Capturing Libya: Through a Hipstamatic Lens
To photojournalism purists, it was pure blasphemy: a prestigious prize, third place for photo of the year, granted to a New York Times photographer who’d used not a 35mm to document U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but simply, his iPhone — and an app called Hipstamatic. Immediately, traditionalists went berserk: “What we knew as photojournalism at its purest form is over,” one photojournalist lamented. Using Hipstamatic in a news report, another commentator proclaimed, was “cheating us all.”
And yet, to Ben Lowy, a conflict photographer who has made a career out of a certain brand of iPhonography — and will debut the first ever photojournalism-inspired Hipstamatic lens with his namesake later this year — the award was a well-needed wake-up call for photojournalism fundamentalists. Last February, Lowy set out to capture the uprising in Libya from his iPhone (alongside millions of protesters who’d document the Arab Spring on their mobile devices) in photos that would fuel reporting from the region in outlets around the globe. In October, Lowy’s Hipstamatic images of everyday life in wartime Kabul were published in the New York Times Magazine, prompting the magazine’s photo editor, Kathy Ryan, to defend their use on the paper’s 6th Floor blog. And since then, Lowy has published an iPhone photo a day — from dramatic images of war to mundane life in Brooklyn — on his Tumblr, captured under the title, iSee.