Townscapes Exhibition

My iPhone exhibition opened last week in The Galleria at the Riverway Arts Centre in Townsville. I also held an iPhone workshop in the afternoon which was attended by about 30 people interested in learning some techniques when using their mobile phone as a camera.

The workshop notes for those that are interested can be downloaded here iPhone Workshop Presentation

Earlier this year I was approached by louise from Pinnacles Gallery to hold this exhibition in their new public access space at Riverway. The timing was perfect as I was close to finishing this collection of images which focus on the Townsville urban environment. At first I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of hanging my work in front of large glass windows and it took several attempts to work out a system of printing and hanging that would be suitable in the space provided. Its amazing how many of life problems can be sorted out by searching the products on offer at Bunnings. Curtain rails, timber and a staple gun provided the perfect hanging solution for my 24" x 60" canvas prints. I also needed to hang 100% block out material behind the prints to stop the sunlight from shinning through. The prints were provided by Image Science in Melbourne who did a fantastic job matching what I saw on my monitor to the finished prints.

Budding mobile phone photographers attending my workshop following the opening.

Some sample images from the exhibition.

Didactic for the exhibition

Mobile Phone Photography of our Urban Environment

I confess - guilty as charged - I'm a phone fiddler and by the looks of it so is most of the world. My study of this phenomenon I call the "Subway Ratio" - the percentage of customers in the queue at my local Subway Restaurant who are fiddling with their phone. 50% is about normal and sometimes it's closer to 100%. Is this a good thing? Well frankly who cares? At dinner with the family or friends it’s definitely not a good thing along with driving the car, at a concert or looking at this exhibition. No go on its OK to pull it out here - snap off a few - and please tag them "#townscapes" :-).

So why do we do it? Well for me I like to stay connected with friends, pick up random bits of information, run my business while doing other things and of course take and share photographs. It would seem the same goes for millions of people around the world.

The following figures are at best educated guesses:

3.8 trillion photographs have been taken since 1826. Of those 10% were taken last year. 300 million images are uploaded to facebook every day. The vast majority of those images are now taken on smartphones.

So does the world really need so many images - again who cares? I recently went through my 35+ year archive of photographs taken from student days through to a full blown professional career. More specifically I went through the pre digital years 1980 - 2003. I decided that unless an image in my collection had significant meaning to me, historical significance or some other merit then it had to go. The local tip is now groaning under the weight of over 100,000 of my images on slide film, black and white negatives and a few dozen prints. Years of corporate headshots, product shots, overs from more exciting ventures and hundreds of clip tests from slide film demanding an exact exposure all now buried in the ground. I must confess also that I don't have a clue about the environmental impact of my recent spring clean. I had no idea what else to do with it all. On the way home from the tip I stopped by my Post Office and collected the prints you are now looking at - that felt good. Out with the old and into the new and unexplored future. The files from this exhibition are stored on disk consuming next to no space or cost. Soon my entire life's work will fit on one hard drive that hopefully will survive the ravages of corruption and redundancy.

I was once a master of alchemy. Able to disappear into the dark with an exposed roll of film and emerge with a collection of gorgeous prints and now you can do that WITH A PHONE!!!! A digital native would respond - "yeah so what, big deal gramps". Well it is a big deal and the deal is that some of the greatest images ever are being created right now. When there was Leica and Tri-X film there was only one Cartier-Bresson. Now with iPhone and Instagram there are thousands of Cartier-Bresson’s out roaming the streets. Shock horror - shoot me down I say lots of them are producing better, more engaging images than any of the past masters of "street" (I don't include myself in this).

For me the act of finding the images for this exhibition was a form of “Psychogeography” – bushwalking in the urban environment. Rather than travelling from A to B you wander from A to A exploring new places and pathways. Urban dross becomes a place of wonder to be celebrated with a tap on the touch screen. The raking light and looming storm clouds over corrugated iron can hold just as much beauty as our wonderful wilderness areas.

This is my second iPhone exhibition and possibly the last time I will tag a show as iPhone or otherwise. It really is just another camera now with all the advantages of small size and connectivity that we all now accept.

Andrew Rankin 2013