Kevin Russ's Stunning iPhone Photos Prove It's Not the Technology That Makes You an Artist

Video screen capture. Vimeo

The impressive work of Kevin Russ proves a bigger point: you don't need to have fancy gear to create amazing photographs.

Kevin Russ has been traveling the western US for the last year, living mostly in his car as he captures the magic that is the wild west. And he has been creating most of his extraordinary images with that ubiquitous and all-purpose tool, the iPhone.

PetaPixel writes, "Some might see it as a gimmick, but his work speaks for itself. Throughout the video a slideshow of the images he’s captured during his travels scrolls by — square crops revealing those shared via Instagram — and we found ourselves surprised at the impressive quality and composition of his shots."

There is a large and raging debate happening about the role that iPhones play in photography and photojournalism, but that is not one I want to address here. Instead, I'd like to use Russ's gorgeous photography to point out something about the use of technology to create beauty: the technology you use is, mostly, secondary.

You don't need the latest and greatest device to be able to record the beauty of the world. You need an artistic eye, a drive to find it, and a device that you have mastered well enough to capture the moment.

Think about it. Some of the greatest images the world has seen have been captured on what some may call "obsolete" old-fashioned cameras with "out-dated" technology. Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of modern photojournalism, used a Leica film camera -- an old contraption that has no place in the modern digital world, right? Well... Keep in mind that the reason few people today can compare their work to that of Cartier-Bresson, despite the fact that practically anyone has access to a fancy DLSR, is because few people have an eye for "the decisive moment." Capturing a compelling image is not about what electronics you can buy -- it is much more human than that.

To say that you must have the latest device in the marketplace to be able to keep an edge as a photographer is to ignore the most fundamental thing needed for creating beautiful images: You.

By ignoring this one simple fact repeatedly in various areas of our lives, we become over-consumers -- from gadgets that promise to make us better chefs to gadgets that guarantee we'll be better athletes. We buy because we think we are not good enough. And we discard last year's electronics all too readily because they weren't good enough in some way that this year's gadgets must apparently be.

This slideshow of Kevin Russ's stunning collection of work is, in no small way, proof that we do not need to buy in order to create. And the examples don't stop here. Another incredible example of this truth is the work of Michael Christopher Brown, a photojournalist commissioned by TIME to cover events in the Democratic Republic of Congo and he is using only his iPhone. The quality of his work certainly does not suffer for the tool he uses to record images. Indeed, it may allow him to get images no one with fancy electronics could ever get:

"Using a mobile phone allows me to be somewhat invisible as a professional photographer; people see me as just another person in the crowd. Invisibility is particularly useful in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a potpourri of armed groups and governments have used conflict minerals as the latest way to help fund the warfare, atrocities and repression that have afflicted the area for more than a century," writes Brown.

He makes a wonderful point in this video that it will soon be not about if you use a camera or a mobile phone, or even about which mobile phone you use; the quality of the image will be the same. That leaves making great images down to one thing, again: You.

Keep in mind the next time you see an electronic device that promises to make everything easy for you: the multi-purpose gadget that fits in our pocket can be every bit as useful as an $8,000 top-of-the-line electronic device -- it all depends on our own ability to use it.