Feb 15, 2014

contrast by hornbeck


contrast by hornbeck
I'm not sure how I stumbled upon the contrast by hornbeck app, but it was exciting to find a unique app that was FREE on the App Store and produced such unique and dramatic results. I decided to contact John Hornbeck to ask him about his app and was pleased that he agreed to answer my questions.

John's powerful photographic style is duplicated pretty handily with the contrast by hornbeck app.


Geri:  Why did you decide to create the app contrast by hornbeck?

John:  There are a couple of reasons. The first is that I couldn't find an app that allowed me to express my style through my phone. When I leave the house, I always take certain things with me; my keys, my wallet, my phone, and my camera. My camera is an Olympus OMD, which normally has a 17mm attached to it. I always have the camera because I couldn't get the really high contrast shots with my phone. So we decided to make an app to change that. 

(I'm leaving the above in but it's no longer the case. Since writing this on the 28th, I broke my OMD and have moved to a Ricoh GR.)

The second reason is going to sound really selfish, I did it to promote my work. The app gives others the ability to see the world how I see it and they can take photos in a similar way. The app is free but it includes a link to my website. I've spent my professional career working for internet based software companies, using an app as a window into my work seemed like the right thing to do.

© John Hornbeck
© John Hornbeck 


Geri:  Did you develop it with a team of people or was it a solo project?

John:  It's a project with my best friend, he had experience with iPhone/iPad development (he has another app called iJournaler on the App Store) and I had the concept/dream of making this a reality. So we spent a ton of time on the phone and email getting the ideas together and getting it exactly where we wanted the initial version to be. The first version of the app was actually created over 6 months ago, we were in no real rush to get it out since it was just as much a tool for me as anything else.

© John Hornbeck
© John Hornbeck

Geri:  You are a traditional photographer, but when did you realize the potential of mobile photography?

John:  Thank you for thinking of me that way but I honestly think I'm much more a member of the digital age and mobile photography has always been there. The only thing that has kept me from doing more mobile is lack of RAW and the inability to create an image that closely resembled my normal work with a phone. I don't use film, full frame, or even a traditional DSLR. My main camera is a Micro 4/3, and I think it's too big a lot of the time. 

© John Hornbeck
© John Hornbeck
Geri:  How has the app been received by the general public?  Everyone I know who has tried it loves it!

John:  So this has been the biggest surprise, the response has been amazing. I figured a few friends would try it and give me a "good job", but I didn't really expect a ton of people to use it and like it. My biggest influence in photography is Daido Moriyama, and his work has a very strong following but it's not for everyone. My work has been met on a lot smaller scale but in a similar way. I have a core group of people who really like what I do, but it's not for everyone. So I figured the same would be true for the app, I've been proven wrong because I've had people who I know are not fans of my work use and enjoy the app.

Geri:  Are there any plans for more apps in the future?  

John:  Yeah, we're wanting to do pretty much the same app but for video.


© John Hornbeck
© John Hornbeck

John's Commentary on his work:


© John Hornbeck
I live in a world almost designed to be secluded from others. Getting married and having a child while still a teenager did some of this, working for internet startups while living in Oklahoma did a lot more of it. I have maybe 2-3 friends locally, who I maybe see every few months at most, none of them even really know each other. So when I am around friends locally, it's like one person at a time. However, most of my time is spent alone, I would say roughly 90%.

Even when I am around people, my knowledge and interests fall into obscure Japanese photography from the 60's/70's, the high fashion world (I'm a straight while male in Oklahoma), Hip-Hop (I'm a 33 year old white male in Oklahoma), and how companies like Facebook work; so having common topics to discuss isn't easy. Also due to a decently heavy travel schedule, my "world" is a lot different than most.

It's a world full of black and white thinking, something is or it isn't. I could blame this on my professional work, but I think I've always been this way. I hate the halfway point, the grey area, the area of indecision, do it or don't do it. It's a world where there is constantly a blur of life passing by quickly, and gaining focus can sometimes mean only grabbing a small portion of the frame in front of me and holding onto it, trying to pull myself toward that one spot of clear understanding. Many times here's no clear understanding at all, and I'm left standing in a crowd of people who are all talking to each other, understanding each other's lives, while I stare into a blurred world, retreating back into my head because just giving them the congest of my current state can be overwhelming and/or easily misunderstood when I try to explain something about myself or my world. It's easier to simply smile and enjoy the blur.

