The Power of Mobile Photography to Tell Stories
Welcome to Creative Live, I'm Kenna Klosterman, your host for Storytelling with Mobile Photography with Ed Koshy. Now, Ed Koshy is a photojournalist, a filmmaker, an educator and a speaker. He's a contributing photography to National Geographic and a member of Seven Agency. He's also the co-founder of Talking Eyes Media. Now this is a rare opportunity to have a world renowned photojournalist teaching us here on Creative Live. He is going to teach you his process about how he creates stories with that phone that you always have with you and that is going to allow you to create better stories with your mobile phone as well about your family, about your friends, your life or simply the world around you. So everyone, please help me welcome to the Creative Live stage, Ed Koshy. (applause)
Well thank you everyone, thank you for being here and we're gonna talk about mobile photography today. It's something that just a handful of years ago, I never would have imagined that we would be here t...
alking about this but it's incredible how this tool and this medium has developed in such a short period of time. The power of mobile photography to tell stories is in its early stages but it's really exciting, the possibilities, and the two things I wanna talk about are we might have this in our pocket all the time and it's something that we might even take for granted that we have as this tool for capturing pictures but how good is the quality of your pictures? And how aware are you of the world around you? And one of the great things about photography and it's something that I've always loved about any kind of photography is that it empowers me and it forces me to engage with the world in a much more powerful, a much more self aware way. So, two of the main takeaways I hope we get out of today is how do we improve the quality of our pictures in mobile photography and how do you enhance your engagement with the world around you? So, in making more compelling pictures, the qualities that I think about are, especially with mobile photography, is that we use it so often to capture our memories, our personal memories, whether it's with our family, our coworkers, our friends. There's also this idea of the personal satisfaction of making our pictures better and then also having greater impact with the pictures we take because that's one of the amazing things that is connected to mobile photography is that it's something we can now share. In the past, we might make beautiful pictures or pictures that were very meaningful to us of our family or our friends or maybe our daily life but there was never a way to share it but now we have that in this one tool and it's a pretty incredible thing. So, we are gonna talk about, we're gonna talk about mobile photography kind of in the context of three different kinds of events, if you like, or situations that you might find yourself in. One is the cultural event. This is something, well we'll get into the details of what they are. The other is an intimate event which is self-explanatory, like a birthday party or a coworker's party or something like that. And then the third thing is, of course, street photography. So these are some examples of pictures I took a couple of days ago, I was in Seattle, went out with the Creative Live crew and went to the Ballard Farmer's Market and there was this amazing guy that we met there that's a total character. We'll talk about portraits in each of these three different kinds of scenarios. It's capturing moments, this is an example of street photography where you're out in the world with your camera and the other thing sort of intentionality that often, and I don't think you have to be a professional to gain this quality, or to have this consciousness, is that while we have this thing in our pocket or pocketbook or what have you, if you have this intentionality to make pictures then it makes you experience the world and see the world in a different way. We went to Alfie's, this five year old, sweet little boy in Seattle, we went to his birthday party so the idea of an intimate event. And just capturing these moments and it's interesting, I was thinking about how as a photojournalist, so often I'm not trying to make pictures of people to make them look good, right? My intention is to make it interesting and so, so often, I have to tell this anecdote, when my kids were small and I'd make all these weird pictures of my kids and then I'd send them to my father-in-law and then he'd call my wife and go, "Julie, why is Ed sending all these weird pictures "of Eli and Isabel?" "I just want a nice picture of them smiling." and that was an interesting kind of reality check for me that so often the pictures that we make as journalists or serious photographers don't necessarily make people look good and are those the memories that you want to preserve, especially of your loved ones or your friends? It's a never-ending learning process, life of course, but also being a photographer. There's just, there's something about just capturing these really sweet moments where they're candid and this is the dance troop which is an example of kind of a, more of a cultural event. Again, I'm gonna get into more detail with each of the three scenarios that we photographed in as a portrait and capturing action, I'm gonna talk about how any photographic tool, it has its limitations so one, and I'll get more into it, for example, is with mobile photography is when you're in a low light situation and there's movement, it's very hard to freeze action and these are things I hope you'll take away today is that to be more mindful of how you use this tool to be most effective. So, who is this class for? Well it's for anyone who wants to take better photographs. Whether you're a new parent documenting your kids or your grandparents wanting pictures of your family, capturing moments when you travel, I mean, in many ways, I think photography, for people who travel, photography becomes a very, sometimes almost too meaningful of a way to, I was recently in Costa Rica, and this woman, we were in this hot spring, and this woman's got her go pro in the hot spring and I'm just thinking, "Are you experiencing "what you're actually doing?" But who am I to judge? Anyway. And then again, this idea of awareness that for me, having that camera in my hand just makes me more aware of my surroundings and while being the observer sometimes, you're not as involved in the situation, there is a richness that comes from that. Some of the things we'll learn in this class and I'm gonna show you some pictures here of mine that I've taken with my phone in the past. Aesthetics, learning how to see, learning how to use, to think about composition and color and light and that in some ways mobile photography has brought those aspects of photography to life for me after 30 years of doing this in a way that I hadn't, to that point, looked at photography and part of it is maybe that with mobile photography, there's sometimes a playfulness, that you have a little more, especially if you're a very serious photographer, you have a license to play a little more and kind of mess around with things. And then human interaction, how do we capture human interaction and what are the qualities that you need to be thinking about and to bring to the scene so that you deal with people, not only you capture human interaction but you become better at how you interact with people to make your pictures. This is a portrait of my daughter, we're gonna talk about portraits and, again, this was just outside the