Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Black and White (and Street Photography)

19 August 2013


1. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013;© Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013;© Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

3. 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, iPhone 4s, August 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Gracie (, Polly ( and I sponsor the Phoneography Challenge. If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. 

When I come across a blog that focuses on street photography, I study the images. Some of them are enticing, and spark my creative sensibilities.

My everyday viewing aims at life’s other possibilities (the abstract, architecture, design, nature, everyday objects, and play with dark and light). My photographic frames rarely reveal human subjects (the exception: family). But I’m changing my attitude and desire to study the street with my lens.

My recent trip to Philadelphia was an opportunity to open my sights to that visual landscape: the street as fonder for my photographic eye. Strangely, my attempt circled around activity at the 30th Street Station. I became enamored with it as a container for human rhythm and sway.

Street photography is an old art: a genre that has been part of art history for much of the camera’s life. Some of my favorite photographers stilled the bustling of New York and Paris. Truly, while it tends to document cityscapes, for me any street will do–rural, suburban or urban.

The Seine River, France, 1955 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Seine River, France, 1955 by Henri Cartier-Bresson

The Smartphone (and specifically the iPhone) has played a huge role in re-directing attention to street photography. Phoneography has become its ambassador. As street scenes continue to be uploaded on the Internet, this archival record is becoming massive.  Some Phoneographers devote their entire oeuvre to public spaces.

Street photography freezes flashes of human behavior: those moments embedded in a city’s personality. That character of urban landscape has many components: architecture and human activity being the most seductive. It’s really the street life that is its center–the range and tempo of second-by-second motion around and within moving and stationary objects.

Australian Photographer Trent Parke's "Martin Place,"  2005, Google Images

Australian Photographer Trent Parke’s “Martin Place,” 2005, Google Images

In the Lens section are my entries for today’s challenge. While they’re various ways to traverse our cities, public transportation can easily be at the forefront of a day’s meanderings. Buses, cars, subways and trains are omnipresent.

At Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station I was awed by the afternoon light spreading across passengers, pouring shadows in their pathway. I kept at it, recording those waiting and watching.

My three photographs are taken from a slightly different vantage point, following the changes. Suddenly, I realized that I’ve entered a whole dimension that I would otherwise have missed.

Oh, and I was stunned that the iPhone 4s captured wires flowing from the young woman’s cellphone to her ears. These inventions amaze.

Monochrome is a medium that beings additional strength to street photography. That’s why I thought that my three images were apt for this week’s challenge.

Tip of the Week: Click here to view the Website iN-Public, which is devoted to Street Photography. The site is a collective of photographers who “have been invited to show their work because they have the ability to see the unusual in the everyday and to capture the moment.”

Here are other entries:

Note: Here’s a reminder of the weekly schedule and themes for upcoming Phoneography Monday Challenges:    

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black-and-White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Human Nature, Mobile Photography, Photography, Street Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Black and White (and Street Photography)

  1. Middle one for me.
    I don’t care about these people so I don’t need to know what they look like – as in three.
    The first one is ‘photographically’ disturbing to my taste because of the sense of posterisation in the greys.
    the middle one is very much about mood, which appeals to me.

  2. munchow says:

    I love how you try different ways and angles to get the best out of a photographic moment. For me the best one of these is the one in the middle. The woman is closer than in the first image and thus more prominent. And I like the deep blacks and the high contrast in this picture compared to the last one.

    • Otto, with almost everyone occupied with technology, the scene before me was packed with layers of attractions and distractions. Still the light was broadcasting itself, and made glowing pockets here and there. Thanks.

  3. Geoff says:

    Love them … I’m curious to know whether you were ‘sneaking the pics’ … you know, pretending to look at your email … or were in full Street Photo Mode? 😉

  4. Su Leslie says:

    I definitely like the third photo best; the others leave me craving detail which is so clear and enjoyable in No. 3. Here’s my take on this week’s theme:

  5. marialla says:

    Very interesting stories you tell. Thank you very much!

  6. patriciamoed says:

    Wonderful post, suggestions, and images. I’m especially drawn to #1. I love the shadows, and the full view of the woman…including her feet. The shadows are the most dramatic too.

  7. Gallivanta says:

    The third photo is my favourite because I love seeing all the architectural details and patterns everywhere.

