Several years ago, before the first photography app was available in the App store, I made a commitment to myself to complete Project 365, a Flickr-inspired photography project that required me to shoot and select one image to represent each day consecutively for 365 days. At the time, I was seeking an area of focus as a professional photographer and felt that the freedom of subject matter selection coupled with the discipline of shooting on a daily basis would guide me down the path.
Determined—and inspired—I hauled my first DSLR, a Nikon D80, and a lens or two in a backpack throughout each day. While carrying the camera and shooting daily wasn’t always convenient, it prompted me to master that camera and its settings in a variety of environments. It also uncovered my love of documentary as an area of focus. And perhaps, most importantly, it taught me to move through each day with my eyes open and ready to receive images. On day 366, I remember thinking, "I can’t stop."
Using my iPhone and a collection of photography apps, I now shoot, process, publish, share and exchange feedback on my personal photographs, the documentary of my own life, with a community of viewers around the world. It fulfills me in a way that shooting daily with my DSLR didn’t because of the powerful community aspect of mobile photography.
With my iPhone and the Instagram app, I can experience life through the eyes of mobile photographers I follow all over the world. As I stand in line at the grocery story, I can visit New York City through the eyes of Sion Fullana (@sionfullana) and Anton Kawasaki (@anton_in_nyc). Leaning on the kitchen counter as I wait for the water to boil, I might travel to Singapore with AikBeng Chia (@aikbengchia) or follow David Alan Harvey (@davidalanharvey) on the road in Rio. While I’m curled up on the sofa, I can check in on my Shutter Sisters, including Tracey Clark (@traceyclark), Jen Lemen (@jenlemen), Meredith Winn (@camershymomma) and Kate Inglis (@sweetsalty). Interestingly, as a follower of avid mobile photographers, I’m finding that I feel less attached to a single photograph and more attached to the photographers who choose to express themselves through visual documentary of their own lives.
The mobile experience of processing my personal photographs in real time, titling them in intriguing ways and sharing them with my viewers in Instagram and Twitter on my iPhone, has become almost as appealing as the act of shooting. Sharing my personal documentary regularly online has been a way for me to gradually open myself up and experiment with photography as a form of expression—to learn what it feels like to expose who I am, what I see and how I feel. It has helped me gain perspective on what it feels like to be the subject of a documentary study, a practice of letting my guard down and getting comfortable with a certain amount of exposure and vulnerability. Consequently, it has helped me gain a new level of appreciation and sensitivity for my subjects, and keeps me focused in the present moment.