To anyone who follows me on Instagram — @jden — have probably already noticed a particular style of my photos, and what often follows is,
Why are you all your Insta photos blurry?
To which I frequently reply, “they’re not blurry, they’re out-of-focus”, one of my friends will always quip “the only thing out-of-focus is your head”. The answer to why I my photos are blurry is numerous and many, some of which I will outline here.
1. I like it.
I like the way out of focus photos look. I’ve always been a fan of bokeh and ever since iPhone could show focus I was always trying to push them to the limits of the focal distances. Early versions of iOS — which was called iPhoneOS then — didn’t allow third party applications (or even first-party applications) take manual control of the camera, and hence you can’t hold the focus. You had to do tricks like focus on your finger up-close and then quickly remove the finger from the frame and take a picture before it autofocuses at infinity.
In what is probably my favourite photo I have ever taken I did this exact technique.
I was an early convert to Instagram, I signed up for the service before it was really a social network, when it was just an app with cool filters. This is a photo a took at Lunar Park in Sydney with iPhone 4 using Instagram, it is my most favourite photo I’ve taken and am still taken a back at when I took it: the 5th of January 2011. And if you were to pin-point when my obsession with out-of-focus photos started, it’s here.
Details are messy, composition is king.
No ones said that — probably — but I believe it. Details are excruciating, the benefits of the ever expanding number of pixels is to quote Oliver Pendergast from Easy A an “accelerating velocity of terminological inexactitude” or to be terse: a lie. You always get told this by seasoned professionals, or by you teacher that it’s not the camera that’s important, it’s not the number of megapixels, it’s your composition that makes a good photo, and a good photographer can take a masterpiece on a dollar-store disposal camera. It took me a long-time to really understand this — I like fancy equipment — but looking back on my photo library there is a trend to reductionism and composition.
I like classical composition (I’m not sure if this is a real term but’ll suffice) in that I’m not doing anything too fancy except for symmetry and the rule-of-thirds. I also shoot all photo exclusively in 16:9 aspect ratio, I just like the cinematic look and forever lover of widescreen anything. This is the part where I now overlay the rule-of-thirds over some of my Instagram photos to illustrate the point.
Technical point: I use Manual by William Wilkinson & Craig Merchant for the manual control over focus, VSCO for editing (mainly film grain) and finally Whiteagram for posting to Instagram with white 16:9 border.
#arch at University of South Australia
Happy Christmas Ron
First Blurry Photo of the Year
#chooselife at Trainspotting Live
“Look more candid” at Mr Goodbar
This is Amy—a friend I made at the art gallery—staring at a blank wall. Digital photograph transferred to Instagram, 2017. jden redden, 1994-present. at Art Gallery of New South Wales
hashtag art at Carclew
at National War Memorial (South Australia)
A mirror. #soedgy at Her Majesty’s Theatre
Man dates. at T Bar
🙈 at NOLA Adelaide
versus Rodin. at Art Gallery of South Australia
And now some that are symmetrical.
Street art not in the street. at The Art of Banksy Melbourne
⭐ at Adelaide Railway Station
“art” at Art Gallery of New South Wales
Morbid Curiosities. at Peanut Gallery Adelaide
Trainspotting at Ascot Park Train Station
versus 👫 at Art Gallery of South Australia
3. Transient Memory and Moments
Now for the third reason I like to take out-of-focus photos; it lets me remember moments as hazy recollections of being present. Rather than take a picture of all the art in the gallery or document every curiosity I walk past, I take one or two out-of-focus photos that capture the vibe of the moment. Why take a photo of something that has been photographed a thousand times? Someone always has a better camera than you, the documentarian will always observe and report the details — but I will save the moments in perfectly composed out-of-focus frames that blend with the way my brain will remember it, and then spend time remembering it by being there — presently.
You can see the complete collection and some-other-rare-non-out-of-focus photos on my Instagram @jden.