Jan 23, 2014

Featured Mobile Photographer - Todd Leban

Todd Leban's work is unlike any that I've seen in any online gallery. It is not only unique, it is of the highest caliber. In fact, Todd recently received an Honorable Mention in the Mobile Photography Awards 2013 in the category of Still Life (no surprise to me!) Here is the latest installment in the Featured Mobile Photographer series.



Image below received Honorable Mention in the MPA 2013 - Still Life.

I'm a loner, dottie, a rebel © Todd Leban



Geri:  What is your name and where do you live?  
Todd:  My name is Todd Leban and I live in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.
Geri:  When did you get your start in mobile photography and what device do you use?
Todd:  I began to focus more seriously on mobile photography roughly two years ago with an iPhone 4. My early shots were very scatterbrained, as I was testing apps and subjects. I progressed to an iPhone 4S and purchased my first Olloclip and magnetic attachment lenses. I am currently using an iPhone 5S.
crank it © Todd Leban
crank it © Todd Leban

stick it © Todd Leban
stick it © Todd Leban
Geri:  Do you have a traditional photography or art background?
Todd:  I have a bachelor’s degree in art, more specifically in art education, and am currently teaching at the middle school level. I’ve always been interested in photography, but due to my concentration on metalsmithing for several semesters in college, I did not have time to study it.
the scream © Todd Leban
the scream © Todd Leban
Geri:  Who or what inspires you?
My wife Jenny, a fearless creator and artist, inspires me. I'm a classic over-thinker, and she pulls me out of my own head long enough to see the big picture. She’s subjected to viewing all of my images before I post, and does so with honest feedback and without complaint.
I credit a lot of my early mobile enthusiasm to the discovery of work by Markus Rivera @earlybirdninja. He really pushes the limits of what can be accomplished on a mobile device. When I saw the types of images he was creating, I knew I had to try my hand in the same medium. Although my recent work does not utilize heavy editing and blending, I still use some of the same techniques I picked up early on, and have an affinity for the surreal.
With the modern social aspect of photo sharing, I think it’s hard for any of us to not be inspired in some way by the vast amounts of imagery being placed before our eyes daily, or that we choose to view on our feeds. Whether you’re finding techniques that you want to learn, or are discovering styles that don’t appeal to you, it still serves to inform you about your own work.

the walker © Todd Leban
the walker © Todd Leban

this is something, this is nothing © Todd Leban
this is something, this is nothing © Todd Leban
Geri:  I love your style, I don't think I've seen anyone who shoots subjects quite like you do. How did that evolve?
Thank you Geri, that means a lot to me. It took a while to really find my voice. I went through phases of experimentation with a lot of apps. I wasn’t very discriminating at first and was open to trying all different types from cartoon effects, to montage, to hipstamatic or HDR. No matter what app I used though, I consciously worked on my composition, and really let that be the most important part of the image. It is a classic case of overdoing it when you start out, and then learning to dial it back as your skill set and experience progress.
Over time, I began embracing that I am a collector, and started to explore my world through the objects that I keep or acquire. Art is about ideas, and I discovered that I could use objects to say something, the same way a portrait artist would.

if found, please return to...© Todd Leban
if found, please return to...© Todd Leban

borrowed, quiet, preparing © Todd Leban
borrowed, quiet, preparing © Todd Leban
Geri:  How do you formulate your ideas for staging a shoot?
It all starts with the object. I have a shelf in my “studio”, which is really just a tool or workroom, that houses objects I have already shot, or am waiting to shoot. And I’m always looking for something new at antique shops, etc. My setup is very primitive. I don’t use fancy lighting, or expensive backdrops. I don’t use a tripod. I like to be free to float and interact with the subject.
I rely on the element of “play” to see where the image takes me. I’ll rearrange objects, and explore the limits of space and shape within the composition. That comes first. I know that I can adjust the color and other visual details during the editing process.
I don’t like restrictions, and I don’t force an image. I’m very picky, and would rather abandon a shoot than post something I’m not totally happy with. Although the solution was simple, it took me a month and over 200 shots to really solidify the idea and materials for my image with the 9 volt battery and lightning bolt cutout. I’m always in flux between objects and ideas, and I wait for the two to line up. This is why my image posts are sporadic. To have to post daily would ruin it for me. Besides, sometimes what my eye sees and what the camera sees are two different things.
Needless to say, I take a lot of pictures before I get the right one. My iPhoto is riddled with failures. I think that’s the key to getting better. You have to know what doesn’t work.

