Sep 4, 2013

The Art of iPhone Photography - Straight Talk with Authors Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald

Just over a year ago, I discovered that I could use my iPhone as a means for creating art. When I started interacting with fellow enthusiasts on Instagram, Flickr and EyeEm I realized I had found "my people"- those other crazy souls who are just as smitten as I am with this means of artistic expression. Now, there's a fabulous resource that EVERY iPhone photographer should have. It's the newly released book, The Art of iPhone Photography: Creating Great Photos and Art on Your iPhoneby Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald. Through the miracle of the internet, I was able to interview Bob and Nicki on this exciting new venture!

The Art of iPhone Photography


Geri:  Seeing as the two of you live on different continents, how did you begin collaborating?

Bob:  At the end of 2011, I discovered Nicki's site iPhoneographyCentral just as I was becoming seriously interested in iPhone photography. At that point, I had no idea how big this movement was becoming. Nicki's site was one of several sites I had identified as notable resources to learn more about producing great images on the iPhone. Her site occupied a special place in my thinking, because I had seen the picture of "Flamin' Amy" that now graces the cover of our book, and was completely taken with it. I knew this person must be a real talent to have produced an image so full of energy and joie de vivre. She had a small ad on the home page inviting contributions (content and financial), and the posting suggested that she wouldn't mind help in managing the site. I sent her an email and offered to write tutorials, and that's how the relationship began. To this day, we have never met, and have only communicated via email and Skype. But I consider her a great friend, and have gotten to know her family. I can't wait to meet all of them sometime next year.


Geri:  Was iPhonoegraphyCentral your first joint venture?  

Nicki:  I founded iPhoneographyCentral in 2011. I was desperate to learn more about the subject and there wasn't anything out there so I started the website with a small collection of tutorials generously donated by iPhoneographers I'd made connections with on Facebook. Bob joined me about a year later contributing the most fantastic tutorials and showing a real passion and dedication to the subject. With his fantastic writing skills and award winning iPhoneography, it made perfect sense for Bob to join me as my iPhoneographyCentral partner.


Geri:  Do you have difficulty juggling your "real" job with your work in the iPhone photography community?

Nicki:  Yes, it has been hard at times and of course the third ball to juggle is family. I have been lucky to have had such brilliant support from my partner Robert and my 12 year old son Lewis over this massively busy year. Without them, it would have been impossible to manage the website and book. 

Bob:  It is hard to juggle the two, much as it is for anyone balancing a consuming hobby against the vocation that earns your livelihood. I try to set aside an hour each evening for posting, reviewing the posts of others and finding candidates for Apps Uncovered (when it's my turn to do so). I also spend the first half of every Saturday adding candid images to my photo pool that I'll eventually use in my work.
Letter from the Beloved © Bob Weil
Letter from the Beloved by Bob Weil
Geri:  When was the idea hatched for your book, "The Art of iPhone Photography?"

Nicki:  It was about early 2012 when Bob suggested the book idea. It seemed an obvious direction to go forward and extend the iPhoneographyCentral vision of sharing inspiration, creativity and techniques on iPhoneography.

Bob:  Once I had read several of the books out there (Dan Marcolina's, Stephanie Roberts' and Dan Burkholder's) and had a chance to contribute a few tutorials to Nicki's site, I realized that one thing that aspiring iPhoneographers lacked was a good view into the creative process of a variety of iPhone artists. I knew from my own experience that different photographic styles appeal to different people, and that there was no book on the market that tried to address the upcoming "generation" of iPhoneographers who had grown up on Instagram and Hipstamatic and were ready to expand their repertoire of techniques. Both our own Flickr group and the Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival of August 2012, founded by Daria Polichetti (the author of our Foreword) and Nate Park, opened my eyes to the range of really superb work out there. Just as importantly, it revealed the level of enthusiasm and excitement for this new mode of expression that seemed to help people fulfill their creative impulses in novel ways.
India Face to Face © Jack Hollingsworth
Images processed with Camera+ by Jack Hollingsworth
Geri:  Tell me a bit about your publisher.  How receptive were they to the idea of the book?

Nicki:  Bob did all the legwork here. Literally, he invited our publisher Gerhard from Rocky Nook to come down and visit the current Los Angeles Mobile Art Festival (LAMAF) organized by iphoneart and bowled him over with the huge displays of iPhoneography. With Bob's enthusiasm and passion coupled with the quality of art on the walls (many of these artists are in our book) it would have been a tough call to say "No".

