There’s a part of me that still so desperately wants to fit in. Fit in with everyone else’s expectations. What I should wear. What I should think. What I should be doing “at my age”. I have to be very gentle with this part of me for she’s borne out of the smallest most vulnerable part of my self. The part that was squashed into a corner and told not to make a fuss. The part that believes with every cell of her being that she will only be loved if she is deemed acceptable. If she plays the game the others play, the one where she doesn’t know the rules and screws up every which way she turns — if she can master that game then everything will work out. If she wears the right shoes, if she was more outgoing, if she could just be like everyone else, she wouldn’t feel so achingly different. . .
There’s this other part of me that covers herself in tattoos, wears tight jeans and all the lipstick and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. Who would rather die a slow painful death than be thought to be like everyone else. Who strives to be original in all she does — the worst accusation you could ever level at this part of me is copycat. She’ll rip it up and start again if it starts to smell like someone else’s cooking. She’s the big sister going first to break new ground. She’s the pot-smoking, trip-taking, henna-haired part of me that always has something to say. That rarely shuts up. . .
Neither of these parts run the show these days. They each had a turn back when I first became them, back when I needed to be those selves. Now they’re integrated into the larger whole of who I am and every day I dance with the many selves of my past, wondering about the selves of my future. The longer we live the more selves we collect, yet at the very core there’s a silky thread connecting them all. Looking back I can see hints of Her in all my previous iterations, and can still recall those rare moments when I side-stepped the scared girl, the needy lover, the devastated woman, and remembered who I was. Infinite, endless, encased in flesh and blood. I’d love to live every day in that remembering, but bills and deadlines and insecurites budge in, tripping me up until the next time I create enough space to touch the thread again.
I’m so ready for more space.
It’s been 15 months since I wrote the original version of this post so I thought it was time for an update. The way I shoot with my iPhone has become even simpler thanks to improved apps and my never-ending desire for ease. When I first started taking pictures with my phone I’d go through phases of using a particular app or filter that took my fancy, and, of course, whenever a new bells ’n’ whistles app is released I still download it and give it a try. But these days I find myself shooting and editing in pretty much the same way every time.
Whatever camera you use to take photos, whether it’s film, toy, a DSLR or a phone, I believe it’s the strength of your composition that makes your photo work (or not). Doesn’t matter if you’ve used the most expensive camera on the market or the cheapest — it’s not the camera that creates the image, it’s your eye. One of the reasons I love shooting with film cameras so much is because it takes me back to photography basics: you set the exposure, compose the shot, focus and shoot. I don’t have to fanny around with white balance and the other buttons on my DSLR I haven’t bothered to figure out. Likewise, I use my iPhone in an equally simple way. I’ve tried plenty of camera apps but they all have too many gizmos — I just want to compose my shot and take it. So here’s my very simple (updated) method…
I shoot all my photos with the basic camera app that comes with the phone (an iPhone 5S), alternating between the rectangle and square format, depending on how I want to frame the shot.
When taking the picture I hold the phone up keeping my arms close to my body — for crisp shots you need to keep the phone as steady as possible. When shooting Polaroids I always hold my breath as I take the shot and it’s the same with the iPhone. I only ever take one or two shots of a particular scene, a habit from shooting with film and not having many shots to spare — I also don’t want to use up all the memory on the phone with duplicate images. I take my time, compose thoughtfully, touch the screen to adjust the exposure and then take the picture.
For editing I mainly use the VSCO cam app — I brighten the shot, maybe up the contrast a smidge and then apply a filter dialled down to about 60%. My current filter faves are S2, S3 and M6, with F2 and A8 making an appearance once in a while. All the photos in this post were edited in VCSO cam.
Then I just save the photo to my camera roll and either post it straight to Instagram if it’s a square, or if it’s a rectangular image I’ll use Afterlight to add white borders before posting.
I occasionally put words on my pictures using Over or Word Swag. If I need to straighten or crop an image I’ll use Afterlight; the SKRWT app is useful for straightening distorted buildings. I then use the Dropbox app to upload edited images to the Dropbox folder on my computer.
And that’s it.
For self portraits I use the basic camera app reversed (the lower resolution of the reversed camera helps smudge wrinkles ;-) and edit as usual with VSCO cam. In a moment of vanity I downloaded the Facetune app to test the skin-smoothing function and I can report that, yes, it works but I’ve yet to share a Facetuned photo anywhere as it looks so fake.
When it comes to selfies I’m not very adventurous — I think I got it out of my system at art college. Good hair days, feet shots and hand shots are all I feel the need for these days, so for some self portrait inspiration, check out my mates Amy Palko, Susan Tuttle and Vivienne McMaster.
Once in a blue moon I’ll use Hipstamatic just because I see it on my phone and think ‘oh, yeah, that app was always fun to use.” But in all honesty, I’m over it.
When sharing on Instagram I never geo-tag my photos purely because I switched off that function when it geo-tagged my home. If was travelling the world maybe geo-tagging would be fun, but usually I’m in London or with family — I don’t think people need to know exactly where I am. Privacy first and all that.
Other photo apps I’ve downloaded and kept on my phone: A Beautiful Mess, Diana Photo, PicTapGo, Snapseed, Litely, and Autostitch. There have been many more, of course, but they’ve long been deleted.
Shooting with my iPhone hasn’t changed the way I take pictures so much as facilitated my desire to shoot every day. I see photos everywhere and like to record my days, just for the sheer pleasure of capturing colour, light and shape. When I leave the house I always have my phone with me, though at this stage I really do view it more as a camera than a phone. For a while I was worried that using my iPhone more than my Polaroid cameras or even DSLR meant I was ‘cheating’. How could I call myself a photographer if I shot predominently with a phone? But I’ve always believed that being a photographer simply means you express yourself using the photographic image — the tools you use don’t matter so much anymore (did anyone ever critique Picasso on his choice of brushes? No.) A writer writes, a painter paints and a photographer photographs. Simple as that.
I actually love that digital photography and now smart phones have made photography so accessible to everyone. These days photographs aren’t just taken on birthdays and holidays — we’re now recording and sharing our daily lives. We pay attention more. We’re exercising our creative muscles. Our eyes open wider every day.
It’s a beautiful thing.