|Rosette remained strangely obsessed by Great Uncle Thad's portrait © David Graham|
I am a college English teacher in Wisconsin and a poet (my collections of poetry include Magic Shows, Second Wind, and Stutter Monk). My passion for mobile photography began in 2010 with my first iPhone, a plain 4, along with the discovery of Chase Jarvis's book THE BEST CAMERA IS THE ONE THAT'S WITH YOU. Currently using an iPhone5 for all my photos, though editing is now often completed on an iPad 4. Equally interested in straight photography and surreal collage.
I love "straight" photography and always have. I never tire of looking at the classic photographers, especially those who worked in black-and-white: Edward Weston, Aaron Siskind, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and, more recently, Vivian Maier. Making a good photo with minimal editing remains very satisfying to me.
But I have loved surrealist art for most of my adult life also; it was only with the advent of iPhones and their countless editing tools that I began discovering ways of making my own painterly and surrealistic images. Much of my immediate inspiration has come from mobile photographers I discovered on Instagram and Flickr, as well as blogs like Life in LoFi, The App Whisperer, and of course Geri Centonze's invaluable Art of Mob. I have learned a great deal about various techniques, apps, and more from paying attention to the wealth of information that is online.
I am also very fond of working in series. A couple years ago I began incorporating vintage 19th century portraits (mostly anonymous) into my work, creating collages of all types in what I have been thinking of as my "Imaginary Ancestors" series. Since I generally have no idea who these people were, I am free to make up my own stories. Maybe it's the writer in me, but a given image is not complete until I come up with a title, which generally contains a hint of narrative. Just as these long-dead faces remain mysterious yet intriguing to me, I like my titles to conceal as much as they reveal. At least that is my hope.
I work improvisationally, relying on experiment and lucky accidents, and rarely plan an image out beforehand. Usually this means dozens of failures before a particular image clicks for me. With "Rosette remained strangely obsessed by Great Uncle Thad's portrait," the base image was the well-dressed gentleman in the framed portrait with the magnificent beard. (I've forgotten where I found the image--some archive of copyright free images.) I decided his name would be Thaddeus, a substantial 19th century moniker. First Thaddeus went through a transformation in TangledFX, so that the original etching or engraving took on a painterly quality. In iColorama I created a wavery shadow image of the original, then blended the two together in ImageBlender so that it appeared that Thaddeus had a doppelgänger or ghost-self looking over his shoulder. In Juxtaposer I put a frame around them both, and using HandyPhoto I gave some texture to the portrait.
To add some drama and implied narrative, I knew I needed some other element. Browsing old photo folders I found a partly blurry shot I'd taken at an art museum of a woman walking with her head turned away, and it occurred to me I could construct an image where she would be gazing at Thaddeus. Why? I have no idea. Eventually it came to me that Thaddeus was her ancestor, a man famous enough to have his portrait on display at a museum, yet someone who died before she was born. Even she did not know why she was so fascinated by this personage she had never met, but there she was, walking past his portrait again and again.
I placed this woman, now named Rosette in my mind, in front of the portrait. More precisely, I placed the portrait on the wall behind Rosettte with Juxtaposer, and masked out part of it as necessary. I ran the whole image through Mextures and Snapseed until I found some effects I liked to create a somewhat dreamy atmosphere. (There was also some clutter in the original image of Rosette which I retouched in HandyPhoto. In actuality Rosette was not gazing upon art but upon a rack of postcards in the museum gift store.)
All the above was done by the seat of my pants. It pleased me enough to post on Instagram and Flickr, and frankly I am tickled and a bit surprised that anyone else likes it, too.
Anyone interested in my "Imaginary Ancestors" series can browse a gallery of them on Instagram under the hash tag #vintageportdj