back door on a summer day in our house in New Jersey and I saw the screen and this beautiful young woman, I'm a little biased and, well she was a girl then, and anyway and I made this portrait so we're gonna talk a lot about portraits in each of the three scenarios that we're gonna cover in this class and then just for the heck of it, double exposures. Here's an example, I was in Chile last summer and I was playing around with the color yellow and I made this double exposure. So sometimes I do it very consciously like I saw this guy, yellow against yellow, and I took a few pictures and then I was conscious of, I bring them together, and we're gonna go over this in practice later today. You'll watch me make a double exposure from the shoot I did on Sunday in Seattle. But yet again, it's another way we can be playful because I think that's something I want to emphasize and I hope that really comes through is that even if you're using your mobile photography to do very deliberate and very serious and very meaningful things, you can also play. And play in life is really important and I really need to learn that 'cause I'm way too serious. And then, ya know, I mess around with these sorts of things, like creating a quad trip, I guess you, no, yeah, something like that, yeah a quad trip and this was for a series I did that was in the fence in Brooklyn as part of Photoville but it's, again, just looking at my pictures and these are all captured with my camera and finding new ways to use the language of photography. And what's really cool is I've started to get commissions, I've received a number of assignments now from places like The New Yorker or foundations like the Open Society Foundation and UPS. I've done a couple of assignments now for UPS and this was from last year in Louisville, Kentucky at their main world port facility and I just captured this moment, it was unfortunately very rainy but folks in Seattle wouldn't understand what that's like, sorry what a cliche, all right. So I want to take a few minutes now just talk about kind of my career and my career path and also how I've come to mobile photography 'cause, as I said, it was something that I didn't, I never imagined, I mean, think about it, when I started in the early 80s as a photographer, what a different world we were in. Maybe Ray Bradbury would have thought there would be a phone like this, these science fiction futurist writers but, you know, I was working with a Leica and black and white film and had very what's seen now, humble but difficult goals, which was to make great still images and match those with text and meaningful stories. My first personal project was in northern Ireland looking at the protestant community. I became fascinated very early on in my career and in my life with, I wanted to be a visual storyteller and I wanted to tell stories about things that were meaningful. I was sent by the New York Times Magazine in 2003 to Afghanistan to follow the 82nd Airborne looking for Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. I also have done, besides the geopolitical work, social issue work in the United States. I did an eight year project looking at aging in America. How is America growing old? And in the course of my life, my work has brought me into situations that are, in some ways, unimaginable that as a stranger, I would be privileged to witness these moments, these intimate moments, where people are vulnerable and it has taught me so much about humanity, about myself and it's kind of like I constantly fall in love with photography over and over and over again. It's really dangerous actually 'cause it's kind of addictive. And sometimes, when I'm not shooting, you know Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am," well for me, I shoot, therefore I am and it's really true. This was in West Virginia and I had been spending a week with this 90 year old couple, the man in the white shirt is the husband and Maxine, they had been married for 70 years and this is literally the moment where she's dying and it's a beautiful moment, it's not a depressing moment, it's a beautiful moment. This was in the West Bank in Palestine and I was working on a story for National Geographic about christian Arabs in the Middle East. This is in Vietnam, I did a project on Agent Orange, the enduring impact of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese people. So again, for me, my work has always been almost like a weapon against injustice, a tool for raising political and social awareness and an opportunity, in some cases, to witness history and be part of writing the first chapter of human visual history and, as I think you'll all agree, visuals are ascendant, whether it's good or bad, it's definitely the case. This is in Nigeria in the Niger Delta, I spent three years working on a project about oil in the Niger Delta and a beautiful thing happened after this 14 year old boy, he's working in this Dante-esque abittoir, an outdoor slaughterhouse and they would kill the animals and then roast them on burning tires and then, before they were cut up, I capture this moment and when it was published in National Geographic, a woman in upstate New York contacted me to find out who this boy was and eventually she tracked him down through her church in upstate New York in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and then started to pay for him to go to school so he wouldn't have to work in these conditions and for me, that kind of a story and my colleagues probably have countless other stories that they could tell, like that, it reminds me how much the power of photography and imagery still matters in our image deluged world but also that people care. And people are paying attention. So another picture from the Niger Delta. So this was in Brazil, I was doing a story about his name was Zipeche, the fish, he's a boat pilot, he was 76 years old when I made this picture but the amazing thing about him is he would guide the boats out to sea and then he would dive into the ocean and swim ten miles back. It's hard to get these kinds of assignments anymore and his skin was literally like leather. So then I started, about four years ago, I started to use my phone as a camera and I like to tell the story that the very first picture I ever posted on Instagram, I didn't even know I had done it, my then 13 year old daughter had said, "Dad, you really should get on Instagram," and so she showed me sort of how to use it and then I got on a plane and I didn't even know what I was doing and I took a picture of the backseat of the back of the seat in front of me and without knowing it, I posted it and so an hour later, I landed wherever it was and Isabel's like, "Dad, that was a really crappy picture, what are you doing?" So thankfully, I have improved. I have grown since then and, again, I use my mobile photography as consciousness raising, I do this feed everyday climate change that I contribute to, I use it as part as an adjunct tool to my work, I was in Ghana in October working on a Seven Group project looking at the impact of the Millennium Villages project on rural development, this was a goldmine, artisanal goldmine so I'll even make these pictures while I'm shooting with my 35 millimeter camera. And then, again, I'll also use it just to capture these sort of quiet daily moments so, again, the power of this tool and this medium and this channel of communication, right, 'cause that's the other bit about this that it's a channel of communication too, direct communication, is that we can be serious and we can be playful. I'm gonna hammer that in today.