#iSnapSF, Hipstamatic portraiture in San Francisco

Those who have followed the photography on this site over the past year or so know that I have become quite enamored with the Hipstamatic photo app on my iPhone. It certainly has nottaken over all my photography or replaced by DSLR, but it has become one my tools for certain types for images and for the challenge of working with limited degrees of freedom. Synthetic, the makers Hipstamatic are actually based here in San Francisco in a renovated factory building not far from CatSynth HQ. And I recently visited them for the opening the photography exhibition #iSnapSF.

Most of the images in the show and the accompanying book are portraits. I have to admit I have not used Hipstamtic for portraits (except portraits of my cat). But the photographers this show have managed to capture quite a bit of detail and expression in their human subjects.

[Images from #iSnapSF from facebook page and reproduced courtesy of Synthetic.]

In both cases, the subjects are integrally part of the urban environment around them, either by design or by coincidence. In the second instance, the subject is more integrated into the architecture of the environment in terms of her pose and dress – this was one of favorite images in the exhibition. If we are to follow a trajectory of portraiture to architecture, there was also this image of a downtown SF building with the distinctive bay-window architecture characteristic of the city.

This one (another favorite of mine) is particularly impressive in that it includes several layers of reflections, subjects and scenery. And of course it includes a cat.

[Images from #iSnapSF from facebook page and reproduced courtesy of Synthetic.]

The lens and film effects bring out certain details while obscuring others. This particular combination has a grainy quality but still emphasizes outlines, such as those of the subjects’ figures and the buildings. It also amplifies the rough texture of the concrete.

The prints were relatively large (between 12 inches and 18 inches square), and they came out consistent with one would expect. They are relatively low-fidelity in terms of pixel resolution and the nature of the lens and film effects, but the images are still quite detailed.

I am not sure what the goal was in having some of the images framed and mounted, while others were hung from clothespins.

The proceeds from the show and the accompanying #iSnap Field Journal support Larkin Street Youth Services, a “San Francisco-based non-profit organization that provides various support services such as emergency shelter, medical services, meals, counseling, and job training for at-risk youth ages 12-24 living on the street.” Indeed, most of the photographs in this series were taken in the downtown neighborhoods around mid-Market Street and the Tenderloin that they serve. I did get a copy of the field journal:

[click images to enlarge]

In addition to the prints themselves, each page also has notes about the images. For the picture of the young woman shown above, the notes confirmed that it was a chance shot on Market Street with the photographer curious about the subject. Surprisingly, the seemingly posed image of the man in the cowboy hat is also described as a chance encounter. I remain a bit skeptical of that. The cat photo that I quite liked started out as a cat photo but pulled in the other layers as chance operations to produce the image, and had a working title “Tenderloin Magic”. I think that is a good alternate title for many of the images in the exhibition.

It’s also worth noting that all of my own photos to support this article (with the catsynth.com watermark) were done with the Hipstamatic.