JOE CUNNINGHAM
PHOTOGRAPHY

Phychedelic Minneapolis

When the original iPhone 1 I bought in 2007 finally died in 2013, my brother Casey gave me another. I took a simple selfie with it which came out all Pepto Bismol pink and I thought “Rats.  The camera doesn’t work,” but I continued to use it as a phone.  I was at the time disinterested in the many subsequent models, preferring to carry the original design icon.  

It was six months later in 2014 that I wandered past an interesting graffiti sticker and decided to capture it, assuming that I would be demoting it to pink-vision.  To my amazement the camera did quite the opposite. The sticker came out explosively colorful.  It turned out that the brilliant colors are suppressed by cold, and that original selfie was made in the winter.  It immediately dawned on me that while this exact glitch may have happened to others, few (if any) would also happen to be serious about photography and that I might be the sole artist with this bizarre stock of digital film, anywhere.  Ever, maybe. Few would still be using an original iPhone 1 six years on, let alone one with this specific imaging glitch. 

There is zero Photoshop happening here.  These photographs occurred in-camera on that iPhone 1 and have been left untouched.  According to engineer Laszlo Gaspar, the effect is likely caused by errors in the filtering of the raw data from the sensor. After the photo is taken, the processor tries to correct the errors but since they’re so far off it instead amplifies them to beautiful effect. Attempting same effect in Photoshop by playing with RGB levels fails because an image loses clarity as colors tend to bleed due to the lack of process correction which the iPhone will perform but Photoshop cannot. The fine definition would get lost.

Striking though that camera was, it had severe limitations.  One would not use it for portraiture, documentary, or landscape projects.  In fact, much of the gamut of photography was ill-suited to it.  This begged the question asked by any niche within a niche within a niche creative tool.  What specifically is it for?  At that time I was riding city busses several times a week to visit my father who was ill and being cared for at an eldercare facility in North Minneapolis.  I lived in Uptown, to the south, so my route took me directly through the downtown skyscraper cluster and past many Minneapolis landmarks.  Shooting out the bus window with this camera to pass the time revealed the answer regarding the tool’s best use, and I began intentionally sitting in the very back of the bus because it made me a foot or two taller.  Streetscapes shot from from this aloof perspective (high up in the middle of the street) allowed the familiar scenery of my city to be made foreign by the bad circuitry, revealing it anew.

Between August 2014 and October 2018 I made over ten thousand photographs with it.  Halloween 2018 was the day the camera app ceased to function and so editing the body of work began.  The final cut consists of 145 photographs, one hundred of which are presented in five slideshows on this web site:

Series 1

Series 2

Series 3 (coming soon)

Series 4 (coming soon)

Series 5 (coming soon)

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