  8. I like the third photo best – the stances of the passengers is more appealing. I think it is because you wonder what they are up to.

  9. pattisj says:

    I hopped over from another blog linked here, out of curiosity. The third image appeals to me, I like details: the people, architecture, they all add interest.

  10. Inspiring as always. The lens are like the extension of our eyes connected to a passionate heart. Thanks

  11. wisejourney says:

    The first one- such clarity and light. It beams at you and is a little angelic.

  12. Sally here is my first entry in phoneography. Glad to see you are using a 4s too it gives me confidence I don’t have to change any time soon. Street photography was my first love and maybe still is thanks for the subject. Love how sharp and crisp your photos are.

  13. "Occam Blade" says:

    The first image. First impressions: the small dark grey triangle at the bottom of the frame pulls me right into the image, into this area of light that’s then splintered and broken by shadows. The darkest of shadows is the woman with her smartphone and I’m focused now only on the world of shadows. Behind her is the softer shadow of a person with a cap who appears to be holding a tube and below that is another shadow, one which resembles the profile of an older man with a prominent, round chin. This is what I love about the visual arts. One can become so engrossed, so involved with an image to the point where individual interpretation and sentiment can span the obvious to the existential. Wonderful images all, but that first one was like a cup of really good coffee snapping me to attention.

  14. araneus1 says:

    The bottom image because it captures the light beautifully and because it has not been ‘fiddled with’ too much it has the feel of the old B&W film days.

  15. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I love how the overhead beams in #3 play off the white cord of the earbuds to the mobile device in the lady’s hand.

  16. EricaK says:

    I’m with “weliveinaflat” and like the almost mystical other-worldliness of the first image. It brings to mind the Neil Gaiman book “Neverwhere”.

    I didn’t make an entry this time, but enjoyed your description of yours! I am curious to try my hand at some street scenes now though and I will enter in next time. Thanks for the idea!

  17. icastel says:

    Hi Sally, good shots. The first one is the one that catches my eye the most. Maybe because of the contrast and graininess 🙂

    Here’s my entry for this week’s challenge:

  18. The camera on the iPad (or iPhone) is one of the main reasons I got an iPad and will consider getting an iPhone at some point, despite my love-hate attitude towards Apple. As for your pictures, my favorite is the third because I like seeing the detail more. But the others are well done, just have a different feel to them.

    My entry goes up in the wee hours of tomorrow, as I have so much on my plate right now but am still trying to do a post a day. Hope you like it, although I “cheated” as you’ll find out when you read my explanation. 🙂


  19. Great choices Sally, I think your third shot is my favorite because of the level of detail you captured. The “freeze frame” quality of street photography is fascinating to me and I too want to step outside of my usual patterns and start capturing more of the urban areas around us.
    My photos for today’s challenge are here:

  20. Sally — Excellent use of the available light. It really sets off the three frames in your B&W street set. Here’s my offering for this week:

  21. Angeline M says:

    As always, thanks for the links; street photography is becoming so interesting to me, and what I would like to do a lot of practice on. I wasn’t able to post on the subject today, but here it is

  22. Melanee says:

    Love the clarity and the patterns from all the different architecture and the train in the 3rd photo. Nice eye! Here is my b+w from my iphone 5.

  23. Claudia says:

    Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing your insights and tips. Here’s my post:

  24. Yes, very amazing how the phone captured so much detail. The first captivated me a little more…has more of an art feel to it.

  25. I am in awe of your street photography skills! I’m so busy taking care of my kids, when I’m out and about, that I forget to take shots like these. My favorite is the top photo. I love the harsh contrast of the subjects’ shadows against the ground. Great work! Happy phoneography Monday! 🙂

  26. Gracie says:

    Very nice black and whites, Sally!

  27. All terrific shots Sally but I love the second one. The long, dark shadows just does it for me.

  28. I like the last one the most. And thank you for street photography’s information and website.

  29. Angeline M says:

    Love the shadows on the second one created by the light through skylight windows, the light on the girl’s hair. Really nice.

  30. I liked the first photo best because it captured the woman’s shadow. It’s interesting how one is unaware of certain things in person, but truly “sees” in a photograph!

  31. Love the more abstract, graphic quality of #1 🙂 but also how the light highlights the headphone wires in #3

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