Jan 26, 2015

The Mobile Art of Heather McAlister

Well, this is the final interview that I will be posting on Art of Mob. What a wonderful adventure this has been! Since announcing the closure here, I have been contacted by several other sites that would like me to continue in some form or fashion sharing what I've been sharing but in a more manageable way as part of a team. I am seriously considering this as I do miss highlighting artists like Heather McAlister and each of the others who so generously gave of their time to provide me with an interview.

Please keep Art of Mob bookmarked as a tool for reference. It will remain online for that purpose. I do have one more giveaway from a company that has been very supportive of Art of Mob and they just released a new product. As soon as I have more information I'll post it here for the last hurrah!

And now, on to the featured artist, Heather McAlister!


© Heather McAlister
What is your name and where do you live?

HM:  My name is Heather McAlister and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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

HM:  I started creating mobile photo art a little over 3 years ago. My husband, who is not a mobile photographer but who is an avid techie, recommended that I try the Instagram app. I started following a few of the heavy hitters and they were immediately responsive and generous in sharing tips and offering encouragement. Having never been involved in such an engaging artistic community at large, I was immediately inspired and hooked. I currently take photos using the iPhone 6 and edit on the iPhone and iPad.

© Heather McAlister
"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight and never stop fighting." ~ e.e.cummings

© Heather McAlister
“People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Do you have a traditional photography or art background?

HM:  I have a semi-traditional photography background. I worked with manual film cameras for many years before converting to digital capture/editing and now on to mobile photography. I have an informal but professional photography business outside of my every day career, shooting weddings, family portraiture and theater production.

© Heather McAlister
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" - Elton John

© Heather McAlister

Who or what inspires you?

HM:  My family has a rich artistic history which I never felt a part of until my twenties when I purchased my first Pentax K1000. I was very inspired by my grandfather growing up. He passed away before my memory kicked in but he left behind immaculate black and white portraits that he captured on a Rolleiflex camera and developed in his bathtub. My great uncles were landscape painters, recalling scenes from their Italian homeland and their artwork influenced the idea of composition, color and texture into my artistic view. My sisters are painter and sculpture artists and although they are younger, they taught me to be brave in artistic endeavors.

The concept of blending images and creating a more surreal universe with my snaps/photographs inspired me from the get-go. I'm influenced by Jerry Uelsmann, an analog photographer who creates surreal and layered double exposure images in the darkroom. I still feel that I am finding a true voice as I refine these techniques and conceptual ideas.

© Heather McAlister
"Of course the Man was wild. He was dreadfully wild. He didn't even begin to be tame till he met the Woman, and she told him that she did not like living in his wild ways." -Rudyard Kipling

© Heather McAlister
"I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes." 
~Vladimir Nabokov

Do you plan your shoots with an end in mind or do you shoot and decide later during the editing process?

HM:  I usually don't shoot with an end in mind. I capture my everyday experiences and use those images to integrate my feelings, moods and ideas into a unified image. I have had moments of clarity during the creative process when I could see with my mind's eye the end result and understood certain elements that I needed to seek out and capture. Most end results come from a period of playing with images that inspire me and themes that are prevalent in my current state of affairs.

© Heather McAlister

© Heather McAlister
“I think you still love me, but we can’t escape the fact that I’m not enough for you. I knew this was going to happen." ~Haruki Murakami 
Do you use any special iPhone accessories for shooting (lenses, tripods, etc.)?

HM:  I love the Olloclip macro lens for close-up nature shots. It's the only way to get bokeh with the iPhone! I use a GorillaPod for self-portraits. Using the Slow Shutter app feels like an accessory as it gives me a specific effect, not otherwise attainable with straight shooting.

© Heather McAlister
"Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living."—Jonathan Safran Foer
How do you choose the titles and quotes for your images? They always compliment your photos so well.

HM:  I appreciate the question about quotes! I try to choose authors that I am familiar with and whose works I have already read. Key ideas and elements in the photography generally lead me to an author's words that I choose to complete my initial thought or idea. I know that my own words are usually inadequate and I admire mobile artists who accompany their work with their own poetry and stories.

© Heather McAlister
"And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could notremain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go."
-Kazuo Ishiguro

© Heather McAlister

Please describe your workflow. What apps do you use?

HM:  I always want to understand the workflow of other artists. Mine often feels scattered and requires many hours of trial and error, sometimes sitting on a composition for months. After mainly shooting with Hipstamatic for years, I've been using the native camera more exclusively. While this gives me more options with framing, it seems like a more challenging jumping off point because I don't have specific effects or tones to inspire right off the bat. Most photos are processed to some degree in Snapseed. Blender is my go to layering app but Superimpose still has special attributes that most other layering apps don't have such as saving masks, drop shadows, etc. The new Tintype stand-alone app from Hipstamatic has provided many hours of inspiration and entertainment recently.

© Heather McAlister
"I'm not sentimental--I'm as romantic as you are. The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last--the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't." 
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

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

HM:  I have had one solo exhibition and have participated in many group shows. This year I participated in two Mobile Photo Awards shows and a local gallery mobile photography exhibition that featured four of my works. I hope to have more time to submit to broader exhibitions this year and would consider another solo show in the future. Spending time curating your own collection can be extremely rewarding in it's own right and leads to even greater focus with artistic intent.

© Heather McAlister
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead." -Louisa May Alcott

Is there an area of mobile photography that you would like to explore that you haven't yet tackled? 

HM:  I love street photography! I've toyed with it here and there but I'd like to have a more focused feed/account for this specific genre of photography.

© Heather McAlister
"The muses are ghosts, and sometimes they come uninvited." ~Stephen King

© Heather McAlister
"A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home." ~Hermann Hesse

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

HM:  This mobile photography community has brought together artists from all walks of life in a groundbreaking way. We are lucky to live in this social media/digital age. I appreciate what I've learned from other mobile photography artists. Although the social media venues are constantly evolving, for good and for bad, I am grateful that the challenges still remain and the community of talented mobile photography artists continue to find ways to congregate, celebrate and inform! Thank you Geri for working to bring artists together in this community and I wish you well in your new endeavors this year! I sincerely appreciate your interest and the opportunity to be a part of your vision.

Find Heather: Instagram / Flickr

Apps and Gear Mentioned:
Olloclip Macro Lens
Slow Shutter Cam
Image Blender
TinType by Hipstamatic


  1. Thank you for this interview, she is a talented artist I follow her for a long time! ❤️

  2. Amazing and creative - enjoyed the gallery - and a fitting last interview subject.

  3. Hi Geri,

    What a wonderful final interview with a fantastic artist! Thank you so much for all the interviews you've done and for years of contributions to the mobile community. I cannot begin to express how much I'll miss your blog and, more importantly, your inspiration. So very happy to read that you may not be going away all together. I look forward to seeing you around...

  4. Thank you Alan - I really am sad too. A part of me still wants to try to keep at it, but it was just consuming all of my time. I've forgotten what weekends are for! I used to spend most of them blogging. I do hope I can continue in some way to contribute to the community. Thanks for all of your support!


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