I have had a lot of love for mobile photography since I first got a phone with a camera in it. I found that I was always snapping away on and off set with my iPhone and dragging my friends along on impromptu photography adventures with me. Since a lot of the work I do professionally is very reliant on pre-production and planning, the spontaneity of being able to shoot something just for fun when an idea may strike has always been very enjoyable. But over the past few months I found myself taking fewer and fewer pictures this way.
When Instagram first arrived on the scene I was really into it. I liked being able to share my work and see what people are up to. Even though I still check in on Instagram from time to time to see what my friends are shooting I have been posting less often since the beginning of this year. When I did post I found that I would spend a lot of time (too much) checking in to see how many likes my latest image had gotten and to keep up with comments from my friends. I also realized I was posting less creative work and more and more images of my dogs and travel photos (not that there is anything wrong with that – my dogs are adorable) but it had become more of a platform where I would post thoughtless images and a lot less of a fun place for me to post whatever interesting or creative thing I was working on that day. There was also the debate about Instagram changing their terms of service, and though I still post the occasional travel shot on there to let people know what I am up to, I just never got around to posting creative work there again – but that is not what I want to focus on in this article.
In the past few weeks I have found myself making images on my phone more frequently, and it has a lot to do with an update that Visual Supply Company made to their already pretty great VSCO Cam app. A short time ago VSCO released this update (which has become my new camera app of choice for the iPhone, and pretty much the only thing I use for mobile image editing aside from Snapseed) and despite how cool the photography aspects of the app are, they built something even more interesting into this edition that has really made mobile photography more engaging for me again – VSCO Grid.
VSCO has created a publishing platform for mobile photography that really excited me when I first saw it in action – I could not wait to get one of my own, but I had to wait a few days to get an activation code after it was released. When I did finally get my account activated I found that a lot of the good feelings that I got from creating my little phone snaps and pictures of friends that I had lost with Instagram had come back. More importantly, there was something about the app and the style of sharing it allows that led me to be a lot more thoughtful with my mobile photography. Suddenly, I was taking more pictures with my phone – without any of the weird anxiety I would ocassionally get from using Instagram.
The interface is clean, responsive, minimal, and I really like the way that it presents a stream of images. Another thing I appreciate is that it was designed as a publishing platform and not a social media site – there are no friends, likes, or comments and for the time being that really appeals to me (though it does have some basic social integration like being able to tweet one of your images or share something to Facebook). The idea of having a platform to share this kind of imagery that specifically eliminates the idea of a lot of social media trappings is kind of endearing to me, and I think VSCO did a really fantastic job of giving photographers and artists a platform where they can do that in a very elegant and well designed way.
You can now see my mobile image on my VSCO.Grid 4am Knows All My Secrets (because I stay up way too late playing with my iPhone images, and because Poppy Z. Brite is amazing). It is going to be something of a side project for me where my more creative mobile photography can live (and ocassionally some of these images will pop up on this blog too). Some of the images that populate it now are from new adventures and shoots, while others are select favorites that I have brought over from Instagram and reworked using VSCO Cam. The timing of VSCO Grid being released was sort of perfect too, because over the summer and into the fall I am going to be working on a lot of new projects, and the nature of the images I create and even this blog are going to be changing significantly in scope and subject matter. Grid will be a perfect place for me to share the fun stills I make on adventures with my friends, documenting their style, grabbing candid images on shoots, and creating interesting images while I explore Buffalo and other cities on my travels. Having this outlet and medium to be loose with what I shoot and just have fun feels great – so 4am Knows All My Secrets will be serving as something of a second, purely visual blog for me while my main blog will focus on the stories and images I will be sharing about the subjects of my work and the new directions I plan on taking it in (but that is a whole different post for another time…)
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media (you can find me on Twitter or Facebook most of the time, and I often write posts on social media for ASMP’s Strictly Business blog), but I have always been kind of fascinated by how social media affects how people create. I certainly enjoy sharing work I create with others, and I have made some really genuine connections with some seriously cool people, but when it comes to creating work that is designed to be shared specifically over social media I get kind of dragged into questioning how the medium itself affects the motives people have for creating. Is our intent and work altered by the reaction of others on social media? Does an artist’s search for approval lead them to create an image in search of likes rather than capturing something that truly captivated or fascinated them? Have I ever told you I over analyze things sometimes, even things that are just supposed to be simple fun?
So, before I get too philosophical about it… let me sum up by saying that VSCO Grid is a lot of fun for me, probably the most fun I have had creating mobile images in a long time.
If you are using VSCO Grid too, drop me a link to your feed – I would love to check out some cool work.