From a photographer: The 5 things my iPhone camera taught me:
First let me say, I'm not a writer. I’m an artist who expresses through images not words, so bear with me here.
But, when Fleur and Arbor asked me to write about my art practice, specifically about using my iPhone to create, I couldn't refuse.
Before I get into my iPhone art practice, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am a Chicago-based artist whose style could be expressed as abstract nature photography. I am particularly drawn to Georgia O’Keefe and Expressionism, although, art in general inspires me, from the Old Masters to Street Graffiti.
I’ve always been interested in experimenting with new techniques and processes. I think that is why I’ve always loved working with alternative processes. There are so many different things you can try and different ways to create. So using my iPhone has been a natural extension of my experimentation with techniques and equipment. It is part of the way my current art practice is evolving and changing.
When I am out in the world and I see something that catches my eye but there isn't time to make sure my Canon has the correct lens or make sure the metering is right, I grab my iPhone. I normally use the Hipstamatic app because it simulates a vintage analog camera, which makes sense; since the Holga camera is my favorite film camera to work/ create with. It can have light leaks and the viewfinder can be slightly off. I always love seeing the exciting, unexpected image it creates. I can work with color and focus within the app just like within a film or digital camera. Texture and color are important parts of my aesthetic so I enjoy that I can create that straight from my camera phone.
The next step, if necessary, is to take the original image and manipulate it within Photoshop just like I would have with film in the darkroom or from my DSLR.
When the artwork is completed, I normally print it on metal or canvas. When working with my film Holga camera, I print the final works as cyanotypes on canvas, so printing these digital iPhone images on an alternative material is not so far off from my practice 10 years ago. A continuation of my art style that is constantly changing but still true to myself.
However, mentally, creating with my iPhone has not been easy. A fellow female photographer/ exhibitor at one of my group art shows said that unless the image you present came straight from the camera with no alterations you cannot call yourself a photographer and must call yourself a digital artist. And that really stuck with me about how limiting some of the photography community is and how parts of the art-world view camera phone photography. Even though, iPhone photographs have won a World Press Photo Award, a Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, and an award in the Pictures of the Year International photojournalism competition. Currently, I’ve discovered that artists who have always called themselves photographers are now facing a dialogue and struggle within the art world. The question photographers now face is “Should I label my work as photography or digital art?” “Can I still call myself a photographer or am I now a digital artist, although I still use a camera?” Photographers have always altered images whether it is through filters and lighting in the darkroom or through digital editing software. The question remains, while all art photographers start with an image from a camera, where is the line drawn when the image is no longer a photograph and becomes digital art? Some of my pieces have been extensively digitally altered; some have only had slight digital alterations, while others have not been digitally altered at all.
At first, because of this, I was embarrassed to tell people my art originally started from an image I took on my iPhone. For some reason it felt cheap or fake, like I wasn't a real photographer if I wasn't using my Canon DSLR or processing everything in the darkroom. But as I kept creating and discovering my practice, I became more passionate about my style and my art. I realized that an artist or photographer is still an artist no matter how they create their art or from what; whether it is from found materials like recyclables or garbage or from homemade paint or expensive oil paints, as long as they are creating original works. It is still art whether a child made it or an adult with 20 years of experience in art. And that is what I love about art and photography and what my iPhone taught me. So what do I call myself? I am still a photographer. I am an artist.