Photographing Afghanistan by iPhone

Andrew Craft is a photographer based in North Carolina, where he is a staff photographer at the Fayetteville Observer. In April and May of this year he visited Afghanistan to photograph the drawdown of American troops military presence.

CBS News asked him a few questions about his experience photographing Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

CBS News: I take it you went there for the Observer, how long were you there and what was your focus or objective?

Andrew Craft: Yes, I was there for the Observer for a little over a month. Since Fort Bragg is in our coverage area we make regular trips to Afghanistan to cover Fort Bragg soldiers. While there, we covered units from the 82nd Airborne Division, the 18th Airborne Corps and the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Usually we end up just covering whatever those units are up to, which included guardian angel missions, the descoping of ISAF bases before the hand off to Afghan forces, the hand over of those ISAF bases, the retrosort yards, etc.

CBS News: Where in Afghanistan did you go?

AC: On this trip I covered more ground than I've ever had in a trip. We hit up Kabul, Bagram Airfield, FOB [Forward Operating Base] Ghazni, FOB Lightning, Camp Mike Spann near Mazar-e-Sharif, Hairatan, FOB Tarin Kowt, Kandahar Airfield, FOB Pasab and COP [Combat Outpost] Hutal. The only part of the country we didn't hit up was the western portion of the country.

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Andrew Craft

CBS News: What was your thinking behind shooting on your phone versus with your DSLR?

AC: I always used to shoot random pics with my SLR that had nothing to do with the story at hand but those pics just ended up being orphans with no homes. So, they just sat in my archives. When smart phones came around it really changed things. Now I could shoot those random pics with my iPhone and almost instantly give them a home and an audience on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook with a few clicks and swipes on my iPhone. Usually I focus on using my DSLR [larger digital camera] when I'm working on a specific story and use the phone during the in-between time or when I feel I've worked all the angles for the story with my DSLR. While I was in Afghanistan there is lots of downtime. But there is also some cross-over.

Since all the photos I post to Instagram are only iPhone photos I will sometimes take an iPhone photo right after taking one with my DSLR, if the moment is right. I didn't really get into iPhone photography until I made a trip to Laos to teach a photojournalism workshop funded by the U.S. State Dept. in 2011. When I would bring out my DSLR out people would pose for the shot, usually throwing up a peace sign. But when I used my phone nobody seemed to pay any attention. After the workshop wrapped up I traveled the country taking pics only with my iPhone.

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Andrew Craft

It sounds strange saying this as a professional photographer, but I enjoy the lower quality of the iPhone camera. It harkens back to my days in college when I shot film. There was grain and the images never seemed that sharp as compared to today's DSLR image files. Strangely, that added something to the images. The iPhone gives me a bit of that back and with it, my college days enthusiasm for just shooting for the fun of it.

CBS News: When you return later this month, what will you be focusing on?

AC: The major point of going on this next trip is covering the end of Operation Enduring Freedom. We will be covering soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade and 18th Airborne Corps. And we will be flying back to the states with soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps.

More of Crafts' work can be seen at his website or Instagram feed or at the Fayetteville Observer.