Gray’s Anatomy – Call The Photography Police!

It’s Friday and that means just one thing here at theappwhisperer HQ, Richard Gray’s, Gray’s Anatomy column to help get us into a super relaxed and calm weekend frame of mind. This week, Richard looks at (with a humorous slant of course) the rules surrounding photography competitions. Don’t miss this, over to you Richard. (Foreword by Joanne Carter).


Whenever I hear some old big-camera fogey complaining that mobile photography is just 1) too easy; 2) just a load of filters; or 3) rubbish, my standard smarty-arse retort is: “Well, call the photography police”. I’m being ironic of course, because, as we know, there is no photography police. But my serious point is: mind your own business, we’ll do what the hell we want and we’re actually doing it quite well and there are a lot of us and we don’t need the approval of people who are incapable of seeing what brilliant and exciting new work is being done by people with smart phone cameras.

This week’s announcement of the winners of the Mobile Photo Awards reminded me of this again. Because there was certainly a lot of brilliant and exciting new work amongst both winners and honorable mentions. Indeed, this year’s work showed a growing maturity and real sophistication amongst the mobile artist community.

But I was intrigued to hear that one of the runners-up had been disqualified because it transpired they had used a big camera. So as it turns out, in this case, the photography police were actually called in to investigate. And it recalled another recent case where a big camera photographer was stripped of his title because it transpired – no, not that he’d used an iPhone – that he had digitally “enhanced” his image too much.

I’ve been reading the rules in photo competitions a little more closely recently and there’s quite a variety. Here’s one from the Smithsonian Magazine competition: “We do not accept digitally or otherwise enhanced or altered photos… Minor adjustments, including spotting, dodging and burning, sharpening, contrast and slight color adjustment or the digital equivalents, are acceptable… If the judges determine that a photographer has altered his or her photo, they reserve the right to disqualify it.” Recalling a certain King Canute, the idea here seems to be that the organizers have heard about digital enhancement of images but they only allow people to use it as if they were all still developing their images in rooms that are dark (literally and metaphorically). But here’s another from a competition organized by The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins: “The exhibition is open to all photographers world wide, both amateur and professional. The Center invites photographers working in all mediums, styles and schools of thought to participate in its exhibitions.” Good for you!

So, my point is that if you enter a competition, of course, there will be rules and there will be policemen. But that if you’re not entering a competition, you can do whatever the hell you like. And don’t let any big-camera old fogey tell you otherwise.



© Richard Gray – ‘The photography police is watching you’

Richard's mobile photography has been exhibited around the world and published in various magazines and on many websites. He launched the world's first live course in iPhone photography in early 2012 with Kensington and Chelsea College. He has given workshops with The Photographers' Gallery and British Journal of Photography. Sport England recently commissioned him to cover various of its Sportivate initiatives with the iPhone. A keen observer of this new photographic genre, his writing has been widely published (most notably in The Guardian) and he writes a blog (iphoggy-bloggy). With a big camera, he specialises in music photography ( and syndicates to Press Association (with both big and small cameras).