iLibya: Growing Pains

Photographs by Benjamin Lowy

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Benjamin Lowy, on a grant from the Magnum Foundation’s Emergency Fund, spent several weeks in July shooting in Libya on a photojournalism-inspired Hipstamatic lens - and posting exclusively to Tumblr.

In an interview with Storyboard he detailed his reasons for shooting in this way:

What can you capture on an iPhone that you can’t on a regular camera?

The tool itself is a lot smaller and inconspicuous and can be a bit more subtle. I think it engenders a greater sense of intimacy with subjects because you’re not putting a big camera in their face.

Is there a reason you’ve decided to use your iPhone in Libya specifically?

The reason is twofold: One, I want to show images that will grab the audience, because they look like the kind of images that anybody can shoot. Everybody takes pictures of their dogs with an iPhone these days; that just speaks to the democratization of the tools. But I think there’s something more intimate about an iPhone picture because of that, so maybe people will look more closely at it. I also think that using the iPhone is apropos for the Arab Spring because so much of the content that began the Arab Spring was from mobile technology.

Do you think you get better access with an iPhone?

I think in the past maybe, but I think now people are very aware that the iPhone is a camera. But it is easier in certain places, like on the subway, where you have to make eye contact. Photographing in a warzone is not hard, because people want you there to document what’s happening. But when I teach students, I tell them to stay on a subway for a day in one car, to take pictures of people with a camera, then put the camera down and make eye contact with the person you just photographed. That’s scary as hell.