Apr 13, 2013

Skip Brown–A Most Talented iPhoneographer

PaulBrownIn search of iPhoneography tutorials, I luckily happened upon the website Skipology where I was first exposed to the work of Paul “Skip” Brown .  Or was it AMPt?  Maybe EyeEm or Flickr?  It’s hard to say because Skip’s work is everywhere.  I found a treasure trove of information alongside his beautifully edited photographs.  In addition, unlike many mobile photographers who choose to keep their app recipes as closely guarded secrets, Skip generously shares his process along with detailed tutorials and even a few videos!  I couldn’t wait to find out if he would be interested in being interviewed.  Happily the answer was yes!
© Skip Brown
Skipping (above)
Geri:  What is your name and where do you live?
Skip:  Paul (known to most as Skip and I like it that way). I am from Lincoln, England.
Geri:  How long have you been an iPhoneographer?  
Skip:  The iPhone4 I have is the only mobile phone I have ever owned. All other mobiles were work related and not even capable of taking a photograph. I've had it for just over 2 years and have been taking photographs with it pretty much since the day I got it. It's fair to say I didn't know I was an iPhoneographer until a professional photographer friend described me as one and I thought he made the word up. I took some convincing that iPhoneography was a real thing. Two years later I am more than convinced!
© Skip Brown
Take a Bow (above)
© Skip Brown
You and Me (above)
Geri:  Do you have a traditional photography or art background?
Skip:  The honest answer really is neither. I did art at school and passed the exams you take as a 16 year old. At that time I had an SLR (Olympus OM10) and very much enjoyed photography. Ever since then I've used my OM10 occasionally, even now. I've always had an interest. I went on to take Art History but at a very early stage took a decision to switch courses and my life and career progressed down a very non-artistic path.
Geri:  Who or what inspires your work?
Skip:  I've always said that I met a wonderful community of photographers on Google+ and whilst I know a few name me as influencing them, I struggle to see it and prefer to think that many of them influence me. I think you take a small message, even if only subliminally, from every image you spend time studying. I would have to say that my major influence is just that, the collection of images I've come across and discussed on Google+.  Many photographers (mobile and otherwise) have become friends on Facebook and on other social networks.
© Skip Brown
Best Friends (above)
© Skip Brown
Would You Like Some? (above)
Geri:  How did the Skipology website evolve?  Speaking of your website, did you design it?  It really has a slick interface that's very user friendly!
Skip:  Thank you! I regard myself as a bit of a 'techie' and enjoy playing with it. Skipology is powered by Wordpress and is based on a purchased Wordpress theme called Reboot. It evolved from my first blog which is called phoneographer.org (my first experience with Wordpress). I made plenty of mistakes including editing too many files and not recording it properly so when the theme and Wordpress were both updated I had a tough choice to make. I was also increasingly aware that my images and tutorials were designed for mobile photographers but that my website wasn't really mobile friendly. I bit the bullet and started from scratch. Skipology.com was registered on new years eve (I am that sad). Skipology is based on the Twitter bootstrap and is fully responsive meaning it should (I hope) respond to the device the site is being viewed on in a very usable way.
© Skip Brown
Foggy West Common Lincoln (above)
© Skip Brown
Horse and Handler (above)
Geri:  In your words, the aim of your images is to "capture or create an atmosphere rather than a scene".  Do you shoot with that end in mind, or do you decide on the editing process after you view your camera roll?
Skip:  I regard all my images as raw material. An image is rarely untouchable. I take a great deal of delight from sitting in a coffee shop playing with my apps and creating an image from the photographs I have captured. It is my way of relaxing in the same way that others read books or do crossword or sudoku puzzles. I rarely have an end result in mind, normally I see an image and it tells me how to process it or I'll doodle with it and see what emerges. The exceptions would be challenges where I set out to capture an image with the challenge in mind and my floral work where my capture and processing routine is quite well defined now. Almost without exception I prefer images captured or created without a goal in mind. Something unexpected or spur of the moment. I find that if I set out to capture a specific scene or type of image it rarely happens. In that sense I regard myself as the photographic equivalent of a fisherman rather than a hunter. I prefer to capture what passes by rather than chase something.
