Dec 16, 2014

The Dramatic World of Rob DePaolo

© Rob DePaolo
What is your name and where do you live? 

RD:  My name is Rob DePaolo and I am from Newburyport, Massachusetts (USA). 

How did you get started in mobile photography? What device do you use?

RD:  I was introduced to mobile photography through my good friend Chris Stern whom I went to high school with back in the 80s, but we lost touch for years until reconnecting on Facebook a few years ago. I saw the work that Chris was doing with his iPhone, so I started asking questions and the rest is, as they say, history.  
I started with an iPhone 4, but a year or so ago I upgraded to a 5s and love it! I have another year on my contract, so I will likely be skipping the 6 in favor of whatever model Apple releases next fall.

© Rob DePaolo
My Own Worst Enemy

© Rob DePaolo
To be  human is to be lonely

Do you have a traditional photography or art background?

RD:  Yes. I first began my formal photography training back in high school shooting black and white Kodak Tri-X and T-MAX 35mm film. I spent countless hours shooting and working in the darkroom trying to hone my skills. I then went on to college as a photography major, but after a couple of years, I decided that I didn’t want to pursue photography as a commercial endeavor (at that time, anyway), so I transferred to another University to major in Philosophy—as it’s a far more practical major really… 

In addition, I have always had a deep appreciation of all forms of visual and performing arts. I can honestly say that as much as I love photography as my main passion, I am often just as inspired, if not more, by other forms of art whether it be a painting, sculpture, piece of music, etc. I like to find my muse wherever she may be hiding on a given day.

© Rob DePaolo
Friendship Knows No Bounds

© Rob DePaolo
Camera Obscura

Who or what inspires you?

RD:  Specifically, there are quite a few artists that inspire me and my work. On the photography side, I draw inspiration from so many world-class photographers including Duane Michals, Arnold Newman, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lord Snowden, and Jerry Uelsmann. More recently, I have become a huge fan of Lasse Hoile’s work. I also turn to the work of other types of artists such as Dali, Magritte, and even Escher for inspiration in my more composite, surreal work. There are so many artists that it would be hard to list them all. I love almost nothing more than to spend a day slowly working my way through an art museum and exploring all it has to offer. 

In addition, there are so many contemporary mobile photographers that I am constantly inspired by, and I am hesitant to start a list as I will inevitably leave dozens of people out as I just can’t name them all. But, if I were to limit the list to those that have had the most significant impact on my own work, I would have to mention Chris Stern, Jeffrey Simpson, Elizabeth Spence, Jennifer Bracewell, Eloise Capet, Paul Moore, Bret Pemelton, Cedric Blanchon, and countless others, may of which I only know by their Instagram handles or maybe their first name.

© Rob DePaolo

© Rob DePaolo
Deer, Interrupted...
© Rob DePaolo

Do you plan your shoots with an end in mind or do you shoot and decide later as you edit?

RD:  I would say that my work is about 80-90% preconceived. That being said, it isn’t unusual for me to set out to create one sort of photo and end up creating something else in the process. I actually love when that happens as it combines the best of both worlds—a conceptual shoot augmented by raw spontaneity. In particular, with my recent foray into composite work, pretty much all of my photos have been planned in advance to some degree.

© Rob DePaolo
© Rob DePaolo
Literacy Evolved

Black and white is your signature style. Do you shoot with a black and white app or do all B&W conversion afterwards?

RD:  While I have experimented with some B&W apps, I prefer to shoot in color and convert to B&W as part of the editing process. This approach is very much in line with my other photography work using a DSLR (shh, don’t tell anyone!). By shooting in color, I start with more raw material that I can leverage as part of my post-processing creative workflow. Even with regard to just the conversion process, by starting with color, I can control the levels of each color as it is converted to grayscale. For example, if a photo includes a brightly-colored red object, by adjusting the B&W conversion values in an app such as Filterstorm Neue (my primary editing app), I can make the red values any grayscale shade from bright white to nearly black. This give me a lot of flexibility over tonal values when converting to B&W.

© Rob DePaolo
Clown Lament

© Rob DePaolo
You're Next

What are some of your favorite photo apps?

RD:  As mentioned above, Filterstorm Neue is my go-to editing app for the vast majority of my post-processing. I equate it to using Lightroom on my computer. If I want to further stylize an image, I have also become a big fan of Distressed FX and Mextures. For my composite work, I use Superimpose to combine images. When I need to simulate a shallow depth of field in a photo, I turn to AfterFocus primarily, but may also use the blur tool in Filterstorm Neue at a low, semi-opaque setting in conjunction with a masking brush to fine tune the out-of-focus effect. 

