The power of mobile photography – Interview with Dimpy Bhalotia

Marianne Stenger
2nd November 2020

Every year, thousands of photographers from all over the world submit their photos for consideration in the iPhone Photography Awards. Each photographer’s submission reflects a unique worldview, and this year’s Grand Prize winner was Indian-born street photographer Dimpy Bhalotia

Her winning image Flying Boys, taken in Varanasi, India, depicts three boys in mid-air as they jump from a wall into the Ganges River.

Images © Dimpy Bhalotia

“The photograph characterises the day-to-day activities of the young boys living in Varanasi,” explains Dimpy. “These young boys were jumping off a man-made cliff into the Ganges river to beat the heat of the Indian summer. I see them as a symbol of fearlessness and freedom.”

Since completing her schooling in Mumbai, Dimpy has been based out of London where she studied fashion design. These days, however, she is best known for her compelling black and white images of urban life, all of which are shot exclusively on iPhone using unique angles and perspectives. As a curious soul, she says street photography gave her the freedom to explore and discover the world freely. This curiosity and love of travel eventually led her to take up photography full time.

“I was not afraid of the unknown and have always been very curious to discover new things. Street photography gave me the privilege of working with natural light on the landscape of Earth, which is what I enjoy the most. It also allows me to shoot when and where I choose.

At the moment I’m based out of London, but with the amount of travelling this field requires, I’m actually on the road most of the time. When it comes to my style, I would say that capturing unreproducible moments in their purest form is what my photographs are all about. I love to capture the rawness of the streets in their truest form.”

We asked Dimpy about her work as a street photographer and why she chooses to exclusively use an iPhone when creating her iconic black and white images. Keep in mind too, if you’re interested in mobile photography, that the Bob Books App is a quick and easy way to turn your iPhone and iPad snaps into a custom photo book.

Images © Dimpy Bhalotia

What’s your main reason for shooting primarily in black and white?

For me, what I’m capturing in the frame is more powerful than a momentary colour. If I shoot someone in a red shirt today, it won’t necessarily define the characteristics of that person. The shirt will be put to wash the next day and a different coloured shirt will be put on.

What characterises a photograph is a moment and the movement captured in it. I believe it’s difficult for viewers to identify whether they like a photograph because of the colours in it, or because of what has been captured in it.  And this is very important to me. I prefer for my audience to concentrate heavily on the frame rather than being influenced by the colours.  

Colours will fade, will be repainted and will be rediscovered and renewed. But the moment that’s been captured is inevitable and unreproducible. Metaphysically, nothing can be compared to the human eye, and cameras can never accurately capture colours or even shades of black and white. My priority is visual stimulation to the heart, which the viewers can connect to.

Having said that, I do shoot in colour for assignments and projects, but for my personal portfolio, I prefer black and white. Understanding light is extremely important in photography, whether you’re shooting in colour or in black and white.

A lot depends on the light. Since I don’t have control over natural light, I tend to switch, depending on how cloudy or bright it is. So, I don’t have a hard and fast rule as to what mode of colour I shoot in.  

Images © Dimpy Bhalotia

Why do you choose to take photos exclusively with your iPhone? What do you enjoy most about mobile photography?

I’ve been shooting with iPhone for close to a decade now. I feel I don’t have to command a machine. I feel free. I feel I am shooting with my eye. I just shoot what I see without having to physically and mentally bother about getting all the settings right.

Street photography is very quick. There are no models and no time to dictate to someone how you would like them to act. You don’t create the moment. You shoot the rawness of the street in an instant. You witness a moment and movement, and you capture it like a lightning strike. For this type of photography, you really need to be quick, and the iPhone is perfect for this.

The best part about phone cameras is that they’re not complicated at all. When I’m shooting, I’m able to concentrate on composition and light, both of which are highly important to me. It allows me to be in the moment and revel in it. I don’t feel that I have a camera on me as the phone is so sleek and small it feels like a part of my palm.

To me, photography is about me being in the moment and capturing it, and then being able to revisit that moment through the frames I capture. The fact that the phone doesn’t block my view is a magnificent advantage. Being on the streets watching life unfold in front of me without any hardware touching or blocking my face is bliss.

It’s also more convenient to shoot with a phone as I’m often walking around for hours. Carrying a big camera with all the necessary equipment would get too heavy on a daily basis. The phone slips into my pocket and I don’t have to worry about the weight at all.  

Images © Dimpy Bhalotia

Do you have any tips or advice for those looking to shoot better photos with their camera phone?

Shooting on an iPhone lets me focus on life unfolding in front of me rather than concentrating on the technicality of the camera. I love that iPhone gives me the freedom to think about what’s happening in front of me. Of course, I understand that other cameras are great too, but personally, I find that it takes up so much of your mind and energy to get the settings and equipment right that most of the time you miss the moment.  

The beauty of street photography is that it's unpredictable. You always have to be on guard because you don’t know what you’ll come across. It’s that one split second of a moment captured that represents the whole story. Apple is also one of the most environmentally friendly tech companies around, and to me, that’s extremely important. My advice would be to avoid getting too technical, and instead revel in the beauty and the organised chaos of the streets. 

Images © Dimpy Bhalotia

You can find out more about Dimpy Bhalotia by visiting her website or following her on Instagram. Also, don’t forget that if you have a nice collection of smartphone images that you’d like to turn into a professional quality photo book, the Bob Books iOS App is the easiest way to do this. You can also check out some of our top tips for mobile photography.