© Skip Brown
In the Moment (above)
© Skip Brown
Clown (above)
Geri:  When shooting, do you use the native iPhone camera app or another specialized app like ProCamera or Camera+?  
Skip:  I don't use the native camera. Initially I used Camera+ which I think is the benchmark for camera replacement apps. From there I moved to 6x6. For some time now ProCamera has been my app of choice for 3 reasons 1) Responsiveness - quick to load and no lag between shots (my impression is that it uses minimal processing power so conserves the battery which is always a concern). 2) Focal and exposure points are rock solid and quick to react. 3) The added extras all aimed at the initial capture such as the live histogram and horizon level are useful rather than gimmicky. Alongside all of these apps I have consistently used Hipstamatic quite a lot and increasingly so following the recently released upgrades which I enjoy.
© Skip Brown
No Escape (above)
© Skip Brown
Rose (above)
Geri:  Along with your beautifully textured work, you also have quite a bit of street photography.  Do you have any suggestions for those who are interested in this genre?
Skip:  Thank you! Street photography is what I really enjoy because the results can always surprise and for me, add people to any image and it's a more interesting one. Like I said earlier, I am a fisherman not a hunter and if like me you are quite shy adopt that approach. Find somewhere comfortable and let people come to you. If you're already in place and people walk towards you through your shot then that's their choice. Very rarely do I walk up to someone and just stand there and take their photo. I admire those with the confidence to do that and the results are wonderful. Maybe one day I'll reach that point. Even if you are uncomfortable photographing others candidly you can do it in your own way.
  © Skip Brown
Ghostly Under Lincoln Stonebow (above)
© Skip Brown
Jazz Man (above)
Geri:  Do you have favorite go to apps?  If so, what are they?
Skip:  Other than the capture apps already mentioned, Filterstorm, Snapseed, PS Express and Pro HDR are all helpful for me to create a 'base' image and then any number of special effect apps. Naming five – PicFX, Alt Photo, PhotoForge 2, Superimpose and Modern Grunge.
Geri:  Please share a bit about your editing process?
Skip:  My workflow generally starts in Filterstorm with an initial crop (often just to square) but harder crops mean I can resize to say 2,000 x 2,000 which is what I aim for. Resizing is always stage one so that other effects and textures are applied at full final resolution. Stage 2 would be to look at exposure. I always capture on the dark side if exposure is tricky. I then create a second version by boosting exposure in PS Express and combine the two versions using Pro HDR. From this 'base' image I then go on to process according to the image. Very often this may involve adding a dynamic quality by mimicking lens distortion (bulge via PhotoForge 2  or some pre-defined actions in Photo FX) and film distortions such as graining, etc. Black and White conversion is normally in Snapseed using it's predefined methods and color filters. I also love its 'structure', 'drama', 'grunge' and 'retrolux' filters. My composites are normally processed in Superimpose. I love the ability to save masks and so reuse elements multiple times and / or in multiple images. You can build up a library over time.
© Skip Brown
View From the Coffee Shop (above)
© Skip Brown
Swans, Shadows and Silhouettes (above)
Geri:  I love that Skipology includes detailed tutorials for your beautiful images.  Have you ever taught any live workshops or considered doing online courses in iPhoneography?
Skip:  Thank you Geri. For me mobile photography is a hobby, a way to relieve stress and part of that is sharing what I do both in terms of the end result and the methods I've picked up on my journey. I still see myself as a work in progress so I don't really see this as something I would do. I will keep sharing what I uncover via Skipology and that will continue to include the occasional video I'm sure. I often get asked questions and honestly I have no secrets so if anyone has any questions about any of my images don't be shy.
(Check out one of Skips instructional videos below)

