iPhoneography by André Hermann at Blue Dot Cafe & Coffee Bar

iPhoneography by André Hermann at Blue Dot Cafe & Coffee Bar

Michael Singman-Aste

Click the photo above to see the slideshow; photos courtesy of the artist. Artist photo by Michael Singman-Aste.

When photographer André Hermann knows he’s going to be shooting, he favors the high-end Canon EOS 5D Mark II. That firepower is called for in his commissioned work, or when he was completing his MFA thesis at the Academy of Art, for which he photographed a little boy with the genetic connective tissue disease Epidermolysis bullosa.

The 5D is not the kind of camera you stroll around with. But like most of us, Hermann, of Alameda, always has his camera phone with him. “I literally walk with my phone in my hand, ready to go,” says Hermann. “I'm just watching. I see someone coming down the street, or I'm anticipating something about to happen. I prepare myself.”

The resulting photos, all shot on the streets of San Francisco and New York over the last two years, are on display at Blue Dot Cafe & Coffee Bar.

He shoots with an iPhone 4 using the Camera+ application, and adds additional effects using PicGrunger, also on his phone. Only then does he upload the images to Photoshop, and then simply to enlarge them and perhaps sharpen them slightly.

Hermann believes that the photographic process is not complete until the image is printed — uploading them to Facebook doesn’t count — and he prints them large, countering the notion that a smartphone is incapable of producing serious, high-quality work. To him, this “validates mobile phone photography.”

“Because I carry an iPhone with me everywhere I go, this is life as I see it every day,” Hermann says. When an old woman passes him, pushing her possessions in a cart, he sees “a modern day Sisyphus,” and a shot of a blanketed man passing before a larger-than-life Abercrombie & Fitch advertisement recounts the mythological turn, “As the fisher king crossed the oracle, his soul was scrutinized.” His titles give deeper insight into what this artist sees while being intentionally Twitter-friendly, crafted in 140 characters or less.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, “the father of modern photojournalism,” was known for capturing the decisive moment in his photos. Hermann demonstrates this knack as well, snapping the picture at the ideal moment as workers in “a focused, yet simple scene of chaos” navigate a construction site with the impossible geometry of an M. C. Escher print. And one of Hermann's other small, muted black-and-white prints immediately calls to mind Cartier-Bresson’s own 1932 photo of a man attempting to leap a puddle.

Because life doesn’t look the same from one day to the next, Hermann never knows who or what he'll be shooting. But his work is consistently provocative and powerful, blurring the line between “street” and documentary photography, with the spontaneity and irony of the former, and the emotional punch of the latter.

Blue Dot Cafe & Coffee Bar is located at 1910 Encinal Avenue. André Hermann’s iPhoneography remains on display through December 7. More of his work can be seen at http://www.andrehermannphoto.com/.

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