Bob:  We had originally submitted a competitive analysis of the books in the market, an introduction, and two sample chapters to Pixiq and Peachpit. We never heard back from Pixiq, and Peachpit declined. That was a bit depressing, because we thought this would be the ideal follow-on to Dan Marcolina's book, published by Peachpit in 2011 - and the quality of work produced by that publisher is exceptional. I was as convinced as ever that the market was ready for this book, and found photography publisher Rocky Nook during a visit to a Barnes and Noble bookstore. Doing my research, I found that they were a small, scrappy, photography-only, niche publishing house that had succeeded in producing some really high quality books, and also in marketing the most successful photography book of 2011. I went to their website and pitched the idea at a high level through their generic "contact us" form. The publisher himself (Gerhard Rossbach) responded to my email later that day from his office in Heidelberg, Germany. It turned out he would be visiting his Santa Barbara, California offices in August of 2012, which happened to be when the Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival would be held. I invited him to meet me there so that I could walk him through the exhibition. Since I had done some of the set up work and had helped prepare the exhibition for launch, I knew that that the amazing range of work would make a real impression. I was not mistaken. That very day, he agreed to publish our book on a handshake. Of course, the details still had to be sorted out, but when you work with a small house overseen by a visionary publisher, things proceed very quickly if the idea strikes a chord. 

Long Beach in the Rain © Cecily Caceu
Long Beach in the Rain by Cecily Caceu
Tutorial
Long Beach in the Rain tutorial by Cecily Caceu
Geri:  Will this book benefit both the novice and advanced user?

Nicki:  Absolutely! As our top Amazon reviewer "Dan G. Lebryk" commented, 
"The key to this book is to understanding a technique, applying filters or learning how to use a few new apps. And then applying that to the style of photography you love. The authors covered virtually every genre of photography - there is something for everybody to learn."
I would add that the tutorials range from a few very short quick techniques to longer artistic techniques to impart the subtle skills needed to give your iPhone art and photography the edge over "ok" photographs.  


Bob:  The very specific (and ambitious) goal was to produce a book for both markets. Once we realized that the number of apps used by our contributors was approaching 100, we knew that even experienced iPhoneographers would have some takeaways from nearly every tutorial that would enhance their creative toolkit. We start with photorealistic imagery toward the front of the book (no implication of "simplicity", though - the compositional ability of these contributors is awe-inspiring), and then move through landscape, portrait to surreal/conceptual and abstract work. I happen to work in several of those categories, and one of the guilty pleasures of working on a book of this scope and depth is to be the first one to read and learn from the great ideas with which our contributors peppered their tutorials. I found myself stepping through nearly every tutorial personally, just to experience each individual process more intimately. I can't begin to tell you how much I learned personally.

The Red Pencil Portrait © Jose Antonio Fundo
The Red Pencil Portrait by Jose Antonio Fundo
Geri:  With the many talented mobile photographers actively creating, how did you choose the artists that are featured in the book?  Do they all work with an iOS device or are there any Android users in the group?

NickiBob and I spent weeks pouring over different artists work and mostly agreeing on the final selections. I've never asked if any of them have an android phone but I suspect few, if any do. The iPhone and iPad are extremely creative tools and of course occasionally we'll use them to make a phone call.

Bob:  This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the effort - we were able to curate from contributors to our Flickr group with 1,200-strong contributors, and artists that I had learned about through the LA-MAF. Daria very graciously connected us up with contributing artists for that event, and Nicki and I selected images to most effectively demonstrate a broad range of styles. We did some research on Android devices, but found that only about 25% of the apps have versions that work on those devices. For that reason, we didn't feel right representing this as a book that Android phone users can readily use - and therefore all contributors are iPhone users. Still, enough of the major apps and app categories are represented on Android, and those that own Android phones will definitely learn a lot about processing images on a mobile device from the book.

Rat Race © David Ingraham
Rat Race by David Ingraham
Tutorial
Rat Race tutorial by David Ingraham
Geri:  Were they eager to share their secrets?

Nicki:  The iPhone community is a hugely friendly and cooperative community. The excitement of this creative tool and its potential seems to override most people's egos in their enthusiasm to share their art and how they created it. 

Bob:  Everyone who contributed to the book was eager share their "secret sauce" - they realized that it's one thing to master techniques and another thing altogether developing a creative vision. Still, we did have several contributors who initially signed on who decided to withdraw because of unfortunate past experiences with others who too closely imitated their techniques.

Geri:  How has iPhone art been received in the general art community?

Nicki:  There was some shock and fear initially from both the photography and art community in that iPhoneography wasn't real art and it was just being created by a click of a button. Some of our book artists have exhibited in top photography shows like the Latitudes International Festival of Photography which has presented the work of Cartier-Bresson and Brassai. The cover photo for the November 12, 2012 issue of Time magazine featuring Hurricane Sandy was shot with an iPhone and a New York Times photographer shot an award-winning war photo with an iPhone app. All these examples are proving that the iPhone is being adopted as a professional and artistic tool to be taken as seriously as your DSLR equipment.

