Chicago Protagonista: Tim Hara

Meet Tim Hara, one of Chicago’s Protagonistas

Tim Hara

Tim is a freelance photographer from Chicago. I interviewed him a few months ago while I was writing an article about mobile photography (Article here ) Without a doubt, Tim has the unique talent of portraying Chicago in different angles. He photographs the rich architecture that Chicago posses, the foggy and dark scenes through its alleys, the tranquility of Lake Michigan, the magnificent diversity of its streets… Meet Tim, a Chicago Protagonista that contributes enormously with his talent to this great city.

Tim has authorized the release of the interview (below)  I conducted a few months ago. The interview is about his work and mobile photography.

J: How did you initially get into photography, in general?

T: I’m a huge music fan and see lots of concerts around Chicago.  I decided to borrow an DSLR and shoot a local band performing back in 2008.  I was thrilled with my first go at concert photography so I chose to pursue it.  I spent the next year or so photographing as many concerts as a could.  Then when I got tired of basically working for free, I wanted to up my photography game and move on to gigs that paid better.  Today, I work as a freelance photographer shooting everything from newborn baby portraits to weddings to just about everything in between.

J: What inspired you to capture the world, the city, the streets..With a cell phone camera?

T: I started using Instagram for the iPhone about 6 months ago.  That app alone has inspired me to capture scenes with my cell phone every where I go.  Instagram lets me share my photos with those who don’t get to see this great city first-hand.

J: Is mobile photography much more associated with the web and with immediacy?

Tim: Absolutely.  In my opinion, the whole appeal of having a camera on your phone is to be able to capture something immedately.  Then many take it step further and post their photo to the internet.  There’s no question that Facebook and Instagram help perpetuate this, not to mention all the other countless social networks.

Photo by Tim Hara

J: While doing my research about mobile photography, I found different perspective about it. One person in a blog wrote that mobile photography is not pure because it involves a process of editing, using apps & filters that distort and alter the original picture. He said that those apps and filters help people’s photos look perfect even if that person doesn’t have talent in photography or he/she is not a photographer. He continued saying that having a Smartphone with cool apps does not make you a photographer; that photography is an art that not everyone has the talent and capacity of doing it. What do you think? What can you say when come across this kind of perspective that believes that your work is not “pure and original” but “overdone”?

T: Wow, what an awful, jaded view to have.  The whole appeal to Instagram is the fact that everyone and anyone can contribute regardless of “skill”.  What makes a good photograph is completely subjective so therefore everyone should get an equal chance to express themselves however they please.  Perhaps a person doesn’t have access to a real camera, but has always wanted to try their hand at photography.  Mobile photography and Instagram is an amazing way for people to get this opportunity.  Amateurs with their cell phones could possibly be as popular as professionals using DSLR cameras which cost thousands.  That is awesome to me!  Mobile photography and mobile editing has birthed a whole new type of enthusiast.  I’d also like to point out that even DSLR photographers edit their photos using some kind of software.

J: Why would you use a cell phone camera rather than a compact camera?

T: Taking photos on my cell phone allows me to post to the internet (Instagram) immediately.  Any other camera would require a computer, which means I may not be able to post a photo until hours after I’ve taken it.  I like concept of sharing a photo right after I’ve captured it.  Another reason I prefer my cell phone is the plethora of photo editing apps I can use.  Effects that may take a long time to achieve using expensive software on a computer can be done in seconds on the iPhone.

Photo by Tim Hara

J: What do you focus on when you go out and shoot pictures?

T: I take photos of anything and everything.  Since many people I share with on Instagram don’t live in Chicago, all scenes would be new and interesting to them.  Things that I’m used to seeing every single day on the streets of Chicago can be fascinating to those who live on the other side of the globe.  Mostly I like to shoot architecture though, which this city certainly has no shortage of.

J: Your pictures are mainly about architecture or the daily scenarios on the streets. Do you consider yourself a street photographer? How do you define your style?

T: The wonderful thing about mobile photography is the fact that I can just go wild and don’t necessarily have to define a style.  I’m a photographer full time so while I do have creative freedom, I also have to do what I think the client wants.  There are certain limitations.  Instagram is a completely different outlet in which to express myself through photography.  My techniques and styles are constantly changing.  This is partly because there are always fun new photography apps to experiment with.  I’m amazed on a daily basis of what people are capable of with just their iPhone.  And most of the these people aren’t photographers at all.  They have all kinds of professions.  Instagram lets anyone become a photographer and that’s what is so appealing about it.

Photo by Tim Hara

J: Is mobile photography the most suitable for urban photography? 

T: I can’t say what is best for urban photography.  I guess it’s ultimately up to the photographer.  However, my iPhone is much, much easier to carry around and quickly take out for snapshots than my SLR.  I always will have my phone on me, but rarely do I carry my SLR when I’m out and about.

J: Do you think mobile photography would exist without social media? 

T: My short answer is no.  What good is a photograph if no one will see it?  Instagram is about sharing photography and connecting with people around the world.  Of course people use it for different things, but the core is about letting people get a glimpse into your life.  Whether it’s the sunset you’re seeing, the shoes you’re wearing, a cool building you’re walking by, or maybe just your cat.  It’s about sharing these snapshots with the world.

J: In the interview with Mr. Darris Lee Harris, instructor at Chicago Photography Center, he stated: “Phone cameras are great, but they’ll never satisfy the need for a large file. I associate this with “small format” photography. And small format photography can’t make the big prints. Everything looks great on a mobile device, but not everything looks good at a large scale..” Do you think there are limits with cell phones that you wouldn’t have with a professional camera (“large format cameras”)? If yes, what are some of them?

T: Well the above quote really sums it up.  The limit is that these photos may not look nearly as good if enlarged or printed.  The good thing is that most people aren’t trying to print photos taken on their phones.  So if you are simply viewing your photos on the tiny phone screen, it will look good, or at least better than on a computer screen or print.  This is starting to change now that phone companies are seeing that people value a decent camera on their smartphone.

J: From the technological point of view, how do you see the future of digital photography with cellphones, Smartphones, Iphones, etc?

T: The quality of the camera will continue to improve.  The camera is already fantastic on the iPhone 4 and Apple made even further improvements with the current 4S model.  Not too long from now, I see the smartphone camera making the point-and-shoot camera obsolete because they will be comparable in image quality.  An iPhone camera won’t replace an SLR ever, but then again, who can really predict where the technology will head?  These devices keep getting smaller and smaller, but somehow more powerful with every new generation.

Photo by Tim Hara

View Tim Hara’s personal website (requires flash) at:

Follow him on Instagram: @thara_photo

Those without the iPhone app can view his photos on his Twitter feed:

Love Tim’s photographs? Here is your chance to order canvas prints of his Instagram photos :


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