For anybody that’s been under a rock for the past year, Hipstamatic is an iPhone app(lication) that converts your terrible phone camera into an analogue wonder (sort of). For the past year, it has transformed the way we use phone cameras. Once a means of taking quick snaps of your mates having a pint, the Hipstamatic app has allowed everybody from Joe Public to professional photographers to capture beautiful images with speed and ease. Hipstamatic pictures now appear everywhere – on the front page of the New York Times, in fashion stories in magazines and on countless websites.
It was only a matter of time, then, that somebody would present an exhibition of Hipstamatic pictures (Jeez that H word is hard to type). The ‘Hipstamatics’ blog allows users from all over the world to submit their photographs and 157 of those submitted have been selected for this unique exhibition. 157, coincidentally, is the number of Hipstamatic 100 analogue cameras that were first produced by Bruce and Winston Dorbowski in the 1980s.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Hipstamatic. It’s transformed the way I take photographs. I would never use the standard camera on the iPhone for photographs to use in posts here, but Hipstamatic allows myself and other contributors to take aesthetically pleasing photographs that perfectly capture whatever it is we’re talking about. There’s also Autostitch, but that’s another story/blog/exhibition…
So what to say of the exhibition? It’s certainly presented brilliantly. Small prints of 6″x6″ cover the walls of the intimate gallery, held up pegged to string. There’s a huge variety of photographs, including obligatory cat portraits, cityscapes, beach scenes, cups of tea, fashion portraits and everything in between. All 157, presented side by side, taken by 157 different people in 157 different places, look fantastic. The problem I have (and I’m aware that I’m bitter for not submitting any of my own) is that everybody can take a great picture with Hipstamatic. That’s the beauty of it. Of course, there’s a certain amount of skill involved and there are some great pictures here that I assume are by professional photographers, or at least people with a damn good eye. Cropping, lighting and subject have all been considered. They’re all brilliant. But I could have done that! Anybody could have!
The best way for me to judge the exhibition is get over myself and ignore the fact that I could have been one of the featured artists. Instead, I’m genuinely pleased that somebody decided to do it. It cements the phenomenon that Hipstamatic has generated. I also think it’s a bit of a social experiment as well as an exhibition. It’s a modern day Duchamp’s Readymades; it questions who and what we should put in a gallery. This is ordinary people using a revolutionary app to create stunning photographs that don’t look out of place at the side of some of the world’s greatest photographers. Of course, I’m sure the exhibition hasn’t launched to be taken so seriously. It’s wonderful to see so many images of a similar nature, from all over the world, side by side.
You do have to wonder though. Can you imagine going to a gallery to see a collection of phone camera pictures? I mean, I’m sure if Hirst or Emin or some other famous wally at the Saatchi Gallery did it we’d all flock to it, but can you really imagine what that might be like? Without the vintage quality of the app – its ghostly vignetting, chromatic aberration, muted colours and film-like texture, the majority of these would just be ordinary personal photographs.
It’s retinal art. There are no hidden meanings or artist’s thought processes, they’re a selection of beautiful pictures and it’s interesting to see how people have used the app in a number of different ways. You can also see, clearly, that each photograph has been considered much more than your typical holiday snap. Many are posed (including the reclining cat – one of my favourites) while others make use of unusual light or extraordinary objects.
The problem I have with Hipstamatic, which becomes clear from the exhibition when you print the images, is that the resolution isn’t wonderful. Some of them had obviously been shot on the lower setting (there are two, and the high-res images aren’t great either) and some images are a little pixelated when you get close up. As a collection, though, this isn’t such a problem – but in a way it reminds us that these are ephemeral photographs and, really, they wouldn’t stand up at the side of traditional film images.
In terms of artist integrity, the exhibition isn’t going to win any awards. But as a Hipstamatic fan, thank God the Hipstamatics have cemented, in this small but effective way, the power and phenomenon of Apple’s App of the Year 2010 in this mesmerising and thought-provoking exhibition. Long may it reign!
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