Phony Truth: Cellphone Photojournalism

Written by Meedo Taha

When it comes to portable technology, things had to get very big before they could get very small. Think of the ubiquitous iPod and its ancestor the Walkman. I remember the first time I was given one (only for a few minutes) to try out on the beach – I could literally feel the music play in my head. But the next time I listened to one, the experience somehow couldn’t live up to that initial epiphany. Yes, I had grown demanding – I wanted more than that obviously compromised little gadget could offer, but at the same time I refused to accept that I could not have my music on me wherever I went. In short, I was spoiled. So I, and many consumers liked me, grew up during the era of the portable boom box, not quite as small as a Walkman but not as rooted to the ground as a home stereo.

And so the boom box stuck around as a happy medium until the iPod came along, striking just the right balance between portability and sound quality. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Like its aural cousin, the cellphone camera as the most popular visual gadget around followed in those same footsteps, albeit a decade later. However, unlike listening, seeing cannot multitask. In other words, we can listen to many things at once (the girlfriend, the car stereo, the car behind me that just won’t stop honking) and still make sense of each, but when it comes to seeing we are curiously one-track minded. And so the cell phone camera had to evolve to such an extent that it became both effortless and instantaneous for one to take a snapshot. And unlike its other cousin, the point and shoot camera, you never leave home without it. After all, it is in your phone, which remains your primary communication device and, to a vast majority, a security blanket. Let’s face it, we feel naked without our phones, and by proxy, the cameras fitted into them.

By Meedo Taha (Taken with Blackberry)

By Meedo Taha (Taken with Blackberry)

Beginning with the thought that I am never without my phone camera, I decided one day to use it not only to shoot everything, but to retire all my other cameras and use my phone exclusively. It became my eyes, so to speak, my window into the world, my autobiographer, the chronicler of every major and minor object, every person and every place, heck every thought in my life.

That’s all I did. I took photos with my phone. A year and more than ten thousand photos later, I stopped. Just as abruptly as I began, I decided I’ve shot all I needed to shoot. Then during one weekend (couldn’t have been more that 48 hours) I sifted through them and the result was a book I called Téléphone Cassé – an account of one year out of my life, told with a cellphone.

By Meedo Taha (Taken with Blackberry)

What I learned over the course of that year is that no subject is too banal or too grandiose to shoot with a cellphone. Because it is with you all the time, and because there is usually very little to fiddle with by way of settings (focal length, shutter speed, aperture and all those wonderful controls a photographer normally has over the image-making apparatus), there was very little rational thought involved. When I shoot with my phone, I shoot with my instinct, right from the gut. I use my eyes and my heart, and only upon reviewing the image does my brain butt in with its naggy opinions or critique. In fact, I would go so far as to say that shooting with a cellphone is the purest form of photojournalism I ever engaged in, and that is where the true value of the medium lies.

When you don’t have time to think, you don’t have time to doubt. And you don’t have time to lie.

By Meedo Taha (Taken with Blackberry)

About Meedo Taha: Meedo Taha is an active Architect and Filmmaker. He has worked in Lebanon, Japan, England and the United States. He currently resides in Beirut and Dubai. ( For a full preview of Téléphone Cassé: A Very Personal Portfolio, click here.


2 responses to “Phony Truth: Cellphone Photojournalism

  1. Amazing and worth giving it a try. We always underestimate our phones because they have “less megapixels” and less buttons than the DSLR. 🙂

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