My Voigtländer Vito B, shot with an iPhone, massaged by CameraBag. The image is more or less life-size.

My Voigtländer Vito B, shot with an iPhone, massaged by CameraBag. The image is more or less life-size.


Years ago, when I was a reporter who also did a lot of my own photography, I put aside the camera bag of Olympus bodies and lenses, and spent a week using only a Voigtländer Vito B, with a fixed f3.5 50mm lens, and a handheld light meter. The camera was so primitive, focus wasn’t linked to the viewfinder: you focussed with the distance ring and the depth-of-field scale.

During that week I shot a lot of film, ruined a lot of shots (although I never came back from a story without an image) and drew a lot of interested glances from the people I was shooting. (I could get away with my experiment, because I was working for a small-town weekly, with much less pressure than there would have been with a daily.)

I learned (re-learned?) a lot about photography. Some of the lessons were mundane, but important, such zooming with my feet. The biggest lesson, though, had nothing to do with technique.

Photography, I discovered (rediscovered?) was not about grabbing an image, it was about seeing. The lack of technology forced me to be aware of everything: the quality, direction and variety of light (so I could accurately measure it); the relationship between camera, subject and background (so I could choose the most effective f-stop); the need to be absolutely sure that I understood everything that was in the scene, so that I could do it justice.

The exercise made me a better photographer, for at least as long as I remembered the lessons I learned, which two decades later, still come back to me every now and then.

I’d like think, if I were a young reporter-photographer today, I’d do the same thing all over again, only this time with my iPhone, which is also a pretty robust point-and-shoot.

(Much great photographic work is being done with the iPhone by people such as Melissa Lyttle and Richard Kochi Hernandez.)

Who knows what lessons in photojournalism and seeing the iPhone would teach me?

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