Living through the lens of your iPhone

Gone are the days when select few people help the power to capture a moment through a photograph. The long wait between its capture and the development of a hard black and white image. In fact, practically gone are the days of physical photographs in which family’s placed in photo albums and gathered around the sacred book at Christmas to reminisce their early lives. The 21st century brought rise to something that replaced them all. The iPhone. With high quality photos in the palm of your hand, and the digital storage to much, the family album is slowly becoming obsolete. However the capabilities of such a device begs the question. Are we now living through the camera eye of the iPhone rather than capturing moments we wish to relive? This is explored through the works of Susan Sontag as she depicts modern societies dependency on photographs to fully experience something and how it has become entrenched into our lives. Throughout this post I will use this theory, with additional support from numerous theorists, to examine the iPhone and its effect on the way we live our lives. In conjunction to this, the iPhone has given rise to new ways to manipulate and enhance photographs, straying away from their essence of capturing reality and allowing for oneself to create a fictional reality. This post will also examine how the iPhone has turned the art of photography into creating your own reality which may or may not reflect actual events in which you surround yourself.

The iPhone has become a part of peoples everyday life. We carry it around with us wherever we go and there is even a clinical condition, ‘Nomophobia’, in which people suffer anxiety when separated from this new age device. Hand in hand with the iPhone comes the camera. Society can now capture any and every moment of their lives and share it for the world to see. However with this new found power comes the idea that did one really experience something unless there are the photo’s to match? Sontag describes that “Photography has become one of the principal devices for experiencing something”. Society is living through the camera eye of the iPhone. Take these pictures of the leaning tower of Pisa.

This iconic landmark is now probably more famous for its tourist attraction of photo taking. As countless travelers pose to take the perfect picture holding up the slanting tower, one has to question whether we are losing touch with reality and focusing on how we can manipulate it. How many of these travelers know that the tower took 344 years to build or that the lean is due to poor soil and soft ground rather than intentional construction? Instead of focusing on what is in front of them, the iPhone provides a platform for people to, in a way, enhance ones experiences. As a result “Having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it”. This is explored through various applications such as ‘Snapchat’ and ‘Instagram’. Snapchat allows the user to share exactly what they are doing at any given point in time. It has gotten to the stage where unless an event is capture on Snapchat then the general public assume that it never happened. This obsession with sharing every detail of a persons life through an iPhone camera inherently inhibits ones ability to fully experience what is in front of them.

Manipulation of reality has also been achievable through the iPhone lens. Sontag describes this as “Situations in which most people use photographs, their value as information is of the same order as fiction”. What she is saying is that our ability to change, edit and enhance photos has gotten to such a stage where even a photograph can be synonymous to a lie. People will take thousands of photos of the same thing just to get ‘The perfect shot’ in order to fool or convince their intended target that their reality is better than what it may be. We a moving to an age where “Photography is not truth. The photographer interprets reality and, above all, constructs his own reality” (Iturbide G. 2013).

My breakfast was uneventful and lacking any sort of worth, however through the iPhone I can manipulate this everyday activity into something that is worth sharing.

Edited photo

The iPhone opens up “Mundane areas of life for photography” (Koskinen, I. 2004). This reflects the way in which photo’s have strayed away from capturing a moment and rather taking a photo is an event in itself. Taking a photo is now about putting forward the most appealing construct of an event rather than capturing the truth. The desire to morph a photo into one persons perceived reality expresses the generational shit that photography is more about “reinforce the user’s individuality rather than their ties to other groups” (Gye, L. 2007). This is reflected through the use of filters and touch ups and various other capabilities the iPhone allows for to manipulate and enhance a given subject in a photo.

It is clear that everyone loves to take photos and share them with the world. The iPhone has fuelled this love 10 times over to a point where every aspect of life is able to be captured. However this inherent desire to capture our everyday life has pushed us to become engrossed with living through our camera lens. As a result digital photographs have become so distorted and manipulated that the reality behind them has to be put into question One has to ask has it gone too far? Have we as a society reached a point where we can’t enjoy what is in front of us unless it is on a screen in the palm of our hands? I propose this to you. Look what is behind your iPhone lens. Look up from the tiny screen and pocket your phone. You just might like what you see.

Reference list

Sontag, Susan (2006) ‘In Plato’s Cave’, in On Photography, New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, pp. 3–24

Iturbide, Graciela (2013) ‘Interpreting reality’, in World Literature Today, University of Oklahoma, Vol. 87, No. 2, pp118

Gye, Lisa. (2007) ‘Picture This: the Impact of Mobile Camera Phones on Personal Photographic Practices’ in Continuum, Taylor & Francis Group, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 279–288

Koskinen, Ilpo (2004) ‘Seeing with Mobile Images: Towards Perpetual Visual Contact’ in School of Design, Industrial Design, University of Art and Design Helsinki. Accessed from

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Title: Out of Context in Pisa (1 of 2)

Author: Flavio~


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