In a way, nothing… in another way, everything. Here’s the front page of last Sunday’s New York Times, with major above-the-fold prominence for a beautifully framed, lit and posed portrait of A-Rod. Look at the credit, to Nick Laham (via Getty Images). The first words in the credit line are “Instagram Photo.” Nick Laham is a very gifted photographer, and this image, taken in the bathroom of the Yankees’ training facility in Florida, was made with an iPhone.
It really is remarkable that we’ve reached this point in the art and craft of photography that photographers are willing to yield to a free app to (arguably) enhance their creativity. It’s sort of like the trend in typography a number of years ago when advertising headlines looked like they were set by five-year-olds in kindergarten and then run over by the muddy tires of a truck.
As I look at a whole generation of iPhone photography, it’s ironic to see that my great friend of many years, David Burnett, has chosen a very opposite path – he uses a vintage Speed Graphic 4×5 to make many of his great series of pictures, including at the Olympics. A number of years ago, the dream assignment was one where a client said yes to first-class travel, multiple assistants, and as much gear as you wanted to carry, to wherever you wanted to shoot. No secret that those days are gone, but I always thought that a credo of ‘one camera, one lens’ would be a good way to define oneself as a photographer. A twin-lens Rollei, or a Leica M-series with a 35mm optic, was the choice of many. But no one ever suggested using a post-production technique to diminish the original quality of the original image.
Finally, it seems to say a lot that The New York Times feels the need to tells its readers that it embraces Instagram. Coming soon (perhaps): an all-Instagram edition of the NYT.