During the latest exhibition at Photoworks, the photography studio and education center at Glen Echo Park, juror James Steele was looking for a first-place winner whose piece was well-composed, creative and had a little bit of mystery to it.
While the criteria may sound typical of any art show, the submissions in this month’s “Phoneography” exhibit, are anything but.
On view to Sept. 4, “Phoneography” features 50 photographs, all taken with a cell phone camera.
“It seemed like a fun type of thing to experiment with,” says Gayle Rothschild, director of exhibitions and an instructor at Photoworks. “It seemed a contemporary kind of venue.”
This is not Photoworks’ first experience with cell phone art. The studio held a youth exhibit for ages 8 to 18 from July 27 to Aug. 13.
Photoworks serves as a photography school year round, offering traditional darkroom classes, youth programs and courses in digital photography.
An exhibit featuring photos from a camera phone a tool, which unlike a more traditional, more expensive camera, is readily accessible seems a natural fit for the studio dedicated to remaining relevant in the world of photography.
“We just like to keep up with the technology,” says Rothschild.
“It just gives you the opportunity to very spontaneously capture a moment in time,” adds Michele Egan of Germantown.
Egan began taking classes at Photoworks last year and has three submissions featured in the “Phoneography” exhibit.
According to Rothschild and Egan, thanks to the prevalence and increasing sophistication of camera phones, anyone can become a photographer.
“People use it a lot because they have it with them,” says Rothschild.
“Anything where there is action around or anything unexpected, you do your thing and you’re done with it,” adds Egan who shot all three of her submissions with her iPhone.
Rothschild also points to apps like Pic Stitch, in which users can manipulate photos with effects and create a picture collage, in helping cell phone photography gain recognition as more of an art form.
But despite the simplicity of using a camera phone to capture a moment, both women agree that there is an acquired art needed for this type of new-age photography.
“[There’s more] besides the ‘Let me hold my phone out at arm’s length and take a picture of my face’ like you see all over Facebook,” says Egan.
“It’s not just people taking pictures, it’s people using it creatively,” says Rothschild.
For Egan, that meant capturing people or places at just the right moment. This came naturally to Egan who says one of the reasons she became interested in photography at all was its ability to capture people’s emotions.
“I particularly like the street photography or people photography,” says Egan, who is registered for a street photography course at Photoworks starting in September. “It gives an attention to detail and a different perspective on things.”
One of Egan’s submissions is a photograph taken from the doorway of a dance studio across from the Photoworks building.
“I looked in and there were two people who were warming up,” says Egan. “And the sun was coming in through the windows.” The result is a graceful photo with a halo effect.
Another of Egan’s submissions was taken on a bridge during a road trip to Canada. The black and white photo is shot from a low perspective, showing a single car headed in the opposite direction.
“I think it has kind of a moody feel,” says Egan.
Egan and the other photographers have the opportunity to win a series of awards during a reception Sept. 2.
Rothschild says ultimately, the judges are looking for a photograph that demonstrates the artist’s creative use of the camera phone as a tool to create art.
“I don’t think it’s just random shooting,” says Rothschild. “It’s a little bit of a creative eye.”