Smartphone Photography

Term: 1 Year: 2014

I have noticed in my teaching practice over recent years that students are increasingly using their smart phones to record the development of their artistic process.

Our students have in their pocket a powerful and portable device that allows them to spontaneously shoot photographs at any time and in any place. Social media is allowing them to instantly exhibit their artwork to a worldwide audience.

I wanted my Year 10 students to fully utilise the opportunities for making artworks and sourcing inspiration from the world around them, and so developed a photography project which harnessed the accessibility of smart phone technology. This project was created in association with my student teacher who was able to give me the perspective of a digital native. (i.e. a person born after the introduction of digital technologies and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, has a greater understanding of its concepts)

The students began by researching and analysing a range of photographs created using smartphones and other digital devices. They trialled a range of smart phone photography applications which allowed them to simulate various film types, frames, lighting, lenses and other photography effects.  One of the more popular social media photography “apps” was found to produce images of a very low quality which were designed to be viewed on screen but were not appropriate for printing. There are literally thousands of “apps” available and the students enjoyed sharing and demonstrating their favourites to the class.

They then brainstormed concepts for their photography presentation. The objective was to create a series of nine related images which explored a theme from the world around them.  We looked at the photomontages of David Hockney and talked about the possibilities for fragmentation of images, showing different viewpoints of the same object and for telling a story. The book The Art of iPhoneography by Stephanie Calabrese Roberts was an invaluable resource.

Once the students had decided on themes, they shot a wide range of images using both the native smartphone camera and through apps. They then printed a contact sheet and carefully examined their images. A series of nine images were selected and evaluated.  Some students then went back into apps to edit the images further and use more filters, frames or vintage effects.

The final nine images were then imported into the computer and opened using Photoshop. Any further editing was done at this point, and then the images were arranged in a 3 x 3 grid.  This was an opportunity to learn about layers in Photoshop, and to experiment with background colours, textures and gradients. The finished images were then printed, mounted, displayed and evaluated.

Assessment for this task focussed on the students’ competence in reaching the Draft Australian Curriculum Achievement Standard for The Arts in Years 9 and 10. Factors included:

·         Conceptualising ideas in their art making. (Brainstorming, research)

·         Demonstrating refined skills in manipulating materials, techniques and processes. (composing images, shooting, editing, applications, Photoshop, printing, mounting)

·         Discussing characteristics and constraints identified in the process of art making. (Contact print, screen shots, selection and evaluation)

·         Reflecting on and discussing the development of a personal aesthetic, making critical comparisons to the work of others. (Research, brainstorming, evaluation)

The resulting artworks were surprising in their diversity of technique and approach. Many artworks had a marvellous narrative quality; some were almost cubist in appearance; others were quirky and funny and very personal. All of these students have proudly uploaded their work to social media for the world to see and to like.

Sally Thompson, The Peninsula School
Ella Chapman, Monash University
Suitable for AusVELS level 10