Jacqueline Gaines is an artist and iPhoneographer also going by the moniker of JQ. Gaines worked for a long time as a traditional artist with a specific interest in drawing and design, but was forced to give her profession up for a time because of other pressing life commitments. However, since she started using her iDevices, she managed to find a proper space to cultivate her love for mobile photography.
“My formal art education and work experience is in drawing, book arts and textiles. So my studio is wrought with lots of traditional tools of the trade: handmade papers, pastes, brushes, radiograph pens, pencils, inks, etc.” Even though she’s now in love with her mobile apparatus, Jacqueline is at heart a crafty artist and still very fond of media of the most disparate kinds to create new things. As she explains, “I love working with my hands. I make hand bound books, I spin my own silk and cotton threads, using hand spindles and charkhas (Indian spinning wheel), I design and create textiles using traditional bobbin lacemaking (off-loom weaving) techniques… and I draw, using old fashioned radiograph pens.”
Jacqueline is a successful example of how artistic vision is most of the times independent from the logic of limited media. Speaking of her iPhoneography, her images have an inner sense of modernity, but at the same time they wink at the established art tradition; they also have a deep ambiguity about them: you can perceive it in the most different subjects, in the stillness of ordinary places and objects, in the isolated people, sometimes lost in thought while carrying out their everyday activities, and in the atmospheres enveloping them. The depiction of femininity in its multiple incarnations is particularly meaningful. This is from someone who was initially given an iPhone as a way to catch up with the times. “I discovered iPhoneography quite by accident about 3 years ago,” Gaines recalls, “My husband and children decided that I was too old-fashioned, and needed to ‘get with the times’, so they gave me an iPhone and iPad as a gift one year. I instantly fell in love with these devices! My artistic exploration has taken a huge turn because of them.”
Jacqueline’s camera bag contains a bit of everything. She names a few of her favorite apps: ProCreate, Snapseed, iColorama and Lo-Mob. She offers an accurate motivation for each of her choices. “I find ProCreate to be the most powerful and versatile drawing and painting program available. I use this app on every single one of my images: whether it’s for drawing purposes, creating my own textures and frames, or for eliminating parts of image. When I say I use it every time, I mean it. I really do!” And she continues, “I think that Snapseed is a fabulous editing tool, with wonderful filters. If I had to choose one photo editing tool to keep, it would be Snapseed. iColorama is, by far, one of the most versatile filter and texture apps out there! The developer is constantly working on giving us more and more textures and filters. This is a ‘must have’ app, in my humble opinion.” Finally she says, “I love Lo-Mob for all of the different frames. Whenever I want to do some ‘out of bounds’ work, I instantly gravitate to Lo-Mob in search of a frame to work with. I’m particularly fond of the Slide and Polaroid frames.”
Regardless of the tools used, what Gaines’ pictures reveal is a conscious sense of the moment. What’s important is how the artist taking a photo and processing it perceives the world rather than appraising it through a preconceived idea made of dos and don’ts. Gaines’ iPhoneography focuses on the act of experiencing, which also involves the viewer’s participation. The photographer captures a unique, even insignificant, moment in time before it disappears; by filtering it through the camera’s lens and editing instruments, Gaines can share the experience with her viewers. “What I hope to convey and share in my final work is how I interacted with what I saw. Using spontaneous drawing marks to trace my thinking process and visual journey. I am a huge devotee of sketch journals. I think that they are probably the most intimate and personal glimpse into an artist’s thoughts.”
Jacqueline Gaines expresses her interest in this art of the moment, which she considers the result of a natural interaction between herself and the world as she sees it. “Because I came to photography with a drawing background, I find myself mainly interested in exploring the art of ‘spontaneously interacting’ with a photograph,” she explains, “I spent many years learning how to capture what I saw onto paper with pencils, charcoal and inks, and it’s a process that feels natural to me. I like the ‘back and forth’ dialogue that takes place between the eye and the hand. So, for me the act of taking a photograph is usually an initial sketch.”
As it is evident from her images, Gaines’ inspiration can be sparked by so many aspects of reality that it would be impossible to list them all. This versatility allows her to explore different styles and approaches. “I seldom engage in careful planning when it comes to my work,” she clarifies, “I know I probably should, but I can easily get side-tracked. I’m much more driven and inspired by my daily environment.” And she continues, “Sometimes I find myself focused on the shadows of household objects, other times I’m completely inspired by street photography, and then maybe one week I’ll find myself gravitating towards landscapes and nature. To be honest, I am visually stimulated by pretty much every (and any) thing!”
In our interview, Jacqueline nails some of the virtues of the new digital media by recognizing their most practical sides. “We are so blessed to have these affordable little studios right at our fingertips, it would be a shame to not push these devices to the limits,” she says, “I never took a photograph in my life before getting an iPhone and now I find myself looking at the world through a lens. Before, I had to whip out a sketchbook and quickly jot down objects, textures or compositions that I saw. Now I can quickly take a photograph and then go back to my studio to artistically interact with it… sometimes in 4 or 5 different ways.” Gaines also recognizes the contribution a new flexible medium has been exercising on her creativity. “Honestly, I can’t even begin to describe how much these hand held devices boggle my mind… and just how far they can unleash the creative spirit!”
However accessible and forgiving the tools employed, Gaines believes there can be no shortcuts in art; whoever wants to know about the actual possibilities of any medium, needs to look at the works of those who are constantly moving the boundaries a little further away. “There will always be people who want an app that can easily render their image into something ‘artistic’, but then there are those with a pioneer spirit, who are never satisfied with what’s given to them. They need to explore. They are the artists and they are the ones who will keep pushing this medium forward. Because if you see both styles presented at the same time, side by side, it will be 100% clear which one was done by an artist and which one was quickly photographed or apped without any artistic vision. There’ll be no confusion.” About critics who see camera phones as irrelevant implements that just amateurs would use, she adds, “This misconception is based on the fact that most people have not yet explored the artistic possibilities of this medium,” and she concludes, “I don’t pay much attention to all the complaining and hoopla that goes on about camera phones. I just shake my head and say: ‘How sad… they clearly don’t understand.’ Or, as my kids used to say to me: ‘Boy, you are so old-fashioned… you really need to get with the times!’”
Jacqueline’s ultimate suggestion to people starting out with their mobile cameras (but it could be easily applied to any other form of artistic expression) sums up her vision perfectly and it is as straightforward as this: “Don’t be afraid to explore!”
All photos courtesy of Jacqueline Gaines.