As a photojournalist, I often worked in the streets with large and unmistakable equipment. I made my presence known, declaring who I was and why I was documenting, and then I worked hard to blend into the background and become a mere observer. I enjoyed that role and I did it well.
But there were times when I would travel and wanted to document casually as I walked through this world, unencumbered by my equipment. Regardless of how mindful I was with my subjects, my large camera equipment inevitably altered the situations I was documented. So traveling about with just a smart phone or an iPod touch was, and still is, a complete delight for me.
I can blend into the background and stay that way, letting life unfold before me as I catch the metaphors of humanity floating past me on my device. I’ve worked in black and white film since 1992, when I first learned how to roll my own Kodak TriX film and process my prints in the darkroom. I see the world in black and white. And shooting with an smartphone is no different.
When I travel, I convert my phone into a digital Holga. When possible, I take my actual film Holga with me, but as a minimalist, it tends to take up too much space in my tiny travel backpack. So, beginning in 2010, I used apps on my devices that would mimic the Holga effect AS THE IMAGE WAS SHOT. As a film photographer, I enjoy capturing images on black and white film and never seeing the color version. It’s one of my biggest issues with digital photography. I ONLY want to see the image in black and white.
By removing the ability to edit and manipulate a color image, I am able to capture the visual metaphors I’m seeing in the moment, not re-create them after the fact a few months later in my computer. There’s a time and place for that workflow in my art— but my street photography is not it.
The Pakistan Collection
In 2015, I was invited to Pakistan to attend my dear friend’s wedding in Karachi and Lahore. Pakistani weddings are a 3 week endeavor of beautiful gatherings, delicious food and gorgeous clothing.
Since this was a personal trip, I decided to leave my digital camera at home and travel with my AE-1 35 mm camera as well as my Mamiya 645, 120mm film camera. I then snagged an iPod Touch and installed the Hipstamatic app so I could frolic on the streets with my “digital holga”. To be clear, one can’t really frolic on the streets of Pakistan, so many of my images were created while riding in a car.
The Euro Collection
The Euro collection was shot on an early 2011 Android with an app called Vignette that allowed me to mimic the moody and unpredictable aspects of the Holga I love so much. The way it interprets light is just different. A Holga is a cheap piece of plastic that makes imperfect negatives with light leaking in all over the place. My film Holga is covered in gaffer tape to try and prevent most leaks, but they still occur. And sometimes they are glorious.
I was commissioned by a childhood friend to document her family’s vacation throughout Italy and France following the Tour De France. They were stationed with the Navy in Napoli, so we had a tiny window to follow the Tour. When I landed in Napoli, I headed over to the commissary and purchased the cheapest Android I could find and immediately installed my app and turned it into my Holga.
During the quiet moments on this beautiful whirlwind of a family vacation (I’m a single nomad who travels solo everywhere— so a family vacation in a minivan was outside of my comfort zone), I would wander the streets, drink all the espresso, eat all the pastries and document the beauty of Europe with my Android. Images in this collection were shot in Annecy, Alpe d’Huez, Paris, Riva del Garda, Rome and Napoli.
The Storytelling Traveler Euro NFTs are all 1/1 editions available on OpenSea at an affordable price point. All images are 1720 x 1720 px with a white border (as shot in “camera) and are 72 DPI.
The next Storytelling Traveler collection to drop will be a series of images shot in Pakistan in 2017 using an iPod touch with the Hipstamatic app using the same digital Holga premise, with all images being unedited and presented as shot in the “camera”. Collection is being finalized now and will be launch in mid September.