Ben Lowy photographs Libya with his new iPhone Hipstamatic Lens

Storyboard | iSee
Conflict photographer Ben Lowy is relying on his iPhone and his soon-to-be-released Hipstamatic lens, which applies minimal processing to the images, to document his latest trip to Libya. For the next week, Tumblr’s Storyboard will publish his photographs.

In an interview with Storyboard, Lowy says he’s gravitated to his iPhone rather than a sophisticated DSLR in part because it’s more efficient and inconspicuous. “I think it engenders a greater sense of intimacy with subjects because you’re not putting a big camera in their face.”

He believes this sense of intimacy carries over to the viewing experience, which is one reason he chose this approach to document Libya:

Everybody takes pictures of their dogs with an iPhone these days; that just speaks to the democratization of the tools. But I think there’s something more intimate about an iPhone picture because of that, so maybe people will look more closely at it. I also think that using the iPhone is apropos for the Arab Spring because so much of the content that began the Arab Spring was from mobile technology.

Zintan, Libya (July 14, 2012) — Omar, 26, sits in the car he drove to the front lines during last year’s Libyan uprising. He refuses to fix his windshield “the sniper’s round went past my head… This car took care of me, so I can’t change it.” But more than anything the windshield is a constant reminder to Omar of the life he took and the friends he lost. “The first time I killed … It was him or me. For three days after I cried and mumbled and thought I went crazy.” (Taken with Instagram; copyright Ben Lowy/Getty Reportage)

The Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund funded Lowy’s trip; Tumblr paid him an honorarium to publish the photos, according to Tumblr Executive Editor Jessica Bennett.

On his own Tumblr, Lowy writes that he’s been reinvigorated by taking a “point and shoot” approach to his work:

For years, I have worked with bulky digital cameras, always mindful of the technical maneuvers from setting the shutter speed and aperture to editing and toning on a computer screen. In the last few years I have discovered that my iPhone has allowed me to capture scenes without feeling that I am once again on the job. To “point and shoot” has been a liberating experience. It has allowed me to rediscover the excitement of seeing imperfections and happy accidents rendered through the lens of my handheld device. I am able to create imagery, edit, and transmit all the images straight to this blog, creating a modern and efficient workflow for the most inefficient of pursuits – self expression.

Brad Mangin, a freelance sports photographer, wrote that something similar happened to him when he started shooting spring training with his iPhone:

By the time the regular season opened in April I felt like I was shooting baseball for the first time ever, through the lens of my iPhone and the square format of Instagram. I wrote a blog post for The Photo Brigade entitled “I Love My New Camera.” I wasn’t kidding! I started looking at everything with a fresh set of eyes from the moment I walked onto the fields in Oakland and San Francisco about three hours before each game. It was like I was a newborn photographer seeing things for the first time.

Sports Illustrated is publishing 18 of those images in its latest issue.

Earlier: Hipstamatic to release ‘Ben Lowy lens’ with minimal image processing (Poynter) | Tumblr launches Storyboard to curate material from its users (Mashable) | Photojournalists debate ethics of Instagram, Hipstamatic

How to: The benefits, drawbacks of using camera phones as a photojournalist (Poynter)

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