Dan Chung: Capturing History with an iPhone

Smartphones can be used for many things: texting, tweeting, taking pictures and videos, making phone calls — the list goes on and on. But can it be used for more than just the everyday task?

Photojournalist Dan Chung challenged the abilities of a smartphone when he used an iPhone 4s to capture the 2012 Summer Olympics in London for the Guardian, a British newspaper. With only the help of binoculars, a fish eye lens and the photo editing app Snapseed, Chung photographed the events and kept a live-updated photoblog of the Olympic games on the Guardian’s website.

Usain Bolt celebrates winning gold in the men's 100m. Photograph: Dan Chung/IPhone 4S/Canon binoculars/Snapseed
Usain Bolt celebrates winning gold in the men’s 100m. Photograph: Dan Chung/IPhone 4S/Canon binoculars/Snapseed

Photographing anything with a camera on a smartphone is always difficult — even more so when trying to take a professional-quality photo: Are the camera settings appropriate? Is the subject in focus? Is the photographer close enough to the subject? Because he was using a phone as his only source for photographs, Chung had to overcome many challenges and find new and innovative ways to capture the events in the Olympic Stadium.

Sudan's Rabah Yousif is captured through the Olympic flames as he competes in the Men's 400m heats. Photograph: Dan Chung/IPhone 4S/Canon binoculars/Snapseed
Sudan’s Rabah Yousif is captured through the Olympic flames as he competes in the Men’s 400m heats. Photograph: Dan Chung/IPhone 4S/Canon binoculars/Snapseed

“I found shooting on the iPhone quite enjoyable and quite liberating,” Chung said in a 2012 post-Olympic interview with the Digital Photography Review. “Surely, part of photography is also about that: Did the photographer have a good time, or not? And actually, I did.”

By choosing to shoot such a monumental event with only a smartphone and a few accessories in hand, Chung showed that reporting can be done from virtually any where, just with the click of a button. Photojournalism involves telling a story through photographs. Though this may not have been an easy feat with such a compact device, Chung effectively used his surroundings and photography skills to tell the story of the Olympians competing in the games.

Dan Chung used Twitter to update followers about photos posted on his blog during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Dan Chung used Twitter to update followers about photos posted on his blog during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

To keep readers from all over the world up-to-date with what was happening in London, Chung photoblogged and continuously updated viewers with photos from the events. He also used Twitter to alert his followers when more photographs were uploaded, or when he got a chance to photograph big-named athletes while they competed.

His use of social media, combined with a photoblog, helped inform the public while capturing history, thus proving that mobile journalism is an effective outlet for the transmission of news.

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