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Saturday, May 25, 2024

PHALON’S FILE: Ignoring Our Wide, Wide World

Look at how much you’re missing on the left and right when you don’t hold your phone camera
horizontally. Lots of horizon, to start with. Photo by Joe Phalon, 7/2023.

We live in a horizontal world, and yes, the Earth is flat. At least as far as we can see.

We look for wide-screen movie theaters, the better to lose ourselves in the great expanse of the Great Plains of John Ford or the dystopian future of Mad Max.

When flying, given the choice, most of us opt for a wide-body plane.

Our televisions now stretch from the front door to the bathroom.

So why, why, why do people insist on shooting photographs and videos vertically when using their smart phone cameras? I can understand that in the heat of a moment, such as a natural disaster or a newsworthy event, proper composition is the last thing on one’s mind, but why do so many people hold the phone vertically when recording little Harold stretching a double to a triple?

Did we really need to see more grass and sky than ball game? I think Grandma and Grandpa would prefer to see the ball arriving from the corner of the shot as Harold beats the throw. When it’s played back on your wide-screen TV, there’s lots of dead space on the right and left.

Perhaps social media led us here. TikTok is vertical by default.

Our eyes are side-by-side. The windshields of our cars reflect this and are twice as wide as they are tall. Most athletic superlatives are measured horizontally, with few exceptions such as the pole vault.

Even a home is ultimately measured by the terrestrial distance it covered.

Crosswords puzzles are usually solved with the horizontal words first. In fact, many players pride themselves with completing all the horizontal clues before having to resort to those back-alley vertical clues.

So, what happened? The iPhone.

Until the iPhone came along, conventional cameras invariably were oriented in the horizontal or “landscape” perspective. We would turn the camera sideways on rare occasions for the vertical “portrait” orientation for pictures of little Harold standing proudly for his first day of school. Or perhaps years later, his first mug shot.

Modern humans began appearing about 200,000 years ago. And in all but the last 150 years or so—with the invention of balloons and the airplane—we’ve been totally earthbound resulting in our horizontal view of the world.

Now humans have gone vertically, so far vertically we can say that we traveled a quarter-million miles to the Moon. But even on the Moon, the astronauts held the camera horizontally.

It’s time we turn our camera phones sideways, people, unless we want future generations to think the world was sandwiched between the sky above and the parking lot below.

Joe Phalon
Joe Phalon, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

Joe was lured out of retirement by the opportunity to be a part of the Ridge View Echo. During a decades-long career in publishing and journalism, he has covered government on many levels from local school boards to the United States Supreme Court.

Along the way, Joe has worked at American Lawyer Magazine, The National Law Journal and The Record among other publications, and as the Press Officer of Columbia Law School. His work has been recognized with several first place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the New Jersey Press Association.

Being part of the Ridge View Echo brings Joe back to his roots and the kind of news coverage he loves: Telling the stories of people and local communities as well as keeping an eye on how their money is spent by their government officials.

Joe lives in Blairstown with his wife Rose, the founder of Quilting for a Cause, and their two wiener dogs. He is an artist in his spare time.