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Inspirations From Yesterday: BlackBerry 9650

My first smartphone was the BlackBerry "Tour" which debuted in 2009. Like so many others at the time, my entire world changed with the sudden availability of the internet in the palm of my hand. Any time, any place. In addition to the always-on internet, the BlackBerry Tour had a superior camera to my Motorola e815 flip phone I had been using previously. A magical combination. But all was not perfect. Only a few short months after receiving my BlackBerry device was it acknowledged by the manufacturer that there was a pervasive problem with the little trackball on the Tour (how funny is it to think of a smartphone having a trackball?); I took my Tour to the local mobile shop and had it exchanged for the revised "Tour 2," also known as the BlackBerry 9650. The 9650 replaced the original Tour's trackball with a trackpad and was, by all modern measures of the time, an incredible mobile device. The phone also served as my mobile camera for the next several years, until which time I switched to the Apple ecosystem and never looked back.

The BlackBerry 9650 touted a 3.2 megapixel camera and had tightly integrated Facebook and Twitter applications that made mobile photography a social experience. Instagram would launch 6 months after I received my BlackBerry 9650, though I don't remember using it until well into my iPhone days several years later. Still, being able to snap pictures while on-the-go and record moments as they happened was something I quickly became addicted to.

Occasionally I like to look back through my archives at the old pictures I took with mobile devices and early digital cameras to gain a sense of how I've developed as an artist. All of the photographs presented here were taken with the BlackBerry 9650 between 2010 and 2012. As I have with other photoessays of this kind, these photographs have not been edited or re-procesed, rather, they are presented as they were captured in JPEG using the BlackBerry 9650.

As I look through these images today, I see them each in two ways. Firstly, I see them as mostly unremarkable snapshots completely reminiscent of those early days of mobile photography and the rise of Instagram. However, secondly, I see them each as an important memory of mine; pictures that tell stories of the time. The dreary landscapes; the anonymous barns; the occasional nod to the seasons... Not only are the memories clear when I browse through these photographs, but so too are the earliest signs apparent of how I began learning to see.

My ownership period of the BlackBerry 9650 also corresponded to the same timeframe as my re-entry into photography with a proper camera. I had been playing around with my Nikon D40 at the time - a DSLR I had purchased many years prior but used primarily as my "vacation camera." I had begun to think seriously about picking up a more modern body to take things to the next level. I debated the purchase of a Nikon D7000 for nearly a year before taking the plunge. Since then, I've gone through numerous camera bodies and lenses, developing my skills and building my portfolio. In all, it's hard to believe it's only been six years, yet at the same time, it feels like forever ago.