Apps and developers making them are our constant topic, but it’s the way people use the apps that actually makes a difference. That’s why it has been our intention for a long time to give space to mobile visual artists from around the world and to their unique vision. We got in touch with these artists mainly through our Flickr group, although in some instances we have been following them through other channels as well.
In the first feature in this series, we will introduce you to the works of James Clarke. James told us that his passion for creating has long-lasting roots: previously he worked as a glass artist for over 25 years. Of his former occupation he says, “Those days are over, but I still enjoy creating things. Sculpture and design have always been of interest and I continue to create things when time permits.”
In the artistic statement on his glass studio website, he specifies that he was drawn to working with glass because of its expressive immediacy. Looking carefully, one can definitely see a deep affinity between glass art and Clarke’s images. The brimming sense of color and the layered geometries, shapes and motifs permeating his whole production can be assimilated to the craft of the glass artist who turns molten material into finished objects.
Clarke recognizes his artistic formation influenced to a degree his way of producing art with his iPhone and iPad. “Pretty much everything I know about apps and creating digital art via iOS technology is self-taught, although my previous Photoshop and Art training are a definite advantage.” As an artist with years of training under his belt, he is aware of the difference solid education can make, even for people wishing to learn something considered as commonplace as using a camera phone. “If you’re just starting out and you’re interested in some guidance regarding app choice and the basics of image apping, a class or two would be my recommendation. Other than that, there are several books out there. Check out the ones by Dan Marcolina. He just released an E-Book for the iPad called Mobile Masters which has tutorials from many well-known iPhone artists (myself included, I’m honored to say).” Not to forget James currently gives classes in iPhoneography, so give him a shout if the idea tickles your fancy.
James started his iPhoneography adventure with the encouragement of his good friend and iPhoneographer Shirley Drevich. “[Shirley] knew that I was familiar with digital imagery and Photoshop and thought it might be something I’d be interested in. Initially, I questioned why I would want to trade in my computer monitors for the one on my iPhone, but as luck would have it, I purchased a few basic apps and gave it a try. I guess the rest is history.”
To create his artworks, Clarke prefers apps capable of leaving him enough space to experiment. Even though, as he explains, “The best apps are the ones that facilitate my creative style as opposed to forcing me to create something around what the app does”, he admits being a fan of Tiny Planets. Also among his favorites are AutoStitch, Camera+, Hipstamatic, Image Blender, BlurFX, Juxtaposer, Superimpose, PhotoStudio, ReTouch, Decim8, PS Express, PhotoCopier, ArtStudio and Photo FX Ultra for iPad. So, how many apps are there in Clarke’s iPhone collection? Apparently, more than 250. “One of these days, I’ll need to clean house,” he says.
Of his style and subjects, Clarke says they are the very diverse. Whatever the concept and the techniques used to get to the final image, what really matters to him is the creative process and the viewer’s reaction. “Taking pictures with a mobile device is more about collecting raw material than trying to take the next greatest photograph,” he explains. “I generally do not plan out ahead of time what I want to do. I’m an opportunistic photographer. If the sunset is unusually spectacular, I’ll be there shooting,” and he continues, “I’m always building up a body of raw material, so often I’ll take some time to go back through images taken earlier to see what might spark a new idea.” He then adds, “I’m not interested in taking amazing pictures just to replicate what we already see. You could say that my goal is to create imagery that has an emotional response.”
Clarke wants his pictures to have the power to “call” people observing them, the viewer should be at the same time amazed and forgetful of how the image was created, while at the same time recognizing the ability of their author, “someone who does more than run a photo through a $.99 app and push a button or two.” He also wishes people can appreciate his images enough “to want to own a copy, so they can continue to enjoy them and be inspired by them.”
As an iPhoneographer, James sees himself both as an artist and a photographer and describes his images as “a horse of a different color.” As he clearly affirms, “No one has the right to say that what I’m doing isn’t legitimate or Art just because it’s created using mobile phone application technology.” Then what about those photographers looking down on people armed with a camera phone instead of a proper camera? “This question sounds like another common statement, which goes: ‘One needs a real camera to take real photographs’. This also precludes that a ‘real camera’ is one that costs a lot of money, has things like adjustable f-stops (whatever they are), detachable lenses, and on which one may not make phone calls. I would hazard to guess that the vast majority of pictures taken using a mobile device are what the folks with the fancy DSLR cameras refer to as snapshots. There’s nothing wrong with that. I take snapshots too, but I don’t claim that they are anything other than what they are.” However, this is nothing new, right? It looks like a similar attitude always emerges when new technologies and ways of intending the possibilities of artistic expression become popular. As Clarke acknowledges, “Just imagine what the portrait painters must have been saying about photographers back when the camera was just invented…”