Photojournalism and the Hipstamatic App

Photo by Damon Winter/New York Times

UPDATE: Damon Winter won POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year too.

When New York Times staff photographer Damon Winter won third place in POYi’s feature competition last week for wartime photos he took on his iPhone using the Hipstamatic app, some people balked. Photojournalism, as practiced by the greats with real cameras, was officially dead. Others said that’s a naive viewpoint; there are no truly objective photographs — and the photographer’s tool doesn’t make or break a great image.

To me, they look a little like ads, or still photography from a David O. Russell film. It doesn’t strike me as great photojournalism, despite Winter being a very skilled photographer, no doubt. That said, maybe I’m old fashioned. There is something about the purity of classic photojournalism that resonates more for me.

As for Winter’s take, he couldn’t submit to an interview with on Friday because he is in Afghanistan, but he did release a statement to the media site.

In part, it says:

I could not have taken these photos using my SLR and that perhaps is the most important point regarding my use of the camera phone for this story. Using the phone is discreet and casual and unintimidating. The soldiers often take pictures of each other with their phones and that was the hope of this essay: to have a set of photos that could almost look like the snapshots that the men take of each other but with a professional eye.

People may have the impression that it is too easy to make interesting images with a camera app like this, but that is not the case — just as it is not the case that good pictures automatically come out of exotic places. At the heart of every solid image are the same fundamentals: composition, information, moment, emotion, connection. If people think that this is a magic tool that makes every image great, they are wrong.

11 Responses to “Photojournalism and the Hipstamatic App”

  1. 1 Tom Beidler February 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I think it’s a good shot. Critics be damned.

  2. 2 Dave E. July 27, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Damon,
    I really appreciate your work. If I may ask, which lens/film combo in hipstamatic did you use for this photo. Thank you. –Dave

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