Art Critique & Community vol. 7 : Minimalism

This month we are looking at the work of Crystal @faithmichael for the genre of Minimalism. On it’s face, minimalism seems like an easy task to accomplish but it is actually a very exact science. A minimal work needs to be distilled to just show the barest forms and color to allow the viewer to experience the work without distraction. The Minimalist movement became more popular in the 1950’s although minimal works existed as early as the 1700. Minimalism has close ties to pop art and conceptual art.

Critique written by Rose Sherwood

I  will attempt to write about a subject that I know very little about, minimalist photography. I had to do a bit of research on the subject of minimalism.  There is a plethora of information about the subject,  so much time was spent reading, taking notes and actually stripping away unnecessary information to only leave the important essential core of what minimalism is. The three photos that I am critiquing all present different subject matter.  I do not know if they are by the same artist so I will not make the assumption that the three images are shot by the same person.

The first image is of a slatted fence.  The fence is stained with a red-wood color. In the image there are three darker shadowed shapes that are a darker shade of red brown color. Two of the shadows present diagonal direction into the image and the third is vertical and emphasizes the direction of the wooden slats.  There are nails present in the wood and the stain is weathered and enhances the texture of the grain of the wood.  The spaces between the slats is very narrow and what is behind the fence remains a mystery.

The artist describes this fence as being one of the alleys in the neighborhood.  It is photographed head on so that the spacing of the slats provides a rhythm to the piece. The background does not provide any information to this image.  You can see bits of green if you look closely.  Because I photograph detailed compositions, I have the response of wanting to tear this fence down to see what is on the other side or, at least, to punch a hole in the fence to peep through.

The quality of the image is such that it has a low contrast which flattens the total surface of the picture.   I would have liked the artist to play with this aspect a bit more.  More contrast or ambiance in an editing app like Snapseed would have brought both the shape of the shadows and the texture out a bit more.  I do not know, however, the intention of the artist.

As a minimalist image, it fits.  It has a limited palette with limited scale, direction, and texture.  It is simple,  but is it too simple that it is not as engaging a subject as it could be?  In researching minimalism, I encountered  much writing by Steve Johnson.  Mr. Johnson writes a lot about the minimalist photographer.  He writes about its perspective from a graphic design point of view and also from a reductive process point of view.  I really liked the reductive view of working with an image because you, as the artist have complete control over what the end image looks like;  the artist has the ability to  strip away all the distractions and frills demonstrated by the image leaving only its essential characteristics and what you were attracted to originally as the photographer.

The fence photographer has specified that he/she was attracted to the texture and the gentle slow collapse and aging of the boards but the repetition of the wood was also important.   This image is successful for presenting the graphic rhythm of the fence but I wish that the shapes of the shadows and the textures could have been pulled out a bit more.  But, perhaps, in doing that, I would have pushed the image out of the genre of minimalism.

What Crystal had to say about her image: 

The alleys of my neighborhood are my favorite place to practice composing compositions.  The gentle collapse of this fence and it’s delicately weathered texture were just so elegant. I thought there was a chance to describe some of the subtle depth of this detail without losing the graphic quality of the repeating boards.

The second  image of the surface of water presents us with a full swirling color field of gray-blue.  Reminiscent of a Helen Frankenthaler painting. There is the barest amount of color, texture, and detail in this image.  It is minimal in its subject and the little light and shading that break the blue surface are not construed as focal points.  If the artist had pushed the contrast and heightened it to get more darks and lights, and also more texture, would it be a more engaging image?  Well, taking a screen shot, editing through Snapseed and increasing the contrast was what I did and I liked the image more.  I also sent the image into the B&W arena. I was able to better focus on the detail of the submerged rocks.  I liked the image more.  Has this artist gone far enough with the reductive process?  Taking an image and pushing out the elements that are there so that there is something more to be seen?  I am not the artist of either of these images.  My judgement might be disabled by learning more about the artist and what style their body of work contains. In this case knowing more about the photographer would enable me to know if their work is successful in the minimalist world where “… less is more…”!

What Crystal had to say about her image:

For me to feel like an image I’ve produced is truly “minimal” I need to apply those principles to the entire process (the shot and the edit). I have spent most of the summer working on more complex and descriptive compositions with light and shadow in monochrome shooting with hipstamatic, cropping sparingly, and then editing in VSCOcam.  I wanted to utilize a similar process utilizing VSCOcam only for some 3:2 color images. For this photo I wanted to focus on the texture of the water with hints of what lay just beneath the surface.

