A Day at the Museum (or fun with my iPhone’s camera)

My sister, brother-in-law, and nephews visited us over the Christmas holiday. They wanted to visit the High Museum of Art and I happily escorted them. In addition to the museum’s permanent collection, we saw an exhibit on Leonardo da Vinci and an even more fascinating exhibit of architect and Atlanta native, John Portman’s, work. Not only were there photographs and models of a lifetime of buildings and designs, there were also wonderful abstract paintings and sculpture which I found very impressive.

A trip to the High Museum is always an inspiring excursion for me. First, there are the brilliant designs of Richard Meier and Renzo Piano’s later addition: there most definitely is a feng shui thing going on here – as an architect’s son, I know the impact architecture has on a person’s physical, mental & spiritual being – and there is a lot of energy there that makes me feel full of life every time I visit. It’s almost the same sort of energy I pull from the ocean and the seashore. My dream is to one day live and paint in an architectural masterpiece on a wonderful beach somewhere…

And, of course, there are the marvelous paintings and sculpture that fill the galleries of the High Museum.  I am sure there is even more energy radiating outward from the artwork!

So, here I am at the High Museum with all of this creative energy boiling up within me while my relatives are busily covering ground in the temporary and permanent collections. I felt like taking some photos but I had left my Nikon at home. No, photography is not allowed in the museum galleries but it is permitted within the interior hallways and the exterior grounds. I had just finished browsing through “The Best Camera is the One that’s with You: iPhone Photography by Chase Jarvis“.  Jarvis spent a year wandering all over the globe and photographing the world before him with the simple and non-fussy little camera that is built into his iPhone.  The results are stunning. A professional photographer who normally works with expensive digital SLR’s and video equipment, Jarvis felt more free with the iPhone camera and felt he recovered an innocence he had lost. “If we allow it, photography can escape the technical trappings of so many other artistic endeavors.” I totally agree. Sometimes we are more focused on how we capture an image and often miss out on what is naturally going on before our eyes. Jarvis also writes, “Writers have notepads, painters have sketchbooks, and I have a camera that’s always with me. Chances are, you do, too.”

Yes, I do!

I forgot about that little one button camera in my iPhone.  I pulled it out and went to work. Here are the images I took [view them; click on the thumbnails to enlarge;  and continue reading below]:

The digitalization of photography has been a real blessing. There is now a sense of ease and immediacy that we didn’t have in the film world. Sure, Polaroid film gave us instant (well, almost instant) photos but there was still a lag time that often left us stepping out of the action for a few moments. But the real bonus of this digital revolution is not only the fact that we no longer need to shell out money for film – YES, it’s FREE! (sort of) – but we are mentally free from worrying about which subjects are worthy of our hard-earned dollars!  Some of us are still somewhat trapped in the film world – I often see people taking “photos” (yes, the very fact that I still use that word proves I don’t have both feet fully in the digital realm) of other people – portraits, let’s say – and they are posing and clicking the images one at a time – when they could be holding down the shutter and blasting away! Fewer moments ruined by blinks, frowns and yawns.  Purists might argue that this leaves photography devoid of artistic intent and relying on a chance image out of many is not good. On the other hand, the job of editor has become more important and perhaps creative purpose can fall more onto the digital light table.

Technology in digital photography has improved drastically over the last 15 years.  Image resolution is getting higher while hardware is getting smaller – and cheaper. More and more cell phones sport built-in cameras and the once fuzzy, pixelated images are a thing of the past.

As a painter, photographic outings are terrific for keeping my visual senses sharp. Composing and shooting images through a viewfinder allows me to see things I may not notice while sketching or painting. It typically opens a floodgate of ideas and imagery. Just as a golfer needs to constantly hit practice balls from a driving range, I need to look at the world through a viewfinder. I consider these stretching exercises for a painter; they may start out slow and tedious; if I am lucky, the creative process kicks in and before I realize it, I am wired into an incredible, almost Zen-like energy.

I was definitely plugged in at the museum. As I walked around shooting images from my iPhone, I noticed visual compositions were popping up everywhere. My senses were heightened and my energy level was high. I thought about my first drawing class in college and remembered the Eureka moment of discovering how to see. It was a distinct moment I will never forget. Robert, my seventeen-year-old nephew, was walking around with me and taking images with his iPhone. I like to think that he was experiencing a creative process of his own – or at least understanding my visualization process to some degree. He was having fun. So was I.

I use my digital Nikon SLR to photograph my work and as a way to record imagery while I am painting on location. I have a small, digital point-and-shoot Leica that I prefer to photograph family & people with or to use as an inconspicuous or portable camera when I need it. Then there’s my iPhone camera which might carry more weight than initially thought because, as Chase Jarvis says, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.”

The iPhone has many cool Apps available that work in conjunction with or separately from Apple’s camera feature that came with the iPhone. I use Genius, Pano (a really cool panoramic stitcher), ColorSplash, ProCamera, Juxtaposer and Best Camera. Please let me know in the comments below if there is a photo App you think I should know about. Read more about Chase Jarvis at www.chasejarvis.com and see his App in iTunes or at www.thebestcamera.com

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