Arts & Culture

Making Great Images with OnePlus and Hasselblad

Alex Webb and Paolo Pellegrin shoot images in Provincetown and Rome

A Magnum Photos and OnePlus collaboration

Alex Webb and Paolo Pellegrin are two photographers deeply immersed in creating photographic stories, whose working environments demand adaptability and a continual sensitivity to the world around them. Webb is known for his lyrical color photographs often based in street settings, that engage deeply with the culture of a place, from Haiti, to the US-Mexico border, to Brooklyn. Paolo Pellegrin has built a body of work across conflict zones from Bosnia to Iraq, exploring the human impact of war, and has in recent years published a range of work documenting environmental change.

Webb and Pellegrin were recently given an assignment by OnePlus to make images with their latest device, the OnePlus 9 Pro, which features a new flagship camera system created by Hasselblad. Today, July 2, 2021, Webb and Pellegrin launch the OnePlus Photography Awards, calling for entries from amateur and professional photographers alike, and invite photographers to submit their best images taken by mobile phone. Coinciding with the launch, the two photographers spoke to Magnum about their practice, their relationship to photographic kit, and the stories behind the images they made.

Find out more and enter the competition here.

Alex Webb Provincetown, Massachusetts, 2021. "Wandering with a camera, I never know what I will find. Recently, I was surprised and delighted to come across this surreal beach scene on the tip of Cape Cod, w (...)

What led you to photographing in this location?

Alex Webb: Provincetown is a unique community with a rich and complex history. The outermost point of Cape Cod, it’s where the Pilgrims landed some five hundred years ago. It’s been a long-standing artist community — home to playwright Eugene O’Neill, painter Robert Motherwell and others —a haven for LGBTQ+ culture, a fishing port, as well as a summer tourist destination. The intersection of these different worlds is what intrigues me most about Provincetown.

Paolo Pellegrin: I chose to shoot in my city of birth: Rome. Having made work in Kosovo, Lebanon, and Mosul, I spend my time at rest with my family in Geneva, Switzerland, where I am currently based. I haven’t been to Rome in many years. Making these images at home felt like rediscovering, in a way, and looking with fresh eyes.

Paolo Pellegrin A midsummer night reflection in Rome. Italy. 2021. © Paolo Pellegrin | Magnum Photos

Does the medium of color photography allow you a greater degree of expression?

Alex Webb: I’m not sure that I would say that working in color allows me to say ‘more’ than black and white. After all, many of my favorite photographers worked predominantly in black and white. That said, working in color, I try to capture the mood and atmosphere brought on by the ever-changing hues of light.

How are your creative rhythms were influenced by making images with the phone. Do you usually move through situations rather quickly, or prefer to linger? Did that rhythm change?

Alex Webb: It all depends on the situation. Sometimes I hang out, waiting for a situation to develop; other times I wander through. Sometimes a photograph happens immediately; other times, it takes time to unfold. The challenge and excitement — as well as the frustration — of this way of working is that it’s utterly unpredictable. Whether working with a camera phone or a traditional camera, I try to approach the world with an open mind.

Paolo Pellegrin: The camera is a very deliberate thing. You have to carry it with you. Every morning it’s a decision of taking my camera or not taking my camera. With the phone, you always have it. It’s an appendix now, a limb. From an expressive point of view, this becomes interesting because anything can be translated into a visual experience.

What excites you about your equipment?

Paolo Pellegrin: When I started working as a photographer there was this Kodak film, TMZ. It had a nominal sensitivity of 3,200 ISO, and that was considered extraordinary. You could push it one stop. So you had 6,400 ISO, and you could start exploring the low light. Now, we have cameras which go up to 128,000 ISOs, so a huge part of our existence has become available to photography. The quality of phones have opened up a new world of expressive possibilities. I come from a tradition of not interfering, using whatever existing light there is, where there is really no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ light. So, from the perspective of a documentarist, exceptional technical capabilities in a camera become essential.

We know that photography develops hand in hand with technology, being such a young medium. For many photographers, the mobile is very much a legitimate working tool. Phones have great capabilities in terms of outputs, resolutions and file size. When AI comes into use, you can double, triple, or quadruple the dimensions of images without losing quality. We are just on the verge of a new technological age: an extraordinary era in photography. This little object can do so much.


 

Magnum invites you to join the ranks of Alex Webb, Paolo Pellegrin and more esteemed photographers by entering your work to the OnePlus Photography Awards now. Submit your image and have it assessed by a panel of expert jurors from the International Photography Awards. Prizes will consist of two ‘Photo of the Year’ awards; gold, silver and bronze in each of five categories; 9 Pro mobile devices; and cash prizes up to $10,000.

Submit your images to the four themed categories on OnePlus’s website here, or to the last unthemed category by posting to Instagram with the hashtag #YourBestShot.