August 19, 2018

To iPhone, or not to iPhone: that is the Question

So I'm in the middle of my annual three-week Internet fast, walking through Northampton, MA, and I see in my mind this black-and-white photograph.  I reflexively extract my phone out of my pocket, compose, zoom in a little, and snap a shot.

And, after taking the picture, I feel hollow, shallow.  Since I've packed a smartphone, my real camera, my Nikon D200, has mostly been collecting dust. More and more I've come to to realize the multitude of functions that happen on my phone, the swarm of devices it embodies.  It's time to dismantle this paradigm. 

Paradigm Shift
So I decided to not take pictures with my phone.  I also used a clock to time my meditations, rather than the digital timer.  I used the phone book to look up a number.  I contemplated making the effort to find a flashlight rather than using the app.

For extreme contrast, I began using only film cameras.  Sometimes I took the trouble to carry a camera with me.  Other times not, and despite a phone in my pocket, I eschewed capturing visually entrancing scenes.  I recently sent 7 rolls of film off for processing and await the results.

Portal  (Yes, is is a porthole.)
However, last week, on the ferry across Lake Champlain from Essex, NY to Charlotte, VT, the experience was so visually rich I strayed from my cell phone camera ban.

Escape Hatch - Keep Clean
For nine slightly panicked minutes, I prowled around the boat creating these images.  I had broken my cell phone rule! I was longer living in the moment, but mediating my experience with technology!

Adirondack Mountains
And, perhaps, speaking of paradigm shifts, this brief creative spasm may have brought me closer to being in the moment, as capturing the images necessitated accessing all my senses, including intuition.

Taking Care of Business
Since taking pictures brings me joy, perhaps the device does not matter.  However, as I have previously discussed, I believe it is vital to vigilantly question the role technology plays in our lives.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at