Pei Ketron started taking photographs after her senior year of university in 2001. Although all of her training and background is in the field of education, she’s always managed to find some time to get her hands on her camera whenever she could. In 2010, she decided to take her photography to the next level when she took a break from her 10-year job as an elementary school special education teacher. Since then, Pei’s photographs have attracted thousands of people around the world. In October 2010, she signed up on Instagram ‘as a way of sharing photos with friends‘. More than three years later, Pei Ketron is followed by over 715,000 people and is travelling around parts of the US and Asia, her iPhone5 always within reach.
What’s different when you shoot using your smartphone than when you’re out with your DSLR?
Shooting with my mobile phone has given me the freedom to be much more experimental with my photography. I can focus on composition and emotion without the additional burden of having to think about camera settings. In addition, because a mobile phone is so small, it’s much more inconspicuous and maneuverable, allowing me to shoot in situations and angles that would be challenging with a large DSLR.
Do you think the industry of professional photography/photojournalism is challenged due to the rise of new technology and the consequent use of smartphones?
In my opinion, mobile photography challenges professional photography in mostly good ways. Mobile photography has democratized photography and made it accessible to the masses. Mobile phone cameras still can’t quite fully replace professional level DSLRs, so there’s still a place for the professionals. What the rise of mobile photography does mean, however, is that there are a ton of new, hugely talented photographers entering into the field, many of whom will eventually graduate to DSLRs and become professionals themselves. This subsequently results in healthy competition within the field, which encourages everyone to push themselves further with their work.
And in regards to the actual market, mobile photography is certainly shifting it in interesting directions. Companies now have more options open to them when it comes to large scale marketing campaigns. Instead of doing the same types of images they’ve been doing for years, brands have the option of hiring new photographers who may be able to bring vastly different perspectives and imagery.
On the other hand, newbie and hobbyist photographers are always flattered the first couple of times they’re approached for their images and may not realize that in agreeing to give the images for free that they’re undercutting the market and hurting photographers who are actually trying to make a living off their photos. Preventing this involves educating those photographers about the market and how valuable their photographs actually are.
You’ve been hired by Save the Children for a mission in Mozambique. How was this?
I was hired by Save the Children as part of a social media campaign intended to promote awareness of some of their programs abroad. I traveled to Mozambique and photographed some preschool graduations, some nutrition classes, and a foot race that raises funds to support Save the Children’s programs around the world and it was a fantastic experience for me, personally and as a photographer. I was proud to be photographing for an organization that does such meaningful work and am inspired to continue doing similar projects.
What’s next for you?
I’m giving myself the next 6 months to be a nomad around parts of the US and Asia. I have various travel plans, both for myself and for work, and some long-term photo projects that I’ll be working on along the way. I’ll also be teaching some more photography classes – online through The Compelling Image and in person at The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.
Follow her on Instagram: @Pketron