is a distinguished Canadian photographer and regular contributor
to Arts & Opinion. For more of Alex's photography,
visit his website at:
been in my heart since I purchased a mail-order 35mm Pentacon
F from Olden Cameras in New York City in 1958. In the late
70s I switched to a medium format Mamiya RB-67. As a magazine
photographer, the largish 6x7cm format has suited me just
fine. Since I am now 68 and magazine photography is on the
wane, I have resisted switching to an expensive $5000 plus
digital Canon or Nikon. Vancouver still has plenty of labs
that will process my Ektachrome and I develop my b+w film
in my home darkroom.
teach photography in a couple of schools in Vancouver and
I have no problem telling my students how to use their digital
equipment. I simply believe that the initial outlay of money
to switch to digital would not garner me increased work at
this stage of my commercial career.
But it was in
June of this year that I was assigned by a local arts magazine
to photograph a Shakespearean actor. As things are done these
days I sent a digital file via email. Because I have a scanner
I am able to digitize my negatives and transparencies. Many
institutions I work for assume I shoot digital.
The art director
replied with a congratulatory message and
never noticed that my portrait had been taken with an iPhone.
Since then I have become adventurous and have explored what
an iPhone can do in its limited range. The digital files are
1600 pixels on the long side which mean that I can project
the pictures with a digital projector. Few can tell the difference
between these pictures, and some that I may have taken with
a medium format film camera. For magazines, the iPhone (I
have the basic 3G costing $99) does not quite meet their standard
requirement: 8x10inches at 300dpi. I would be most reluctant
to replace my 3G with the focusable and exposure control version
3GS. And the latest iPhone would be out of the question. It
is the limitation of the 3G that I am attracted to. Anything
‘better’ would defeat the purpose and I would
then have to throw in the towel and buy a good digital camera.
The iPhone has
no flash and it has trouble handling high contrast. But on
cloudy days or low but even indoor light situations it works
just fine. I have discovered that a 2x3ft softbox
(a light diffusing enclosure) equipped with a quartz modeling
light will help decrease contrast for portraits.
So many of the
pictures taken by point and shooters these days use the ubiquitous
built-in flash and that is why so many of those pictures look
the same. The lack of flash in my iPhone while limiting is
paradoxically liberating. My iPhone pictures do not look like
many of the pictures found in Flickr or in Facebook. In fact,
by resorting to a vignette program in Corel Paint Shop Pro
X I find that my iPhone pictures have a style all their own.
One of the reasons is that the phone is unable to correctly
balance the colour of either quartz or tungsten lights so
that skin becomes overly warm. When I attempt to correct this
with Photoshop it transforms the surroundings into a coolish
It was in July
that I had to take a photograph of two men involved in a Vancouver
art exhibition. I photographed them with my big camera and
Ektachrome and I then played around with the scans to make
them look like I had taken them with the iPhone. The arts
magazine again sent me a congratulatory email. I had confessed
to them about that initial iPhone portrait so this time they
assumed . . .
proposed to one of my favourite models, Quilla, that I photograph
her on a white rumpled sheet bed in the nude and that I would
shoot her with my iPhone. I brought along a couple of 35mm
film cameras and my Mamiya but I soon realized it was much
more fun to snap (on silent mode the iPhone makes no fake
shutter noise) with what is truly a pocket camera. I felt
liberated but curiously guilty that it seemed too easy. I
found that Quilla’s table lamp and the little light
coming from the window was all the light I needed. None of
the pictures here would pass muster what I consider my standards
of sharpness but I like their feel.
And I managed
in spite of the green sheets!
© Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
Photo Essays of Waterhouse-Hayward that have appeared
in Arts & Opinion:
the Company of Argentines