Professional Photographer’s iPhone Photography


Professional Portrait Photographer Heath Missen’s Personal Project

Using an iPhone Camera

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PHOTOGRILL: Tell us about your photography in general.

PHOTOGRAPHER: I have been working as a professional photographer approaching two decades. I laid the foundations of my career as a press photographer in regional Victoria before graduating to hold staff positions for the Melbourne Herald Sun, The Age and Sunday Age. I will always have an enormous respect for newspaper photographers. Their ability to think, react, adapt and produce high quality images in constantly changing environments is astounding.

That said, after 13 years in the industry I felt my journey had stalled and the time seek new adventures. I moved into the freelance market in 2005 with a view to find a new audience for my work and discover myself creatively. The theme of my work would be best described as environmental portraiture. I contribute images to magazines, design agencies and corporate clients.

For lack of a better word, I would describe my work as minimalist. I adopt a less is more approach to my work and aim for controlled simplicity. Traditionally Melbourne based, I relocated to Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales January of 2011.

PHOTOGRILL: Can you tell us about your personal projects and your iPhone photography?

PHOTOGRAPHER: Working on a freelance basis I have found time and a new zest for personal projects. I have four ongoing projects. The first being what is commonly termed lomography – working with toy analogue cameras. I started the project using a Holga 120GN, more recently falling for the marriage of a Lubitel 166 and Fuji Velvia 50.

The second I have simply titled, blue, blue, blue. Working with a digital SLR and a 50mm lens. Primarily working at dusk and looking at all shades of blue. The third, I have called, the fallen. Again working with digital SLR, a 50mm lens and looking at objects that are out of place or have no relation to their landscape.

The final and most recent is a collection of images captured using an iPhone. I confess to initially being skeptical of camera phones, primarily the quality restraints attached to working with a file 984pxl’s by 984pxl’s. Putting my own prejudices asides I began to the use iPhone to create a visual diary of reference material and observations.

I appreciate the playful nature and polaroid like processing of the application. Albeit on the lighter of side of the spectrum I believe that every photograph is an insight in the thinking and aesthetics of the photographer.

PHOTOGRILL: Can you tell us about your thought processes while making these images?

PHOTOGRAPHER: At risk of sounding self indulgent, the images are a collection of very personal, ‘wow, look at that’ moments, quirky observations within the landscape and reference material that I have photographed using the iPhone. Like all of my personal projects, my iPhone images are an extension of what I have always found fascinating about photography. I see a photograph as a record of an observation, an observation that is unique to an individual. I use the iPhone to document and share these observations.

Through my personal projects I have trained myself to look at the world from a child like perspective. Taking time to study colour, form and never hesitating to photograph a subject on the basis that it appeals to my senses. It is very personal – I would not necessarily describe it as art rather an insight into my view of the world around me. For similar reasons that I use toy cameras for my personal work, I believe that a beautiful image is a beautiful image, regardless of the value of the camera from which it was recorded.

PHOTOGRILL: What is different, about your iPhone photography compared to your commercial work?

PHOTOGRAPHER: The reality of commercial and commissioned work is that you are often a slave to the boundaries set by an art director – there is little room to move. I’m not suggesting that commercial tasks are not both challenging and rewarding, nor do I want to discount the value of quality technology that is available to photographers.

That said as I mentioned earlier I believe there is room for light and shade within photography. The iPhone is the perfect shade of light, simple images captured using a simple tool without a great deal of thought – a deliberate step away from the precise. I also like the non-intrusive nature of simple equipment.

PHOTOGRILL: Do you use any iPhone post processing?

PHOTOGRAPHER: I use an application called hipstamatic, which has a nice old school, polaroid feel. I find it fitting as I use my iPhone in a similar vein to the polaroid. I do very little on the production/photoshop theme as I like the, not quite right quality. It is not intended to be precise. Social media is the perfect vehicle for iPhone images, an instant form of visual communication. I have never had the desire to print files, maybe in time this will change and I’ll print images on a small scale, drink coasters perhaps.

PHOTOGRILL: What’s life like as a photographer in Byron Bay?

PHOTOGRAPHER: There is no denying that Byron is a very creative, arts friendly and accepting community. I find it interesting that creative types flock to Byron to find their way. I think that realistically you need to have some sense of direction and a reasonable foundation from which to establish yourself in a small community, as opportunities are limited.

Byron has a very transient population, I am told that one should not consider themselves local until their mail has carried the 2481 postcode for 25 years. I hope to stay so I have another 24 years and 6 months to discover if I fit right in.

PHOTOGRILL: I normally ask for the technical details, exposure, ISO, etc. Instead I’ll ask do you prefer iPhone 3 or 4?

PHOTOGRAPHER: I am an old fashioned iPhone 3 user. I am not the most technology savvy person walking the planet. I use my iPhone to make calls, check the occasional email and to take pictures.

PHOTOGRILL: Any funny or interesting stories about your time as a photographer?

PHOTOGRAPHER: Nothing specifically amusing attached to my iPhone. Telephones are generally not all that amusing.

Perhaps my most embarrassing professional moment is some years ago, during the early days of my newspaper career. I was sent to photograph Stevie Wonder at the Channel 9 studios in Richmond and you guessed it, I said, “Mr Wonder could you please look this way”. His response was to continue talking so that he could follow the direction of my voice.

PHOTOGRILL: Why do you make photos, what drives you?

PHOTOGRAPHER: That’s a good question and a difficult one to answer. Photography is what I have always done. I find it incredibly fulfilling to photographing a subject and walk away believing that in that moment I got it right. As a photographer I find that my style is constantly evolving, I look at images that I took five years ago and I can tear them to shreds. The picture that I took today may not be nearly as rewarding tomorrow. Styles, trends and expectations are constantly changing the way I approach my own work.

I am a visual person. I have a bad habit of constantly analyzing images. I watch films, paying close attention to lighting, composition and lens selection at the expense of the dialogue. I don’t see myself as the most creative person on the planet. There are many photographers past and present who I admire that have a visual gift that is well beyond my reach. That said, I believe I have a reasonable appreciation of light, composition and the mechanics of a camera. Approaching 20 years in the industry I perhaps enjoy photography more now than at the beginning of my career. Over time I have developed an understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses, somewhere between the two sits my style and body of work.

See more of Heath Missen’s photography at Heath’s Website or Heaths Facebook Page

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