Geri:  Have you ever exhibited your work?  If so, where?
Skip:  Yes:
- mObilepixatiOn’s ‘piXel revOlution’ exhibition at London’s Unit24 Gallery.
- 'My World Shared' in London.
- ‘Pixel This’ – a curated charity exhibition where I was one of 100 or so honored to exhibit alongside celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ruby Wax, Peter Capaldi and Alexander Siddig.
- Hip 2B Square - I am a member of a local group of Mobile Photographers and we staged our first local exhibition in Lincoln last year. It opened a few eyes and we are planning a second exhibition later this year.
- I was also honored to be a finalist at the recent Photobox Motographer of the year awards.

© Skip Brown
Sinister (above)
© Skip Brown
The Busker (above)
Geri:  iPhoneography seems to be gaining acceptance in the world of photography?  How has your work been received?
Skip:  In terms of the acceptance of mobile photography as a legitimate genre I still see some extreme views. Some seem to define mobile photography by its lowest definition, the spammy Instagram streams that exist. My response in general is to ignore those kinds of comments. It's hardly fair to define an entire genre by some stereotypical view and then compare that to high quality professional work with expensive equipment. The truth is that there are some exceptionally talented mobile photographers just as there are some learning their skills and others who share images that don't appeal to me. I don't see how this is different to any other form of photography. We are all aware of the journalistic photographers receiving high profile recognition for their work with mobile images. I believe the best photographers embrace photography in all of its forms (I'll get off my high horse now). Specifically with regard to my experiences, I'm really overwhelmed by the response I get from both follow mobile photographers and also traditional photographers. My Flickr and other social media photography friends for example are not just limited to mobile photographers. I live in a small UK city with no Insta-meets or EyeEm walks but I've been invited to join a few Facebook Groups that were aimed at traditional photography. The members of these Groups have started the debate about whether mobile photography should be a more significant element within the Group. Here in Lincoln, I was probably the first mobile photographer to join a local group of photographers and since then they have set up a thriving mobile photography group which runs exhibitions.
Interestingly, I was approached by the PR company employed by Budweiser to shoot live iPhoneography at the FA Cup semi finals at Wembley this weekend (Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th April). I find it incredibly exciting that mobile photography is being seen as a legitimate part of a media strategy by the biggest brands for the highest profile events. How can anyone not be excited by that?  Unfortunately for me, I was unable to take the opportunity. I was at least able to demonstrate that we are a tight knit community by signposting them to the amazing talent at Instagramers London who I'm sure will be very up for it.
© Skip Brown
Ink Blot Test (above)
© Skip Brown
Strangers (above)
Geri:  Many people make a living with traditional photography.  Do you think this is possible with iPhoneography as well?
Skip:  Yes absolutely in theory at least. There are limitations of course with available technology which restricts the market but items such as clothing, book covers, music art and art prints can all easily be created at a resolution to deliver the required quality. It comes down to the piece of work and whether there's a market for it. I don't believe the device the image is captured or created with has any relevance to any finished product.
There are other areas though, looking at iPhoneography together with its natural partner, communications. Live event image blogging by an accomplished iPhoneographer is something we are starting to see and I see no reason why this couldn't provide a reasonable income stream for those with the energy and passion to pursue it. We also see journalistic iPhoneographers getting some significant exposure. My comments in 13 above support this.
Geri:  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Skip:  I would just like to thank you Geri for the grilling you've given me ;-) and it is a real honor for me to be invited to be featured on your blog alongside so many artists I have long admired.
© Skip Brown
Sketchy Weather (above)
Thank you Skip for your generosity in sharing your amazing talent!  I look forward to more of your work.
Find Skip:  Skipology / EyeEm / Flickr / Twitter / FacebookGoogle+ / Instagram
All images in this feature are copyrighted property of Skip Brown published on iART CHRONiCLES with the consent of the artist. 

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