think that journalism should be made with mobile phones. People always question the sort of toning that goes with those pictures, which we felt confident was within our standards, because it was very, very minimal. Every photographer has to make a final image. We’re not publishing raw files in our magazine. So we watched that very closely. We have great, great news editors here and that’s what we’re doing. So I think generally, it was positive and people were excited by it.

Now that the honeymoon is over, and mobile phone photography has established itself as a serious tool, rather than a passing fad, please share your thoughts on the future of mobile phone photography? How will mobile phone photography continue to redefine how we experience, interpret and consume content?

I don’t think it’s a fad but I don’t think it’s taking over photojournalism at all. I think it is another tool, like I said, and I think its worth utilizing that tool at the right time in the right situation when it’s necessary. Whether it is a picture that’s made in a breaking news situation that we need up on our homepage really quickly—that might be a situation that we would tap into the mobile phone photograph. But, really we haven’t done it very often. I think we got a lot of attention for covering that storm that way. We did it very specifically for that particular story because of all of the things I mentioned. And that was over a year ago. The campaign we covered journalistically with photographers using SLRs, and they also uploaded to our Instagram feed, you know, some pictures, but generally we are not asking photographers to shoot things on their mobile phone. But some photographers like Michael Christopher Brown we might want to go to him for that kind of picture because that’s what he’s doing. I think that the idea of the mobile phone and the technology that the mobile phone is providing in terms of distribution and how quickly we are seeing things are one aspect. The other aspect is the mobile phone photograph made by— you can take out the camera phone and the picture’s done and it can be transmitted right from the phone— it’s the technology around it rather than the actual mobile phone picture which I think is interesting. That’s going to dictate a lot in the future, how quickly we see things.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share in regards to mobile phone photography or the images that are created from the tool?

I think that it’s an interesting moment journalistically. There’s a conversation around citizen journalism. There’s a conversation around mobile phone photography. But, the journalists are the ones that have the experience in the field. They have the chops, the background, and the ethics in storytelling. The value of that is so crucial. If a great photojournalist picks up a camera phone and takes pictures, or an SLR, I think we’re going to be in a place soon where they’re both possibilities for different reasons.

Kira Pollack is the Director of Photography for Time Magazine, Time Pictures, Time LightBox and is Executive Producer for Red Border Films.


Photo Credit in order:

Ed Kashi
Ben Lowy
Brooks Kraft/ Corbis for Time
Christopher Morris
Michael Christopher Brown/ Magnum Photos
Ben Lowy for Time
Ben Lowy
Ed Kashi