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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 5, 2010
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




Alex Waterhouse-Hayward is a distinguished Canadian photographer and regular contributor to Arts & Opinion. For more of Alex's photography, visit his website at:

Photography has 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.

I 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. © Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

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 cyan green.

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 . . .

I 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:
Live Art/Acto Vivo
Wonderful Tubs
The Photographer's Model
Boot Camp
One-Armed, Double-Breasted Pam
In the Company of Argentines
Mexican Nostalgia








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