LEICA VS PHONE

iPhone portrait rua Santa Catering Porto Portugal

The Leica M is my main street shooting camera. I can shoot while staying nearly invisible to my subjects. Nearly invisible, but not quite. 

There are times when even the Leica can be too conspicuous from phone, especially when shooting very close, or around overly-sensitive subjects with control issues.

When the Leica is too much camera I use my phone. Phones are everywhere. They don’t catch people’s attention like a camera does. They can get away with things a traditional camera can’t. A while back I visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, an old train station turned into the world’s premier exhibit of impressionist art. There were the usual signs that said “No Photography.” The day I was there I could barely see the paintings. Tourists were lined up in front of each one snapping photos with their smart mobiles and no one said a word to them.

Face of a Portuguese woman. Rua De Santa Caterina - Porto, Portugal
Rua De Santa Caterina – Porto, Portugal

For me there’s a sense of play and freedom I feel when I use my phone as a camera. I really don’t care much about the technical details when I’m shooting. With a traditional camera  I take a more serious approach. The photos need to matter. With the phone it is just the subject and the surprise of what the camera decides to give me. The ability to shoot very close along the extreme depth of field makes it easy to layer photographs, having more than one subject in the same photo. The phone lets me get into situations that would be difficult or impossible with a traditional camera, no matter how small or quiet it was.

Face of a woman. Rua De Santa Caterina - Porto, Portugal
Face of a woman. Rua De Santa Caterina – Porto, Portugal

A project I shot with my phone while living in Porto, Portugal was a series of tight closeups of people’s faces. I left my Leicas at home and wandered up and down rua de Santa Caterina, Porto’s main pedestrian shopping street. I used my old iPhone 6s Plus and an app called Provoke that imitates the contrasty and gritty look of the photos of the 1960’s Japanese photographers like Daido Moriyama and others.

My phone and the Provoke app set me free. I walked against the flow of people, and the moment I passed someone interesting I pressed the shutter. I wasn’t looking at my phone, I was looking only at the subject. Because I needed to be so close, the moment of the exposure was based on the randomness of the timing of our passing. I wasn’t after a point of view. I just wanted expressions that weren’t manufactured for the camera.

The phone works best with third party apps like Hipstamatic or Provoke. The Apple Camera app is terrible and basically unusable. Because of the touch screen the phone constantly changes shooting modes. There’s no way to lock a mode from accidentally changing. Because of this I often push the shutter to take a photo and end up with a movie or effect.

My phone won’t replace  my Leicas. The image quality and my ability to manually control the elements of my photographs with the Leica is a different experience with a different outcome.

If you want to see more of this Portuguese project click the “Cradoc Bagshaw Website” in the menu above.