Cellph Portrait appears to be my most prolific series. It only seems this way because of the accessibility of the evidence. There are no negatives to print, and its digital nature provides an ease of movement and exposer film does not. The process is swift and mobile — no scans, no darkroom. And in the case of the cellphone, the tool is also the method of display for the images, the two echoing the other. Unless a print is made, then they separate, but I prefer them as a unit. 

Like the self-portraits, this project began out of a desire to create when I had no one to pose for me. It became more intimate and exploratory in its immediacy since I didn't use a tripod and rarely framed the shot because I couldn't see what I was photographing. Photographing with my digital camera was relegated to weddings or commercial work. Fine art was reserved for film only. I still prefer film; it captures details and nuance of light I still don't see in digital. But this project freed me from film in a way I had yet to experience, and I was surprised and delighted by it. So before selfies and the explosion of social media, I was quietly documenting my persona with my cell phone camera. It became quickly became therapeutic. 

As processes go, I began to you find ways to layer the work. I employed movement as my primary tool. Some digital cameras can pick up on ambient light in a way film doesn't, and I explored the push/pull, depth/breadth of my camera phone. I was increasingly interested by how far I could push my cell phone camera — I started out with an LG flip phone and then upgraded to an LG Chocolate. And I couldn’t get away without sometimes setting up the shot and photographing using the timer on the phone. What the images lost in impulse, they gained in recess.

 

None of the photos have been altered. There were no apps available in 2006 to enhance the photos and I didn't have Photoshop or other photo editing software. I wanted the images to be as raw as when I took them: pixilated, overexposed, underexposed. And because I made this choice they provide their own transparency, immediacy, intimacy that can otherwise get lost when the editing process takes over. 

After I purchasing my first Iphone, I have attempted to continue the series. But as the cameras on new phones have evolved in greater resolution, they lack a certain digital grit the previous phones mastered. The Iphone camera does not capture ambient light with the same radiance, nor does the shutter speed adapt in lower light and slow to a crawl like my older phones. I have installed apps with the ability to manipulate the exposures, but even with the adjustments the process lacks the same capture and somehow subtracts from the original approach, which was to take a photo the moment I was struck to do so, without warning — open the phone and, like a line a poetry suddenly inviting you to write it, take the photo and see where the line leads.

Below are examples of the images. As I reviewed and resized these for the website, I began to see how the influence of Renaissance and Baroque art as a teenager began to emerge in my twenties. At the time I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted that sensation of capture, something akin to an addict wanting their fix.

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© 2018-2020 by Christian Bradley West