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Camera phone photography as art

Patrice Elmi
Patrice Elmi tours her photo show, 'Views from a Cell,' taken with a cell phone camera at the Drkrm gallery in Los Angeles.Damian Dovarganes / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Patrice Elmi hasn't touched her bulky 35 mm camera since last fall. The emerging visual artist from Los Angeles has discovered that all she needs is the diminutive gizmo she clips to her jeans and flips open to chat with friends.

Take a look at her photography — colorful abstracts of urban settings — and it's not immediately obvious that her equipment of choice is a cell phone camera.

Even LG Electronics Inc., maker of the handset Elmi uses, initially didn't believe her photos originated from its LG8100 phone when she asked the company to sponsor a recent gallery exhibit of her camera-phone art.

"When people see my images, they don't believe that I took them with a cell phone," she said. "The depth and clarity of the images are so phenomenal."

The quality was good enough to persuade John Matkowsky, owner of Drkrm, a small gallery in Los Angeles showing Elmi's work through Saturday, to do his first-ever show of digital prints.

"I think it's the future," Matkowsky said. "I think in two years, or 10 — I don't know — it'll be normal, and everyone will be doing cell-phone photography shows."

Elmi said her camera phone "addiction" started last fall when she encountered a corner of a building that she wanted to photograph. She had left her camera bag at home, but then realized she was carrying a camera — in her phone.

Elmi uses the same core principles, such as composition and lighting, that she previously used with her Nikon film camera but applies them within the limitations of her new equipment.

Her phone lacks a flash and zoom capability, so she focused on close-ups and made the most of natural lighting. Vibrant colors were often in play.

"I love it so much because it's so convenient," she said. "Now I'm just carrying one little thing, taking pictures."