Chances are, if you have seen photos from World Vision, you have also seen the work of World Vision photographer, Jon Warren. Jon has shot countless images for World Vision- his photos are a staple of our Blog. His skills as a photographer allow us to see parts of the world we have never been to, and give us insight into people we have never met. On a recent trip to Cambodia, instead of using an assortment of cameras and lenses as he usually does, Jon used another camera to capture portraits- his iPhone. Read on to hear Jon’s thoughts on capturing images in a brand new way, and see the amazing captures from his trip.
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Show life as it really happens. Open a window to the scene. Do nothing that might raise a barrier between the reader and the subject. And never, ever, draw attention to yourself as the photographer.
For years as a World Vision photographer I’ve clung to these guidelines. I’ve done my best to document real life, presenting as genuine a picture as possible for readers. My goal has been to show subjects that are real, live, unique people — not just objects on a page.
And then came along the iPhone with its cool photo apps. It was like being handed a new toy — a combination of a bucket of crayons and malleable SX-70 Polaroid film. A few flicks of the finger and a mundane scene would become wildly colorful. Close-ups transformed to pop art. I loved playing with it! It became my casual camera of choice.
But I didn’t consider using the iPhone for a real assignment until confronted with the “Amber Alert” story in Cambodia. The story was dramatic and powerful, but the events had happened two years earlier. And the text revolved around people rather than locations.
To tell the story, I needed a series of portraits of the main characters that would be compelling enough to draw readers to the writing.
If I used a “proper” camera, I’d need to do “proper” photographs. But in this case I worried that standard photos would be dull and boring, especially when there was no action and the light wasn’t ideal.
But what if I used an iPhone? Something had to be done to add spice and pizzazz. These needed be different.
Most importantly, would using an iPhone give me more inspiration as a photographer — doing an assignment that was stalling rather than stirring me?
So I followed the same approach as with regular portraits, but this time around I clicked on my iPhone, pulled the images into the Camera+ app and briefly tweaked the images on the spot. Done.
The results were interesting and fun. The portraits still seemed to have character and personality, but definitely broke the traditional “no alterations” rule. One iPhone image even ended up on the cover.
In the photography workshops I occasionally lead, I emphasize that equipment is much less important than vision and passion and message. And I’m still a firm believer in documentary photography. But tools like the iPhone certainly give us new options.
They also raise all sorts of questions. Will readers recognize the distinction between authentic documentary work and manipulated posed portraits? Do “real” and “proper” photos lose some of their credibility when played alongside the altered ones?
I’d love to hear from you. What do you think the role of Instagram and camera phone altered images play when we’re trying to show genuine stories? Email me your thoughts at: email@example.com.
Be sure to read “Saving Savoeun,” and see the rest of Jon’s iPhone captures. “Saving Saveuon” tells the story of a community who developed a plan to rescue Savoeun from being sold into sexual slavery.
What do you think of using an iPhone to illustrate a story? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.