The artist’s image of the fire escape is the most playful, lyrical image of the trio of pictures received to critique.  This image, for me, is the most engaging of the three pictures.  It has a strong composition based on the lines created by light, shadow and real object.  The textures and lines of the brick wall play well with the solid black lines  horizontally  and vertically set by the banister in front.  But it is the lighter shadow that plays above the banister’s rail that, for me is the most enticing and interesting. I don’t know where it originates from.  The object that is producing this gentle shadow is completely out of the picture. Yet, here it is like a sheet of music appearing, connecting and touching four round black notes, regularly spaced, becoming part of the banister.  The rules of light source, light direction and production of a shadow do not compute in this area of the image.  Why and how this light shadow is in the picture remains a mystery.  This is intriguing.  Is there an extended balcony that is above that is projecting the shadow onto the brick wall?  There are no other shadows except for the shadow present under and at the bottom of the brick wall.  So the light source must be from above.  Perhaps, it is another fire escape but the rhythm of the lines has changed rather than lines that are evenly spaced, these lines travel in triplicate.  This is the most perplexing and engaging image and I keep looking and thinking about it.

If these images are shot by the same person, then I do believe that they fit the genre of minimalism.   The artist has stated that these images were 3:2 and edited through the VSCOcam app.  They all have a similar look but I would not gather them together as a series.  The subject matter separates them from each other.  They must stand on their own merits.  They are minimalist images.  Are they successful as minimalist images?  As stated above, I want to know more about how (in regards to both process and intent) the artist works and see a body of work that encompasses the understanding of minimalism. I have a feeling that there is more to it than photographing “…less is more…”

Minimalism has rules that artists follow.  Some attend to them with rigor and others are looser in their adherence.  Many of the articles that were read mentioned the importance of composition (the rule of thirds and leading lines) ,  simplicity in the subject matter photographed , the use of bold, strong color,  an awareness of the background,  strength to engage the viewer(s) of the work,  paring the photograph down to its’ essential  elements and the ability to tell a story.

What Crystal had to say about his images:

When I first started taking pictures with my phone I would (literally) have dreams about this fire escape shadow at night. I was still pretty shy about standing in the street taking pictures of walls with my phone but eventually managed to grab one. I walk by this building often and decided it was worth revisiting. Particularly since the light on this occasion illuminated this wonderful play of lines between the shadow of the wall and the bannister just in front of it.

Critique written by Stephanie

So much detail. Yet so simple.

An interesting portrait of a fence: color, texture, the hint of what lie behind the fence. Hinges nails shadows….o my!

I found myself having to zoom in so I could peek into the sliver.

It was fun being able to see so clearly the brick wall and items.

It’s not easy to make the ordinary stand out.

The shadow on the hinge and borders adds dimensional. Choosing to capture this with the shadows shows a discerning eye. Gorgeous!

There only one thing that sort of throws me off. The center shadow feels displaced.

I can’t help but wonder how this would look without it claiming attention.

I suppose if it’s a fixed object and  can’t be avoided.

I think in contrast to the lineal aspects of this fine composition it’s an oddity.

Again…that my own personal taste.

You obviously have some good dreams! This is such a spot on composition. Its good to question how something would look if hung on a wall framed.  I learned that early on determining whether or not a photograph was worth keeping.

This has texture and color and patterns. It’s subtle but interesting. A good example of minimal which proves to be more. A modern statement for ones walls.

The subtle flow of colors are very appealing. The overall tonal values work well. I appreciate the various shades of blue. The foreground of rocks are what really bring life to this. It’s very interesting to zoom in closer on them. Doing such creates more depth and texture. The minimal yet strong contrast of the coral and kohl rocks provides an interestingness to the whole composition.

You definitely have accomplished your goal to focus on the waters texture.

Yet for me personally, I found it a challenge to appreciate.

Having to really look see I was able to define what really worked for this.

Again, that is just my POV.

The purity of a solid shot without the fanfare of post processing is the backbone by which one can have license to edit as they see fit.

