Mobile photographer Brad Puet, who is also a co-founder of We Are Juxt and a member of AMPt, is a firm believer and enthusiastic supporter of the community that developed around the nascent genre. Also a spoken word artist, Puet shares his poetic thoughts, and quotes from fellow artists, in this intimate look at the close community mobile photographers have built.
The community of mobile photography has broadened how we communicate with one another. Our interests are now shared with an increasing amount of people, followers or audience (however you choose to define it). Our reach to others has been extended on a global scale while our interactions have evolved on an emotional scale. We are able to build relationships, based on support and our common ground.
We are now part of a world in which mobile technology touches almost every aspect of our lives. Innovative, connected devices have fostered a community of “creatives” who learn, teach and consume the art of mobile photography. The idea of connectivity is centered in the here and now, helping us interact with people impulsively and instantaneously.
In June of 1997, Philippe Kahn invented the camera phone as we all know it. The premise for this invention for him – to document and share with family and friends the birth of his daughter – also marked the beginning of the mobile photography community.
This burgeoning community has been enthusiastic about sharing their work from the start, first through small, individual blogs and the innovative (at the time) Flickr share site. The creativity they exhibited with their camera phones was amazing. There were many people creating stunning images, curating their art on these accounts and building relationships with like-minded creatives. They began to develop the core functions of the mobile photography community: sharing, engaging and consuming images. From inception, it was about the art, but more importantly about the camaraderie surrounding the art.
Enter social photo-sharing platforms Instagram and EyeEm, and the doors to this small but growing community were opened to the rest of the world. Sharing became instantaneous, and the community discovered a new addiction to engaging and consuming photographs. Images were uploaded at an astronomical rate. What once was a slow process of downloading to a desktop, then posting onto a web-based site, became shoot and share immediately. The community began to broaden. There were a million stories being told.
Exploring the meaning of 'community'
Community means a “unified body of individuals,” says Merriam-Webster. It connotes inclusion and similar beliefs within a collective context. We find ourselves identifying as part of the mobile photography/iPhoneography/Droidography community.
Community is actually individual-specific, with an individual at the center. You, me and everyone else: we each have our own community.
At first blush, this may sound like a modern, individualistic, self-centered definition of community. For one thing, with this understanding comes the new understanding (for me anyway) that every individual I interact with today is the living, breathing center of their own community. This makes everyone significantly more connected, influential and powerful than they appear (and often know) in their individual forms. Every individual is the center of their own community.
We are living in a time when most of us are so flooded with imagery and information as individuals that we have no idea which end is up many days. This can cause us to over-rely on the published ideas of distant experts and to undervalue those we’re directly connected to as well as our individual selves. Sure there are technical aspects that we can learn from others. Sure there are new discoveries that can help us hone our craft. In the context of community, we all have a stake and a contribution to make.
We are so much more than we can know we are or be as individuals. Community wraps us in the surprise and delight we need to laugh, play, relax and to come to know more of our whole, true, beautiful selves. This hasn’t changed since the word community was first spoken, because this doesn’t need to change.
I think that’s why community persists and why it will continue to persist, despite our precarious piles of individual fears.
Community is who we are. It’s why we last. It's always with us, like the found, smooth and treasured stones in my jacket pockets that show up to surprise and delight me again and again.
My stones have names. Your stones have names.
These stones provide us friendship, mentorship and inspiration. They provide us a glimpse of humanity through a technological window.
We develop these relationships on behalf of a community that loves to create, learn, share and connect. We are touched by all these stones on the basic human level. I hold mine close to me, in my pocket, and get excited when they share with me the joys, the heartache, and the humor of their daily lives.
How can I even quantify how they participate in my definition of community?
That’s just how we roll.
Brad Puet (known as BP across many networks and as @bradpuet) found creative expression through photography by way of his mobile phone. By day he is a director of a human services program in Seattle. He also has a long history of organizing many grassroots organizations and is a co-founder of two arts organizations in Seattle, one focused on cultural arts and the other with youth. BP has lived in Seattle for 25 years and is always trying to document its rich history through art. He believes that art is the vehicle for change in society.