Cell photo by Elena Bouvier at VCP

A cell-phone image by Elena Bouvier at Vermont Center for Photography (VCP)

Tuna Carpaccio at Whetstone Station

An Instagram photo of the Tuna Carpaccio served at Whetstone Station

Cell photo by Shawna Gibbs at VCP

Shawna Gibbs' photo of a girl running into the pool, showing at VCP

Instagram image by @Kat_Irish

An evocative Instagram shot by @Kat_Irish at Whetstone Station

Phone.tography & Instagram Shows: The Future Is Now

The Kodak website features a special salute to the first handheld camera, which celebrated its centennial not long ago:

Instagram photo by Tim Guarente

An Instagram photo by Tim Guarente featured at Whetstone Station

"February 1900. The dawn of the 20th century is ushered in with a new arrival: the Kodak Brownie. It cost just one dollar and was so easy to use that even the youngest children could take perfect pictures.

"This small, simple box launched a new industry, and forever changed the way we communicate. Photojournalism. The motion picture industry. Medical X-rays. Satellite imaging. The Internet. Every technology we use to communicate with pictures can trace its ancestry to that first black box."

In this new century, another simple, handheld item is giving the dedicated camera a run for its money. Cut to my favorite TV ad. . . . A simple, emotionally powerful piano track is playing behind a series of scenes in which someone -- from young to old -- holds out a device to capture a stunning vista, a useful or arty detail in their path, a family member or friend in action, even a self-portrait: "Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera," states the narrator. Wow!

And so it is that the "smartphones" (and tablets/minis, too) are taking over as all-in-one computerized lifestyle companions: receiving and sending phone calls and text messages; accessing email, music, and interactive games, as well as streaming TV programs and movies. These devices can also take high-quality photographs, rivaling those recorded by traditional and digital cameras, and then connect their owners to some pretty simple software for editing and applying artful filters.

The resulting photographs have been shared among family and friends, and posted -- along with camera-generated images -- on various online photo sites as well as Facebook and other types of Internet media for a long time. As the technology has been improving, however, these images are also being recognized as works of art to be featured in galleries and other exhibit venues. A number of online contests encourage the use an artist's creative sensibilities with this ever-evolving technological medium.

Cell phone photo by Peter Crabtree

Image by Peter Crabtree at VCP

So here it is, August 2013, a month in which nine of Gallery Walk's 39 venues are featuring photography, and two of those are exhibiting specifically phone-generated images for the first time (as far as I can recall in a dozen years of promoting the Walk). The Vermont Center for Photography's juried show entitled "Phone.tography: The Art of Cell Phone Photography" presents a wide range of work by 47 photographers from over a dozen states and eight foreign countries. Whetstone Station, on the other hand, is showing printed-on-canvas blowups of Instagram-processed cell-phone images taken in the last month or two, mostly by patrons snapping details in and around the restaurant and brewery -- what a clever project for generating site-specific decor!

I've included a few images from each of these exhibits to whet your appetite for taking a serious look at this stimulating, evolving art form.

Copyright 2013, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont

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