For months, I misunderstood the Henri Cartier-Bresson's saying that "photography is an immediate reaction, drawing a meditation.” I did not understand that he was making a comparison between photography and the physical act of drawing.
Rather, I read his idea as if he were saying that a photograph is a meditation, drawing from an immediate reaction. That, for me, is way of practicing photography that I love most; immediate, intuitive responses with a camera that create photographic meditations.
In the 1930’s when other photojournalists were working primarily with large boxy twin lens reflex and Speed Graphic cameras, Cartier-Bresson forged a new photographic lexicon using a camera that fit inconspicuously into the palm of his hand. He chose to use Leicas and a 35mm film format, considered small for the time, because it allowed him to photograph people in a what he described as a more authentic state.
In 2003 when I began using an iPhone to photograph my family, I fell in love with the moments this small, silent device was able to record. For the family scenes I am most drawn to photograph, the iPhone has allowed me to record events that a loud, bulky DSLR could not have memorialized similarly.
When my son Calvin first asked about drugs, I was able to have a conversation with him, while maintaining eye contact, and also hold a camera at my side to record the moment in which a part of his childhood innocence disappeared.
When Alice, my daughter, was learning to ride a bicycle, I was able to be close to her, catch her when she lost her balance, and help usher her through this transformational childhood event.
Calvin and Alice have never heard me ask them to look at the camera, smile for a photograph or stop what they are doing so I could make a picture. Partly because the iPhone is so small and unobtrusive but also because I believe, as a personal documentary photographer and a photojournalist, that intervening or directing a scene will only destroy my access to those serendipitous mili-seconds of photographic and aesthetic harmony that the world so beautifully provides to a patient eye.