You Won’t Believe This Photographer’s Medium of Choice

Ten years ago, would you have believed that you could both create art and publicise yourself all through one tool that fits in your pocket? Tokyo-based street photographer Laurence Bouchard has proven that it is possible with his medium of choice: an iPhone. His photographic eye has drawn him success as a creative artist, culminating with his becoming a regular contributor to Apple’s 2017 ‘Shot on an iPhone 7’ campaign.


There was once talk of iPhone photography being a truly democratic playing field, and whether or not we believe that there is truth in that sentiment, it certainly is true that Laurence is serious competition as an iPhone photographer in a world of sole-purpose digital camera photographers.

Add to that his use of Instagram for gaining distinction as an artist, and you have a recipe for an exciting new direction in street photography.


While his work creates questions about urban isolation, his arsenal of subjects include a few key motifs – among them are pedestrian crossings, umbrellas, and reflections.

Throughout his oeuvre, Laurence makes effective use of patterns, textures and symbols, in both black and white and in colour, with such skill as to remind us that the innovation of artists’ compositional mastery will always outpace the most advanced technological inventions.


But behind every artistic process made to look effortless is a tireless honing of craft, which is why we reached out to this mobile photographer

THE PLUS: The people in your photographs are often faceless and isolated. Is Tokyo a lonely city?

LB: I think Tokyo can be a lonely city – more so than London where I used to live. In London, people strike up conversations in bars a lot more. I’ve only had that in Osaka, which seemed like a much friendlier, albeit smaller city.

Also, the thing is a lot of Japanese drinking pubs are compartmentalised – which doesn’t promote socialising. On top of that, in my experience Japanese people tend to be fairly shy and that, combined with a big cold city, can probably lead to loneliness.


TP: You seem to hang out a lot around Tatsuo Miyajima’s Couter Void – is that your favourite spot to make photographs?

LB: Well it probably would be if only it wasn’t a temporary installation! I’d been wanting to shoot Tatsuo Miyajima’s Counter Void for a few years but it was switched off (at the request of the artist) 2 days after the tragic Tohoku earthquake in 2011 that left hundreds dead and unaccounted for.

Fortunately I was able to photograph the installation and actually went there for each of the 3 nights of the year it was relit. I really wanted to photograph it in the rain. The Saturday and Sunday had been dry and Monday was forecast to be dry.

But at 10pm on Monday evening it started chucking it down. I told my wife: ‘You’re not gonna like this but I’ve gotta go’. I was in such a rush to get there I actually crashed my bicycle around the corner from the installation and went over the bars. Other than few little cuts and scratches my camera and I were fine. But it was absolutely worth it! They switched it off at midnight.


TP: Many of your images are black and white. What do you like about working with it?

LB: Black and white has a certain timelessness about it. Also, with black and white clashing colours can be avoided. When I’m editing and feel the colours don’t add anything or confuse the image I’ll switch to black and white. And, if I’m shooting with the iPhone I often just shoot in black and white as things appear simpler and you can switch back to the colour shot afterwards.


TP: What is your post-production work flow like?

LB: It’s pretty simple. Most edits are done in Snapseed on my iPad. Occasionally, I use Lightroom on my desktop which is great but a lot of the time I’m out, so working with Snapseed is more convenient. I definitely used to over-edit images, but these days I’m trying to limit the editing. That said, I still like the graphic look.


TP: Umbrellas feature a lot in your photographs. What attracts you to them?

LB: I see the umbrella as a kind of timeless object. I think they also give photos a bit of mystery. One of the cool things about living in Japan is a lot of women use an umbrella to protect themselves against the sun, so even when it’s not raining you can still find them. Umbrellas also make great silhouettes and I love the look of raindrops on vinyl umbrellas.


TP: Have you always shot with an iPhone?

LB: Well actually, no. I’d originally wanted to be a photographer in my early 20s and got a job at Jessops, a big photography shop on New Oxford Street in London, and spent a lot of time and money taking and printing photos, but in 1997 buying and printing film wasn’t so cheap for a university student. I got my first iPhone in 2010 and started casually taking photos with it. A friend suggested I join in Instagram which I had initially had zero interest in at the time. It soon began to feel like a level playing field


Funnily enough, I’ve now gone full circle and invested in a new DSLR. So I’m not just shooting on a mobile now. Mobile phones have come a long way. But if you want to shoot late at night in the dark, you need a more professional camera.

Still, I probably shoot with the iPhone 75% of the time as it’s always there. I love the simplicity of the iPhone and I love to shoot early morning or midday for high contrast shots and the iPhone is perfect for that.