Bob:  This is an interesting subject with a number of subplots. The traditional photography world is not very interested in the phenomenon, and doesn't generally consider the iPhone a legitimate photographlc tool. The art community is also not particularly interested in the work being produced by iPhoneographers, but there are exceptions. The sooner iPhoneography practitioners realize that how an image produced is not as important as whether the image moves us. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter whether a great photograph was created using a Nikon, iPhone or a ham sandwich.

Tutorial
Street photography by Sheldon Serkin
Geri:  What do you see in the future for mobile photography?

Nicki:  I think pretty soon, we will stop being amazed about the fact that the art is created on a mobile device. I've seen mobile cameras embedded in glasses (the ones you wear) and I read somewhere that soon we will only have to blink to take a photo – Who knows where this mobile photography roller coaster is going but it is gathering a lot of passengers and allowing people to express themselves in a new and creative language which is very exciting.

Bob:  Ironically (and I may be in the minority here), I think we will all move past focusing on the "how" of iPhone imagery and begin to assess the work itself on its own merits. If an image speaks to us, the tool that created it is incidental. There's a story about photographer Irving Penn and Hemingway (probably apocryphal) that recounts a quick exchange between them:
Hemingway: These are great photographs, Irving. What kind of camera did you use? 
Penn (annoyed): Wonderful novels, Ernest, what kind of typewriter did you use?
Run! © Markus Rivera
Run! by Markus Rivera
Geri:  Do you have plans for another book or other joint venture?

Nicki:  Keep watching this space. We have just given our website iphoneographycentral a complete overhaul and we are always looking for artists to contribute tutorials, articles and artwork. If you are as enthusiastic as we are about iPhone photography and art, we'd love to hear from you and who knows if we publish a book two of "The Art of iPhone Photography" we may invite you onboard.
Bob:  If this book is successful, we would certainly consider a follow-on book or book series. We have branded the book as an iPhoneographyCentral.com-branded effort, so we've been thinking of possible new initiatives in the coming months.

Rest © Souichi Furusho
Rest by Souichi Furusho
Geri:  Is there anything you’d like to add?

NickiFollow your interests and pay attention to how the artists you love are creating their work. Try their techniques out but most of all dare to be different and do your own thing! Grab your iPhone and go create! 

Bob:  I recommend that readers work through as many of the tutorials as they can. There’s something to be learned from every one of the 45 contributors, whether it’s about a way of looking at the world, approaching a scene, employing a technique or using an app. The key to success in any art form is to sharpen the eye through observation of the world and by studying the masters – and then working on one’s own images continuously to hone your skills. I strongly recommend looking at the work of the great photographers, painters and filmmakers throughout the years, and how they handle framing of the subject, lighting and color. Finally, develop a critical eye and know which images should be left on the camera roll and which should be displayed. There are many images on my iPad that exist in twenty or thirty versions, but have never worked out satisfactorily, so I’ll never show them to anyone. I think the most important skill I developed is distinguishing a photograph from a snapshot.

For me, these two quotes drive these points home:
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”-   Marcel Proust 
 “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
Ansel Adams



About Nicki Fitz-Gerald 


Nicki Fitz-Gerald
Nicki has worked as an artist, illustrator, teacher and graphic designer. Her iPhone photos have won several Photography Awards including 5 at this year’s Mobile Photography Awards 2013. Her image Flamin’ Amy, shown on the cover of the book "The Art of iPhone Photography", won 4th place in Life in LoFi’s Faved of the Year 2011. Nicki’s work and her life as “a mom with an iPhone” are featured in the first P1xels digital magazine iPhotographer published in August 2013. In April 2011, Nicki founded the website iPhoneographyCentral.com, which she now co-manages with Bob Weil. Nicki divides her time between her day job, her family, iPhoneographyCentral.com, and iPhoneography. Her online gallery can be seen on iphoneart.  


About Bob Weil
Bob Weil
Bob Weil leads something of a double life – marketing professional by day and covert iPhoneography creative and evangelist by night. Currently, he directs the creative development of websites, video, and online marketing initiatives for a Southern California marketing firm. His work has been exhibited extensively,. Most recently, a dozen pieces will be shown at the Brest Museum in Jacksonville, Florida from September 2 through October 2, 2013. Bob co-manages iPhoneographyCentral.com with Nicki Fitz-Gerald and speaks and teaches on iPhoneography topics. His online galleries can be seen on iPhoneArt and Flickr. Bob describes his approach to conceptual iPhoneography in a video below.




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Disclosure - iART CHRONiCLES is an Amazon Associate.  Ordering through this link contributes to the cost of running this site.  Thanks in advance! ~Geri

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