While it is best to frame ones image straight in camera without having to crop, sometimes a nice crop can work well.

Our Panelists:

Rose Sherwood Rose is a retired art teacher. She  taught art on the elementary level for 22 years.  She also taught on the high school level and in a museum setting too.  She enjoyed teaching and misses the students.  Before teaching she worked in brain research because her first college degrees were in both the fields of Biology and English.   She met and married a great guy and when their son, Matthew,  was born, she went back to school to study art.  She  continued her education at RIT and earned an MFA in painting and photography and then returned and acquired a MsT in art education.Her teaching career was very full but one of the memorable times was being honored to be a recipient of a Fulbright Memorial Fund Fellowship to study in Japan.  It was a pivotal experience that changed her and her teaching practices. Her students benefitted from her experiences. Their daughter, Laura, introduced Rose to IG and returning to all things of photography has occurred.  IG was a way to communicate with family and friends about T., her husband, and his bone marrow transplant.  She has been as active caretaker for him.

// IG // Juxt //


Stephanie I am just another person trying to stop time. Photography helps.

Going mobile makes sure I don’t miss a second.

Well…at least it could,  if I see(seize) it.

 //Web// IG // Juxt //
Our Artist:
Crystal  is a creative hailing from Ohio. She works mainly in color showing her audience that less is more on a regular basis. She has an eye for detail and engages the every day objects to create a portfolio of minimalism.Her work is currently available for purchase in the Cincinnati area.
// IG // Juxt //
As always, We Are Juxt and Anna would like to say thank you to our panelists and submitters for their willingness to take part in this forum.  We couldn’t do this without you. 
Next month we will be looking at architecture if you would like to submit work or be a panelists send an email to

Satisfying Your Palette with Olia Hercules

Satisfying Your Palette with Olia Hercules by Anna Cox

Meet Olia, not only is she absolutely fantastic but she is also a fantastic and innovative chef for a sweet little start up called the Recipe Kit in her hometown of London. I am constantly amazed at the people I get to meet through mobile photography and Olia is no exception. From the first conversation there was an ease to our conversations. She even took the time to coach and encourage me through weaning my son. That right there is one gooooood lady. You all may or may not know that, one, I LOVE to eat and, two, I love a good still life. [Enter Olia’s IG feed stage left] I was blown away and hungry all at the same time. It is a feast for the eyes and palette with little snapshots of Olia’s sweet boy thrown in.

A: Tell me the basics about you, where you are from, what you do etc

O: I was born in the Soviet Union, in a tiny town in southern Ukraine. I was fortunate enough to have the hardest working parents, who made it possible for us to move to Cyprus during the dodgy 1990s. I then moved to the UK to do a BA and Masters degrees in languages, and lived in Italy for a year. I am now based in London, but still consider myself to be a complete cosmopolite. I live here with my husband Tom, who is also a chef and is originally half Thai half Laos, and our son Sasha who is turning 16 months next week.

My main hobby is taking photos with Hipstamatic. I do not use anything else, I tried but it did not feel right. I love black and white photography, but when I shoot food I often go for the somewhat lurid Watts-BigUp combo, it really makes the colours pop. Instagram kept me sane and gave me an outlet for my creativity, especially after giving birth and staying at home with my son. As amazing as it was, babies can’t talk, and often I felt lonely. Having an enormous amount of incredibly supportive Hipsta friends was incredible luck.

A: How did you end up with your current job with The Recipe Kit?

O: I worked as a film journalist for a couple of years, then the economic crisis hit the industry upside the head and so began the redundancies. I survived five rounds of redundancies when I had an inkling that I may be next. I then quit my job, retrained to be a chef, got a divorce from my rather oppressive first husband and went to work in the kitchens. I’ve always wanted to be a food writer, but being as obnoxious as I am, I decided I had to prove myself I could conquer the hardcore 18 hour-day, low pay, misogynist world of professional kitchens.

I ended up at Ottolenghi, a rather famous restaurant in London. It was hard, so hard I swear giving birth to my son seemed more bearable than it could have been had I not raised my stamina as a breakfast chef-de-partie, banging out 100 covers pretty much on my own on a busy day. I met Tom there, we fell in love and had our little boy very soon after we met.


I worked all throughout my pregnancy, pretty much up to my due date. Next time I’m pregnant – fudge that. I will be sitting on my behind eating custard tarts from day one, thank you.