I sound like a sad f*****r when I reread this, but it's life I guess. Everyone deals with this stuff, feeling alone in a crowd, feeling like people don't understand them. It's just weird when you enter a state where you're more ok with it all, and you figure out how to capture these feelings with something. When I point a camera and grab that frame, a lot of times it's more realistic to how I feel and see than even what my eyes capture. It includes the blur, grainy, out of focus with the world around us, maybe a small item in focus, but maybe it's something that isn't the right thing of the thing most would be focused on. Maybe it's a piece of material flowing, or a tree in the distance standing alone that I feel a connection with, because I understand what it feels like to be alone in that big open space.

Each frame captures a sliver of that life, and sometimes it feels like I keep pressing the button, in hopes of capturing as much as I possibly can, to detail out what this world is, to put it in front of others and say, "LOOK AT THIS SH*T! IT'S A LONELY F*****G PLACE AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE ALONE, YOU BETTER LIVE IT TO THE FULLEST!!!", and that statement alone doesn't even fully fit into the story does it? The pervasive loneliness is beautiful when you take the time to look at it, the blur, the grain, the pieces that don't make sense, all of it kind of does. Feeling alone can suck, realizing most others feel just as alone makes you realize that you're not alone, even though you can trick yourself into thinking that you're on this planet by yourself.

I started taking photos as a way to capture this stuff for myself, and started posting photos online because it's what I know to do with information, it's the life I live all day, everyday. My friends are here, a lot of you work from home too, or work by yourself, far from those you love. I'm surrounded by those I love the most, but it does create a weird view of things, because no matter where I am, I'm missing someone, but I guess it could be flipped and said that no matter where I am, I'm around those I care about. At the end of the day, I carry a camera with me at all times and point it at way too many things throughout the day. It's another piece of glass that I put between myself and the world in hopes that it will help me see better, help me understand what's going on in the world, be another way of retrieving information that I can't get by simply looking at it with my own broken eyes. The black & white, blurry, grainy, out of focus view is how I feel the world is, so capturing it that way feels right, it creates a copy of the moment, that includes my feelings, my thoughts, my sight, my sounds, my smells, my life. Each click of the button puts my life into a little box, and makes it all a little more understandable, a little easier to share, a little easier to allow others to see my world, or maybe to see their world?


Find John:  Flickr / Instagram / Twitter / Website 

Download contrast by hornbeck


Geri's Note:  Below are few shots I took with contrast by hornbeck - love at first sight! No other apps were used in editing - straight from iPhone 5s. 

© Geri Centonze
© Geri Centonze

© Geri Centonze
© Geri Centonze
© Geri Centonze
© Geri Centonze
John also recommended I take a look at the gallery of images created solely using contrast by hornbeck in the tumblr gallery Filmus Monochromus. Special thanks to Andy, the photographer who kindly allowed me to repost some of his images here.

© Filmus Monochromus
© Filmus Monochromus
© Filmus Monochromus
© Filmus Monochromus
© Filmus Monochromus
© Filmus Monochromus

4 comments:

  1. thanks for this post, geri, contrast is indeed a fascinating app. I downloaded it as soon as i read about it. unfortunately its shots have an unbelievable poor resolution (a pityful 640x640) so i removed it from my phone. i still don't understand why they couldn't produce better quality, unless the app is meant for instagrammers only, which is a real disappointment for those of us who like to print their work.
    the shots you published are awesome though, so if used for online sharing it is a definite treasure

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your comments on the contrast app. Thought you might like to know that the recent update produces images 2448 x 2448. John was unaware of the default Apple resolution and changed it when I mentioned it to him. You may want to reinstall the app and give it a go now!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Geri, for this.
    I can totally understand and relate to John's world view.
    We all take photos for a reason. I see the world in different eyes, and I edit my photos in a way that shows only how -I- see them, which is way beyond what they seem in reality.
    It's an unusual camera to take street photos, but I'll test it again in deep...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for taking the time to read this Eitan - It really shows the "why" of the app coming from John's perspective and view of the world.

    ReplyDelete


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