For camera apps, I rarely use the native iPhone camera (I have a 5s) except when I need to catch something quickly as I can open it right from the lock screen. I am very OCD about image quality and file size, so I prefer to shoot with apps that will capture an image in a low-processed, TIFF format or at least a higher-quality JPG file than the native camera is able to output. My favorites are PureShot (and occasionally 645 Pro) for high-quality studio and other conceptual work, and I also use ProCamera8 when simply out and about shooting as it is just a bit more responsive in reactive situations.

© Rob DePaolo
Breakfast at Dali's

I'm assuming the subjects of many of your photos are friends or family members. Are they willing participants? Do you let them contribute ideas for shoots?

RD:  LOL. Yes. My boys are often featuree in my work as my supply of willing models is a bit limited at the moment. I rarely have to resort to bribes as they enjoy seeing how they look in the final image. They do suggest ideas as well, and I am even trying to collaborate with my oldest on some more extensive projects.

© Rob DePaolo
Go with the flow...
© Rob DePaolo

Some of your images (like Echoes of Kubrick) almost have an eerie sci-fi feel - are you a sci-fi buff by any chance?

RD:  I am! Sci-Fi and Fantasy (and Horror) are my favorite genres of entertainment whether in movies, books, theater, or anything else. In fact, I am working on this interview while watching the 10 hours of special features that accompany the Hobbit extended edition blu-ray (I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes features when it comes to filmmaking).

© Rob DePaolo
Echoes of Kubrick 

Is there an area of mobile photography you have not yet explored but would like to?

RD:  Just a few weeks ago, I would have said that I want to try my hand at more composite work, but I have already started to delve into that and am really enjoying it so far. 

Generally speaking, I would like to do more portraiture work with other models (hint, hint to anyone local that would like to work with me), and I would also like to experiment more with color. Oddly enough, I find myself drawn more to color when doing composite work, but for straight shooting, I still prefer black and white. Go figure… 

© Rob DePaolo
Inspiration Found...

© Rob DePaolo
The Return

A popular subject among photographers is photo storage and organization. How do you manage your photos? 

RD:  Oh boy. Here’s where my OCD shines! For every photo that I edit to a final version, I save both the original “raw” image as well as the final file to multiple locations: 

  • iPhone (originals) 
  • Back-up copies to both Google Drive and Dropbox (although I may only continue with one of these moving forward—I’ve been trying both for a year or so and Google Drive is winning the race so far…) 
  • Copies to both my Macbook and an external hard drive 
  • MacBook copies are also backed up to the cloud via my CrashPlan auto-backup account.
Is this a bit much? Absolutely! 

© Rob DePaolo

Have you ever sold or exhibited your work? If not, any plans for the future?

RD:  To be honest, I haven’t sold much of my fine art work to date, although I have done some contract work (portraits and such) and have a larger collaborative project in the works that will be published sometime late next year, but unfortunately, I really can’t say much more about it right now. Sorry.

As far as exhibitions go, most recently I have had work on display at the Empty Spaces Gallery in Putnam, CT. Earlier this year I was honored to be included in both the digital and print exhibitions as part of the Shadow Stories (Black and White) competition/exhibition hosted by the Mobile Photography Awards. I am slated to have a photo included as part of the Selfie Show at the Museum of New Art in Detroit, although that show has been postponed due to unforeseen events. A selection of my work is also scheduled to be included in an upcoming issue of Shooter Magazine, which I am very excited about as it is such a brilliant publication! And finally, I just learned this week that one of my photos was selected for inclusion in the Mobile Photo Now Exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. I’m very honored by this interest in my work and it goes a long way toward driving me forward and fueling my creative energy.

© Rob DePaolo

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

RD:  I would just like to say how grateful I am for the entire mobile photography community. I always like to say that I am just a photographer that uses various “tools” including mobile for my work, but the mobile community really stands apart from the rest of the online photo world in that it is so welcoming, supportive, and while full of diversity, also quite cohesive in many ways. It is such a nurturing environment in which to grow as an artist, and initiatives such as Art of Mob play a huge role in carrying the banner on behalf of mobile photographers worldwide, and for that I am truly grateful. Thank you Geri! 

Find Rob:  Instagram / EyeEm / Flickr / 500px / Website 

Apps Mentioned:

Filterstorm Neue
Distressed FX
645 Pro Mk III
ProCamera 8

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