the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

IPhoneography and the Soul

Photography has changed my life.   During my seven years of blogging, the so-called “real writers” of the internet looked down at my writing, thinking my silly posts as unworthy of true art.  But today, there is a new freedom of expression in the air.  And I can honestly say that in 2012, I don’t worry about my status as a writer anymore.    Now it is the “real photographers” who look down at me, thinking my instagram photos of hot chicks crossing the street as unworthy of true art.

Of course, being an artist has always been tough.  Creative skills are rarely transferable from one art form to another. The essential tool of the great poet — the French beret — merely conveys amateur status when worn as a photographer’s hat, since most professional photographers wear fedoras.

The writer shows a disdain for the physical world.   He walks the streets of the city, scribbling in his notebook, forgetting to tie his own shoelaces.    He is a man of words and ideas.   But the photographer must take an interest in the physical beauty of life, because most paying gigs require him to make something ordinary — a hamburger, a baby, a wedding, some crappy couch at IKEA — into glossy eye candy the consumer will envy.  Different hats, different skill sets.

Next month, at the Aiming Low Non-Conference, I will be leading a Camera Phone Photowalk.  I can’t wait to meet up with you and talk about iphoneography. Let’s trade photo tricks, and have some fun taking photos.

Several attendees have already emailed me with suggested topics of discussion.   One personal question seems to be number one on that list  –“Neil, how are you able to get so many photos of strangers without them noticing you in the street?”

Let me answer this question for you right now.

Despite what you may think, anyone can become a iPhone street photographer. There are no special requirements.  Nothing needs to be learned about composition or lighting.  The only way to truly achieve a completely spontaneous photograph of a complete stranger is to accomplish, what I like to call — “stealing his soul.”

According to most religious beliefs, each individual has a unique “soul.”

The LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground,
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
and man became a living soul.
—Genesis 2:7

The soul exists outside of the body. It is immaterial and eternal.   When a photographer sets his eye on his subject, using his iPhone to take a photo, the true artist steals the stranger’s consciousness (his soul), and embeds this energy life-force onto the memory card of the phone.  Once this soul has been sucked in through the iPhone camera aperture, the stranger will continue to exist as a living being in the physical world, but merely as an empty vessel.   His soul will now be held safely at the Instagram host company’s storage facility, along with the photo that was taken by the artist.

Those without photographic experience frequently make comments on Instagram, writing nonsense such as “great color” or “love the angle,” but 95% of the effectiveness of any one photo is the life-force of the stolen soul.

We can discuss more about this fascinating artistic subject during next month’s photowalk. I hope you’ll come.

Perhaps I’ll even take a photo of YOU.


  1. katie

    You have proven to me that stealing souls is addictive.

  2. Bridget


  3. Jane Gassner

    Oh, Neil, you are fucking brilliant–both as a writer and a photographer!

  4. The Honourable Husband

    Who are those goddamn so-called writers who look down at your blog posts? They’re morons. They know NOTHING!

  5. Kyra

    I’ve seen your photos, and I think I have to disagree to a point Neil. Well, on one point; you do understand composition. Taking photos on the spot doesn’t mean you throw composition to the wind. It exists for a reason (to express the soul?), because it allows for balance to the eye, a story, and more. You may not realize you’re doing it, seeking it out intentionally, but you are. I’ve seen plenty of photos that lack composition and are uninteresting because of it. Most of yours have that balance, so you can claim that skill in your arsenal – even if it’s just a natural one!

  6. the muskrat

    woot! see you in the ATL soon.

  7. Marie Nicole

    I totally disagree with you. Maybe not on everything you’ve just said, but at least with the parts I have read. ツ

    First of all: WHO has ever said you weren’t a good writer? Your blog is amazing. You know how to tell a story, turning some mundane stuff into real attention grabbers. And secondly, your pictures… Wow. Really? Some have said you’re not a real artist or photographer? Your pictures are AMAZING. I have to hold back from hitting like on everything you post on Instagram. Also, capturing souls is your gift. You are great at it.

    And the fact that you didn’t need to learn how to compose a picture doesn’t mean it does not need to be learned. You have a natural instinct about timing and composition. This is not a natural thing to all. Trust me. My father was a professional photographer, and he started with cutting heads out of the pictures. He needed to learn. And it was a long process.

    I’m glad you found Instagram because I love looking at your work. You are an artist.

  8. Renae

    So this is the first time I’ve seen your work outside of the Cultivated Writers group.

    This: “The essential tool of the great poet — the French beret — merely conveys amateur status when worn as a photographer’s hat, since most professional photographers wear fedoras.”


    I’m really wishing I’d subscribed to your blog a long time ago. Now I have all sorts of back-reading to do.

  9. MissingMolly

    I must say I let out an evil chuckle as I was reading. I’ve only recently taken up photography and am flummoxed by some of the dramatic reactions I’ve received in response to snapping random pics in public places–which I think is all fair game.

    More power to you if you want to capture an image of me and my fat, saggy neck. Somehow I think not.

  10. caron

    Your photos of nyc…make me homesick for my vacations there.

    Am coming again in October – staying with a friend in Queens – maybe you will be this trips celebrity sighting…..

    I’ll be on the lookout for berets and fedoras.

  11. Amiyrah

    So, after our session ill be able to add “soul-stealer” to my Instagram bio? You have thoroughly intrigued me, good Sir. See you in October.

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