power up © Todd Leban
power up © Todd Leban

store it, slice it, stick it © Todd Leban
store it, slice it, stick it © Todd Leban
gestalt © Todd Leban
gestalt © Todd Leban
Geri:  Do you have a typical workflow (favorite apps) that you use on your edits?
I have grown accustomed to using ProCamera 7 by Cocologics, or 645Pro from Jag.gr for the initial shots. The quality of the output image as well as the ability to set separate focus and exposure are unparalleled in my opinion. I still like to use Actual Pixels, or more recently Photo Quality Check to assess the overall size and quality of each image. I think those details help me to be a more informed shooter, especially as I consider what each image might look like in print.
All of my images are adjusted first in Snapseed. For me, it is the best quick editor and has an incredibly intuitive interface. However, I like to use MullerPhoto and Pixlr Express from time to time. Sometimes you just need one little element to unify the whole image. A carefully selected filter can do just that, and they offer a great variety.
Another technique I use is to create a few different versions of an image with Snapseed, and either use Image Blender or Superimpose to merge my favorite parts of each edit, usually to create depth or contrast. I also really like the suite of Pixite apps and will turn to them for a final graphic element to balance out the positive/negative space and create a path for the viewer through the image.

fix me © Todd Leban
fix me © Todd Leban

musing © Todd Leban
musing © Todd Leban

Geri:  Have you ever exhibited your work?  If not, any plans to do so?
I was very fortunate to have one of my images exhibited at the AMPt/JUXT “JOINT” show on the walls of La Tentacion TJ SD Tijuana in June of 2013. I was very honored to be exhibited alongside many great mobile artists. I’d love to continue exhibiting, but I don’t currently have the time to devote to it. It is one of my future goals.
Geri:  What advice would you give to someone starting out with mobile photography?
Think big, start small. Be a kid, and just play.

bzzztt © Todd Leban
bzzztt © Todd Leban

Geri:  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Yes. I’d love to say a few thank you’s, as I have not gotten where I am by myself.
Victoria Palmer - One of, if not my first, IG friends, and a talented photographer. We connected over our photos of our pets, and I thoroughly enjoyed her landscape and rural shots. It’s been a while since we have talked and I hope she is doing well. Thank you Victoria.
Nei Cruz - Thank you for your neverending support. When I first started on IG, your likes, comments, and encouragement gave me hope that I was doing something right. I will be forever grateful.
Frank Mathews - Thank you for your passion & vision for mobile, for creating AMPt, the AMPt Community, and for inviting me to be a part of it. I have grown exponentially as a result, and have met and worked with some amazing and talented people.
Josh St. Germain - Can’t wait to sit down and crack a beer with you brother. Hard to believe we’ve only been friends for just over a year, cuz it feels like so much longer. I thank you for your infectious passion for mobile, and for the brain that we share. \m/. .\m/
Anna Cox - When stumbling to find my photographic voice, I found a home in your still life lounge, past and present, where I could grow and develop. Thank you and Jen for providing that creative venue.
My friends on the AMPt Leadership Team - I’m floored by the diversity of talent that is shared, developed, and implemented to provide a safe, creative environment to support the mobile movement. Thank you for your friendship, passion, and dedication.
Chuck Rose - So glad to share this crazy ride alongside you. You are one of the most positive people I know, and I am thankful for our friendship and for the time we’ve spent working together. We are the most productive team of procrastinators that I know:)
Geri Centonze - Thank you for your support of my work and for asking me to do this interview. You have given me the opportunity to think about things that I don’t normally, and it has been incredibly valuable.


8 comments:

  1. I agree - he does great work! Thank you for sharing, Geri.

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  2. I'm always thinking I have nothing to photograph, but Todd has surely shown that everyday items can indeed be beautiful works of art

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  3. Carolyn Hall YoungJanuary 23, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    This is marvelous! Thank you!!

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  4. I totally agree Carolyn - by the way I love your artwork every time I open iColorama - that is yours, isn't it?

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  5. Elaine (sunflowerof21)January 27, 2014 at 12:21 AM

    Todd - I loved reading this. You know I love your still life images - you turn everything you photograph into a perfect thing of beauty!! It's a total pleasure being on the AMPt leadership team with you. I learn so much from you. AMPt wouldn't be the same without you. Nowhere near!

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  6. Thank you Sherri! Really appreciate it.

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  7. Thanks Carolyn! I was thrilled when Geri asked me to do the interview.

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  8. So very kind of you Elaine. I am glad we have met and connected through AMPt to be working together. You're a talented and dedicated artist and I'm proud to know you.

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