Gavin Harrison Challenges Definition of Photography With His iPhone


Back in 2009, Chase Jarvis released a book and an app, both entitled The Best Camera is The One You Have With You, highlighting the usefulness of having a camera, equipped with editing apps, right there in your pocket. Ahead of its time, Chase’s book foreshadowed the effect iPhoneography would soon have on the world of photography. Every day, the gap between an SLR and a smartphone shrinks. Nowhere is it more evident than in street photography and one of the leading artists leading the movement is London-based photographer Gavin Harrison.

photo source: Engadget
photo source: Engadget

Gavin is a smartphone purist whose work is both a representation and a distorted view of reality. His work is controversy — not for content of his images, but because of the techniques he uses to finalize them. In a recent interview with Engadget, Gavin listed only one item under ‘gear’ — the iPhone 4. His use of apps to tweak his images is where traditionalists cringe and the controversy begins. “My photos are highly edited, but that just heightens the realism of the photograph,” Gavin explained to Engadget.

These editing techniques throw more fuel on a fiery debate that’s been raging ever since photographers started digitally retouching images in Photoshop and Lightroom. Some of the work of the younger artists in the industry, including creative visionary Brooke Shaden, is frequently challenged over their use of compositing or digital editing to enhance images.


We got hold of Gavin and asked him to elaborate on his views regarding photo editing. “It’s very subjective,” Gavin told us. “Everyone has an opinion and I believe there is never a wrong one. For me, heightened realistic imagery is taking away the realism. Whether someone argues that the realism of the image is heightened or taken away, the image is noticed. If an image evokes an emotion, whatever that emotion may be, then I’m happy, because that was the purpose of the shot.”

This brings up a years-old battle within the photography community: Is a photograph successful due to its composition, or due to the emotion or response it evokes? Gavin also argues that an app gives you the ability to think differently from behind the lens by considering which apps you will use to finalize your shot in post-production. In other words, apps are Gavin’s digital camera bag. Similar to the lenses and filters of a gear bag, apps are the tools Gavin uses to create his desired image.


“When I take a photo, I think about the apps I have and decide if any of them would make a specific impact on the image, if so, I would adjust the composition beforehand,” Gavin told us. The image above was taken near the Santa Monica Pier in California. According to Gavin, he had already taken various shots of the location without using filters or apps and felt the need to mix things up and make something different. He knew he needed a flat landscape, a few trees, and some buildings so that the Tiny World 360 app could make an impact. “After the initial image was taken, I then edited it through a number of other apps such as Snapseed and Night Sky, to make it look like it literally is a tiny planet, floating through space.” Tree

If photography is an art, why should the public get to tell the artist what he can and cannot use to produce his art? Isn’t the imagination behind the image what matters? Jackson Pollock used a stick to paint and Gavin Harrison is using his iPhone. Are we living in an age that still must adhere to the standards of film? If so, why? Do we need another name for the art of digitally-altered images, or should the photography community embrace the unique benefits of the latest technology? Speaking of which, here is a list of Gavin’s favorite apps. As you can see, these apps multiply and expand what an image can be.

Here is a list of Gavin’s favorite apps:

645 PRO MK II, $3.99 — “It has a built-in light meter and does manual settings like a DSLR.” (Camera FV-5 offers something a bit like this on Android.)

Slow Shutter Cam, $0.99 — “It keeps the shutter open for blurred motion. It works best with a tripod unless you want really weird-looking photos.”

DMD Panorama, $1.99 — “Great panorama app, which can do 360 degrees if you want.” (Pano is similar on Android.)Spiral

Clone Camera Pro, $1.99 — “A fun app for cloning yourself or your friends in certain photos.”

Big Lens, $0.99 — “For mimicking depth of field, so you can blur out the background or different objects in the scene.”

Camera+, $1.99 — “Especially good for its burst mode, so you can fire off a bunch of photos in quick succession.” (Camera ZOOM FX offers advanced burst mode on Android.)

Snapseed, free — “One of my main editing apps. Great for any type of photo, because it does so many different things.” (Also available at Google Play.)

VSCO Cam, free — “Especially good for adding an aged, washed-out look to your images.” (Or see Vignette on Android.)

TinyWorld, $0.99 — “Makes scenes look like planets… gives a sense of abstract realism.” (Check out Tiny Planet FX Pro for similar effects on Android, priced at $2.99.)

To learn more about Gavin, please visit his website and online shop.

Source: Engadget, Gavin Harrison



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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.