Read our interview with Neal Kumar as he discusses the switch to the mobile camera and how the medium has opened doors for him and his work. Neal's images are featured in Vol. 2 of the Trope Mobile Edition Series. All 3 books in the series are now available in the US!
Neal, you’ve been practicing mobile photography for some time now. What was it like to be a mobile photographer when you were just a beginner and what does it mean to be one today?
In the beginning I remember taking a lot of photos while I was out, but only finding a few that I liked. I think now when I go out my shooting is a little more purposeful, but I still end up with many photos that I end up deleting or never using. I’ve always tried to take several photos from the same location or vantage point, and then review them later to see which version came out the best. Each one can have slightly different lighting, framing, or subjects that can come together just right to make that photo really stand out.
What do you like most about this medium of photography?
The convenience of being able to shoot with a device already on me is helpful in so many situations. Sometimes I am out walking the streets and shooting, but I am heading straight to dinner or an event and prefer not to carry camera gear all night. Or sometimes I may be out not expecting to shoot, but come across a scene that I want to capture even if I didn’t have my camera gear. There are also shorter weekend trips that I take where I don’t want to pack much, but I still may want to take some photos.
Would you mind telling us how your iPhone photography journey began?
I still remember when the iPhone first came out, and shortly after Instagram also became well known as a platform to share photos on a mobile app. At that time I thought the concept of capturing photography on a phone was so novel and futuristic, I was motivated to push the limits of the camera from the beginning; knowing that each year the cameras were going to continually get better. By initially only sharing my mobile photos on Instagram, I didn’t feel too limited by the megapixels or resolution as I didn’t need to print large copies of these photos to share them. I had also been shooting SLR camera photography for a few years prior, so I used mobile photography as a new way to challenge myself given the confines of a camera phone.
What did it feel like; seeing and holding your book for the first time?
After working on the content for the book for so long in digital formats, it was a very different feeling to finally hold the final product in physical form in my hands. As I flipped through the images, I felt flashbacks to the different parts of the world where I took the photos. It was also the first time I was able to see so many of my photos in one place.
What can viewers expect from your book?
With my own narrative throughout the book I tried to give readers a glimpse into the way I think about taking photos. Coupled with the images taken around the world from various versions of the iPhone, I hope to motivate anyone interested in photography who is hesitant because they don’t own expensive camera gear. Some of my favorite photographs and moments were captured with my phone, and having an entire book dedicated to mobile photography is a testament to how camera gear should not be a limiting factor in getting into photography.
Can you share a little insight into how photography has opened doors for you in terms of collaborations and working with brands?
I am very thankful for the opportunities that I have been given as a result of my photography. Some of my most memorable experiences have been collaborating with the Mexico Board of Tourism on organized trips to San Miguel, Guanajuato, and Morelia. From hot air balloon rides to horseback riding to private dinners with incredibly talented chefs - I was able to experience such a variety of what Mexico has to offer, and it did not feel like work to share my journey on Instagram to others who may consider traveling there. Tourism is such an important industry for these areas and I was glad to be a part of helping promote these magical areas. I also had the opportunity to work with Moment Travel on designing a guided tour tailored for taking photos in Japan. I was able to create and lead itineraries across Tokyo and Kyoto to bring groups of people alongside me as I explored these cities. I also thoroughly enjoyed teaching the groups about photography throughout the trips. Teaching photography to others was not easy for me initially, but I had practice giving a couple talks at the Apple stores in Chicago to large audiences.