Provoke was a short lived Japanese photography magazine from the late 1960s. It showcased abstracted images which were purposely grainy, blurry and out of focus.

I only know that because having recently acquired the specialist black and white app Provoke Camera and having read the blurb on the iTunes store I was keen to learn more.


Provoke Camera was inspired by Japanese photographers of the late 1960’s like Daido Moriyama, Takuma Nakahira and Yutaka Takanashi…

Simple, elegant and easy to use, Provoke Camera does just one thing, produce black and white images with that gritty, grainy, blurry look reminiscent of the “Provoke” era of photography, and in two great formats; square format 126 and 35mm format 135.

Provoke Camera App


Nobody enjoys a bit of grain and blur more than me so when the fog hit Lincoln, I was keen to try the Provoke Camera app out. It has a number of film option varying in contrast, grain and blur. For my first outing I decided to play it safe and went with ‘HPAN High Contrast’ in the square format.

Most of these images are SOOC 1 (the Tennis Court image had a little straightening).

Provoke Camera gives the ability to select and lock individual focus and exposure points. It also includes an exposure adjustment slider. These images are intentionally high contrast.

For most images a Histogram 2 will show a concentration of black and very dark tones to the left and white and very light tones to the right. There will certainly be clipping meaning that some light and dark detail has been lost. This is the nature of high contrast photography and one element often present in the Provoke style.

iPhone photography apps used:

provoke - my street lincoln

{ 1. foggy lincoln – my street }



Provoke – The West End of Lincoln on a foggy Sunday Morning

As the 126 format film which partly inspired Provoke was available in a 12 image length, I thought I’d stick to 12 images showing what was happening during an early morning stroll around my local area.

provoke - lincoln guitar

{ 2. foggy lincoln – guitar girl }

provoke - lincoln distance

{ 3. foggy lincoln – jogger }

provoke - lincoln dog

{ 4. foggy lincoln – hitching a ride }

provoke - horse in fog

{ 5. foggy lincoln – walking in circles }

provoke - webs

{ 6. foggy lincoln – webs }

provoke - stride

{ 7. foggy lincoln – fetch }

provoke - horse face

{ 8. foggy lincoln – horse }

provoke - birds

{ 9. foggy lincoln – morning meeting }

provoke - tennis

{ 10. foggy lincoln – anyone for tennis? }

provoke - dog walker

{ 11. foggy lincoln – walking the dog }

provoke - fisherman

{ 12. foggy lincoln – fisherman }


Provoke – Further reading

Reading about the three Provoke movement photographers mentioned within Provoke Camera app will undoubtedly lead to other influential photographers. As a starting point:

  1. Daido Moriyama

    …Not coincidentally, the magazine’s subtitle read ‘provocative documents for the sake of thought’. Although Moriyama was not among Provoke’s founders, and only contributed to the second and third issues, he remains the most memorable and influential of the photographers who participated in that experience… 3

  2. Takuma Nakahira

    …A photographer of the bure, boke style. A member of the Provoke group. An essayist and photography critic, a political activist, a photographer who talked too much, a photographer who lost his memory, a photographer who forgot his mother tongue, a legend… 4

  3. Yutaka Takanashi

    …Provoke was founded by Takuma Nakahira, his friend Yutaka Takanashi, critic Koji Taki (1928-2011), and poet and critic Takahiko Okada (1939-1997). The first issue began with the Provoke Manifesto, signed by the four founders and postulating the alienation of language and reality and identifying photography as the medium that was capable of conveying reality – even if “only a fragment”. For the Provoke artists, the photographic image existed as “provocative documents of thought”, transcending language and ideological baggage… 5


Get the iPhoneography app mentioned in this article

Apps used in this article:

  • Provoke Camera an excellent and fun black and white iPhone camera replacement app.


I hope you enjoyed my iPhone photography take on high contrast SOOC black and white images. Thank you for reading and I hope to see you again. Please follow my Facebook Page to keep up to date not only on my articles but also on deals and updates on the apps I use.



  1. Photographers use this word as shorthand for “Straight Out of Camera”. This refers to NOT using Photoshop or any image editing software as of yet. Often used online and not in real life, to give quick information to other photographers.
    SOOC definition‘ at Urban Dictionary
  2. Histograms are a way to measure exposure more objectively for those who can’t see very well. Histograms don’t replace your eyes and experience. Histograms are helpful in sunlight where it’s hard to see an LCD, or in the shop if setting something exactly. Your eyes are always the final judge. A histogram is just a guide. Worry about your image more than the histogram.
    How to Use Histograms by ‘
  3. Daido Moriyama: The Father of Street Photography in Japan.
    at ‘the culture trip
  4. TAKUMA NAKAHIRA: “A Portrait of Takuma Nakahira” (2005).
    at ‘ASX
  5. Yutaka Takanashi – Towards the City (including a short history of the “Provoke” era), Part 2.
    at ‘ – thoughts on Japenese Photography

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  1. Enrique says:

    Interesting and “provokative” article. Sent me to do more research on the Provoke Movement, Nakahira and Takanashi influence on William Klein.In fact, a photo app to record these convulsive times.

  2. Simone says:

    Thanks for the tips, Skip. I’ve downloaded the app – looking forward to playing around with it tomorrow

  3. V.H. Belvadi says:

    Stunning photographs, Paul. I had never heard of the Provoke movement before this either, but now I find my interest in black and white photography has suddenly increased. I’m off to check out the app now.

    • Paul Brown says:

      Thank you Venkatram, it’s amazing what you can learn from app developers if you delve a little deeper. I hope you enjoy the app. For me, I’ve always enjoyed black and white so not a massive leap.

  4. geri says:

    I bookmarked this ages ago to read when I had a chance. I enjoyed learning more about the style of photography and have recently tried using the Provoke app – I quite like it!

    • Paul Brown says:

      Hi Geri, it’s an interesting style isn’t it. The ‘problem’ is that in my amateur hands sometimes the images just look badly captured rather than artistic! I’m drawn to the high contrast film a lot though.

  5. Ranc says:

    Thanks a million for introducing me to Provoke camera app and the movement. I am already in love with the app and I am deeply inspired with the movement..

    I am curious what your thoughts on lenka app is (especially the minimalist approach of it).

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