David Hume Kennerly On The iPhone;
Secrets and Tips from a Pulitzer Prize-winning Photographer
Goff Books www.goffbooks.com
What do you get when an award winning, seasoned, photojournalist encounters a year with no planned big news events to cover; no presidential elections, the economy apparently on the rise, Washington politicians at a standstill? You get David Hume Kennerly picking up his iPhone and striving to make meaningful images with it every day for a year.
In his forward Kennerly notes that despite the rise of mobile phone photography now creating more pictures in a year than in all of history, “this new technology hasn’t turned out a new crop of world-class photographers.” He continues, “Instead, it has allowed people to take sharper and better exposed pictures that generally lack meaningful or well-composed content.” He then rather ominously notes, “The power of pictures is being diluted by a tidal wave of visual mediocrity that is out there for all to see.”
Throughout the book Kennerly shows that not only is he a world-class image-maker, he is also a delightful storyteller. Recalling his first flight in 1959 at the age of 12, he adds that airplanes have continued to open the world to him and that he has visited more than 100 countries, and yet “Even now, I try to score a window seat on an airplane so I can check out what’s happening below. There are remarkable sights out there and when I travel way up high I don’t just gaze into space, I take pictures as I rack up the miles.” In fact he takes pictures like this one from above Chicago, April 25, 2013.
In a chapter called “Finding the Moment” aptly subtitled, “Make the Photo Come to You” he explains that great images are the result of the photographer’s use of two basic controls, timing and position. Whether it is an image from his 1971 Vietnam portfolio for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, or this one of gymnast Kara Sadlik, he demonstrates the power of thinking ahead photographically to bring all the elements together for the strongest possible image.
Kennerly states in his foreword “Now more than ever, I know that great pictures are about the eye, not the gear. Capturing the moment, connecting with a subject, translating that into a photo and creating a great composition can be done far more easily and, in many cases, just as well with that indispensible little device we all carry around in our pockets—the same one that we also use to call home and check our bank accounts.” Indeed having the camera ready while also seeing things that remind one of other things they’ve seen yields powerful images like this one, perhaps influenced Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”
David Hume Kennerly set out on self-assignment to make a worthwhile image with nothing more than his iPhone every day for a year. In addition to a worthy collection of images he also presents the reader with a two-page list of 60 tips for better pictures. The images in the book prove the validity of many of the tips, especially the first one; “It’s not the gear. It’s the eye.” His eye remains sharp.