Mike Roberts is an iPhoneographer who is mostly known under the moniker of Photomikro, an alias that in a way sums up not only Robert’s real name and his identity with it, but also his attention for the imperceptible and overlooked in every day’s life experiences and moods. Roberts’ photos are focused on cryptic absence and encompass a disparateness of genres and subjects; he often depicts scenes taken from places that seem familiar or actions that look habitual and then filters them through a dramatic emotional lens. Roberts’ photos seem to speak mainly about solitude and individualism, with lights and shadows that are as important as characters as are the faces, the inanimate objects and the forgotten places. To reinforce this sense of collected solitude, Roberts mostly relies on monochrome.
Of his own style Photomikro says, “I tend to create dark and contrasty monotone images for the most part. Each image will convey its own mood but I hope to grab a viewer’s attention somehow and invoke some type of emotion.”
Roberts reveals that his interest for photography was born in the digital age; for this reasons he has always maintained an open-minded, inclusive notion of cameras and their use. For the same reasons, his eagerness to explore the medium goes beyond loyalty to a single brand or trademark. As he recounts in his own words, “I fell in love with photography back in 2008 while on a family vacation shooting with a small compact Canon. Then moved up to a Panasonic FZ35 then on to a Pentax K7, but also realized I could get some pretty decent shots from my Blackberry.” In the same spirit, he affirms to be “really smitten by the new Fuji X series cameras and would love to try one out.”
Thanks to his receptiveness, the transition to mobile was less problematic for Roberts than for other iPhoneographers. “I’m currently using an iPhone 5 and just received a Blackberry Z10 which has a nice camera as well.” He recalls when he started using his iPhone camera and how at the time the choice was a necessity for work-related reasons. “I received my first iPhone in the fall of 2011 from the company I work for,” Roberts remembers, “I work in the telecommunications department and we were testing iOS as an alternative to Blackberry.”
Coherently with his shooting preferences, Roberts shows a keen curiosity for a multitude of post-processing instruments. Speaking of his apps collecting and management habits, he admits, “I’m a total app hoarder. I have so many and love to experiment and create.” About how the choice of his tools is influential for his images, he says, “I like each app for various reasons and don’t really have a specific style to call my own, although I’d love to be able to do more street photography. I just feel like it’s a very inexpensive hobby and great way to release my artistic side and relax.” As for his apps of choice, Photomikro has a number of favorites and readily names a few among them. “The two newest apps I’m really enjoying are Advasoft HandyPhoto and Repix,” and continues, “I’m a long time Hipstamatic shooter and love vintbw mark II and Streetmate (I hear they are working on an update!). I have also used Snapseed and Decim8 since they were released. PictureShow, VSCOcam and lo-mob get a good bit of use as well as many of the Jixipix app collection.”
The apps however are not just used as a set of interchangeable effects; they represent an active — sometimes crucial — part of Photomikro’s creative process. In the general workflow, chance has often an essential role, too. As Roberts puts it, “Sometimes I have an idea in mind and other times I just let the image and apps lead me,” he explains, adding that, “Any app that has a randomize function is great when I don’t really know what direction to take. Most all Jixipix apps have this as well as Jazz! I have come up with some really great ideas this way and even taken an image I’ve planned to go in one direction with an entirely different way.”
But chance and familiarity with post-processing techniques are not everything there is to it. A personal vision and a good eye, other than knowledge of the principles of photography, come before all the rest. This is why Roberts offers one simple but effective piece of advice to beginners, which is, “Learn the basics of photography first. All the apps in the world cannot make an uninteresting or poorly composed shot better.”
Roberts’ example shows how there really is no transcendental difference between one camera and the next for the inspired mind. No device is “the” proper one; creativity is achievable with any tool. Photographers should care about developing their personal vision rather than being concerned merely with specs and equipment. “There likely are and always will be folks who scoff at mobile photography just as there are folks who think digital in general isn’t real photography,” but then he adds, “I don’t really know anyone like this.”
All photos courtesy of Mike Roberts.