Sky high: Ed Kashi’s best phone picture

‘This image was a breakthrough. I began to see the world anew’

Ed Kashi regards his shot of a California aerial tram ride as a personal turning point. For three decades, on assignment in countries including Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan, he had taken countless images of civil discord and extreme suffering. “I had absorbed that trauma – many photojournalists do. Often our singular goal is to get as close as possible to the most horrible things on Earth and document them,” Kashi says. “I needed to rehabilitate myself, to make a photo that was soft, beautiful and candy-coloured – to expand my emotional range. This image was a breakthrough. I began to see the world anew.”

Sign up to our Inside Saturday newsletter for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the magazine’s biggest features, as well as a curated list of our weekly highlights.

Kashi describes this period as the “Plasticine era of Instagram”, a time when the smartphone was transitioning from “a fun, novelty toy to a viable tool for an image maker”.

The shot was taken at an amusement park in the US city of Santa Cruz on a day trip with college students, during the afternoon session of a photography workshop Kashi was conducting. “When I’m ‘on’ as a photojournalist, I’m always looking for and responding to visual clues, whether it’s the horizon or the light,” he says.

Spontaneously boarding the aerial tram, he reached for his iPhone 5 instead of his usual 35mm camera. Even in an amusement park dedicated to pleasure and fun, he saw darker undercurrents (not least the plastic figure taking a ride). “The people in the shot aren’t beaming,” he says. “Their facial expressions suggest that perhaps they’re hungry, or tired, or just had a fight. That’s just being human.” And, as the cabin rose, a thought he’d had in far more serious contexts urged him on: “The photo gods have bestowed this upon me – don’t screw it up.”

Contributor

Grace Holliday

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Bending over backwards: Prince Gyasi’s best phone picture
‘The boxes on the women’s heads represent packages, like the gifts women give to the world’

Grace Holliday

06, Nov, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Reflections in Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya: Hossein Fatemi’s best phone picture
‘The poverty I saw really shocked me, but also the people I saw were happy, they were friendly, they were sharing’

Dale Berning Sawa

23, Oct, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Get your goat: Eric Bouvet’s best phone picture
‘The ibex couldn’t care less about me. He was just there, magnificent, on his stage’

Jon Henley

04, Dec, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘Sauna patrons just sit on the icy street’: Manuel Vazquez’s best phone picture
‘Because this sauna is in the city, patrons just go and sit on the icy street’

Grace Holliday

01, Jan, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘We saw this tree filled with goats’: Stephen Tayo’s best phone picture
The Nigerian photographer on an unusual encounter on the roadside in Morocco

Grace Holliday

15, Jan, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Dog days: Dimpy Bhalotia’s best phone pictures
‘Before, I had a phobia of dogs. I spent a week getting closer, not allowing myself to run away when they barked at me’

Grace Holliday

20, Nov, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘I wanted the focus to be on their smiles’: Brunel Johnson’s best phone picture
The London-born photographer on his image of Gambian football fans

Grace Holliday

18, Dec, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
A dog’s breakfast: John Stanmeyer’s best phone picture
Frida came from Texas as a semi-rescue. Here she is, at 9.04 on a May morning, eating, hind legs up

Dale Berning Sawa

30, Oct, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Flower power: Angelina Golt’s best phone picture
‘I closed my eyes, absorbed the scent of the flowers and asked my surroundings to talk to me’

Grace Holliday

27, Nov, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
‘Most people don’t know how to shoot or edit dark skin’ – Isaac West’s best phone shot
The Liberian photographer on his image of a tender haircut

Grace Holliday

11, Dec, 2021 @10:00 AM