The following images were shot using the Hipstamatic app’s John S lens and Ina’s 69 Film pack. While I personally would not enter them in a photo contest beyond the illustration category, one can’t deny they are just as fun shoot as they are to see. This site offers all the Hipstamatic lens, film and flash combinations.
Lucas Buick and Ryan Dorshorst are not household names.
However, within photo communities and among photo enthusiasts, their creation, the iPhone Hipstamatic app, is. It was so purchased, downloaded and adored that it landed them Apple’s 2010 App of the Year award.
Months later, another award was handed out. However, it was for the use of that invention. That’s precisely the moment when the photojournalism microcosm experienced a “tremor in the force.”
New York Time’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Damon Winter placed third in Pictures of the Year International’s Feature Picture Story – Newspaper category. His work titled “A Grunt’s Life” chronicled Delta Company 2nd Platoon’s clearing out an exit of Nahr-i-Sufi, Afghanistan. The photo blogosphere erupted and photojournalists were immediately up in arms or defended the accolade. Some remained confused, not knowing how to feel.
To this day, it’s still North vs. South, Sharks taunting Jets, and Hatfields warring with McCoys.
There is no in-between.
Pick a side.
The essay of 12 square images captured the daily grind, intimacy, details and downtime of war.
Prominent Sarasota Herald-Tribune photojournalist-turned-freelancer Chip Litherland was one of the loudest and most influential opinions against. He displayed his opinion freely on his blog, asking, “So do you think this is photojournalism?
“If the answer is yes, then what we knew as photojournalism at it’s (sic) purest form is over and POYi just killed it. Well, they didn’t kill it so much as just dig another knife deeper into the back of its decaying corpse.”
In defense, Winter explained the thinking behind the win on NYT’s Lens blog. The title of the post, “Through my eye, not Hipstamatic’s,” gives you a condensed answer.
I responded quickly to Litherland’s post that day on his blog: “I think because it’s so debatable, and more leaning towards the wrong end of the spectrum of photojournalism, it should be out. It flirts too much with illustration. It focuses more on the craft of photography than the reality of life.
“Sure, I love Damon’s work, and sure, I love the Hipstamatic app. We all do. But we should remember at the end of the day, it’s just an application. Next year it’s likely we’ll see another essay shot with the Hipstamatic app. This has potentially planted a seed. One that tells the world what photojournalism is today.
“Unlike you, I don’t believe it’s (photojournalism) history. It’s just slowed down from its heyday of the 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s. I have the feeling visual truth, despite Winter’s entry, is on the upswing. We’ve seen it dragging on the bottom for too long.”
It’s been almost a year, and I still feel the same. Mostly. Unlike Litherland, I don’t think so far as to believe it’s destroying what journalism is, has become or is becoming. Truthful documenting is documenting, even if for this moment in photojournalism history there was a controversial filter involved. Does it belong in a contest? Yes, for that moment. And no, because it functions too far from what we have set up as reality.
I say yes, because for that one period in a contest we all thought about photojournalism so deeply. It was as if it were some kind of sacrificial lamb that had only one shot. It made us think. It brought us together, tore us apart and spit us out and as a whole and made us better. It forced us to re-examine our industry, to think about the simplest thought: What is photojournalism?
I’d be surprised if we see another Hipstamatic entry win again. I think its purpose ran its course. It was meant for that wrinkle in time and for that I am grateful.
So, what’s your opinion? Is the Hipstamatic app photojournalism? Remember, there are no wrong answers.