I was a stay at home mum for a year (with a short stint in a wicked cookery show Red, Hot and Yummy for the Food Network) and then unexpectedly I was offered a full time job as a recipe writer and food stylist for a cool little start-up called The Recipe Kit.

It’s incredibly tough trying to juggle a full time job (my parents are in Ukraine), being a mum and having a life. But I keep saying – I can do it. Rosie the riveter-inspired head scarf helps to remain strong.

I love all food. I am crazy about underused, obscure cuisines. One of the dishes I made up at work was based on my research on the Mapuche people.

At home we eat a lot of Thai and Laos food, I cook Middle Eastern and Georgian dishes. We love Indian and Caribbean food, Greek and Italian.

My son never had purées. I gave him real food (sans salt) from 6 months. My dream is to raise awareness that children do not have to be fussy and be fed special kids meals. Sasha went from breast milk to chicken gizzards and grilled squid, and not once complained. But of course, maybe I am just lucky. I was a terribly fussy eater when I was a child.

A: What does a normal day look like for you?

O: My normal day starts at 5:30 am as this is when Sash is up and ready to pull my hair, pinch my nose and give me a couple of smacks across my face to wake me up. We listen to some Pixies or Jazz FM, I cook him breakfast (porridge or blueberry and banana pancakes are his favourite), then I cook lunch for him and his child minder. Then I’m off to work where I…cook again. I write recipes, then I test them, develop and edit them for our recipe cards. On Fridays we do a photo shoot which is the hardest but also my favourite part of my job. I come home, put Sasha to bed, and more often than not crawl into bed myself. Rock and Roll.

A lot of my recipes mean a lot to me personally. The Kao Soi (Chiang Mai noodles) styling was inspired by a dish we had when visiting Tom’s family in Thailand, Nahm Dtok is Tom’s favourite dish. A couple of recipes passed down to me by my mother have recently been published in The Guardian, one that was published is contained below.  That brought a tear to my eye. Born in an obscure tiny Soviet town, now living my dream in London – sometimes I want to pinch myself, or maybe I’ll just let Sasha do it tomorrow morning.

Sasha tasting picture is a game we sometimes play – I lay different veggies and edible flowers on a tray and he helps himself.

If you are in the London area check out The Recipe Kit for Olia’s awesome creations to be delivered right to your door!

Crispy aubergine, mejadra with a peach, cucumber and celery salad

250ml sunflower oil

4 shallots, thinly sliced

150g green lentils

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

1 cinnamon stick

150g basmati rice

50ml olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Slice aubergines into 2 cm rounds, brush generously with olive oil, sprinkle over the garam masala and season well. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised on top.

2. Meanwhile heat 5 tbsp of veg oil in a pan and shallow fry for 1 minute. Drain on some kitchen paper. Place the rice, lentils, spices, salt and pepper and add 300ml of water. Cook on a low heat for 15-20 minutes. Serve with crispy shallots as a garnish.

3. Mix the nectarines, cucumbers, mint and lime juice, season well with salt and pepper.

Life and Art with Erin Cindric

I struggled to write an introduction worthy of Erin so I turned to friend and fellow photographer Josh to lend me a helping hand. – Anna 

To be an artist, takes more than just creativity. It takes passion. Erin truly exemplifies this combination and adds in a heaping dose of love for the community. In getting to know her, I’ve seen more and more how much of herself is in her work. She brings thought provoking and surreal images that draw you in and challenge you to understand the message. Erin is a teacher by trade and a true artist through and through. – Josh St Germain,  fellow AMPTcommunity member and _uxter


Soundtrack: Royals by Lorde

A: Do you have any influences within your work?

E: Many…too many which is probably why my style is so varied.In high school I was turned onto art when I discovered Expressionism and Surrealism. Later through university I was constantly exploring all forms of modern art including photo-based artist like Andy Warhol, Barbara Krugger and Sandy Skoglund.  Surrealists photo-manipulations by Man Ray or Jerry Uelsmann have always fascinated me as well. Most recently I have discovered the environmental and photo-based artwork by artists Andy Goldsworthy and Chris Jordon. Both of these two artists marry the message with the media perfectly, engaging themselves in the environment then photographing the results of that engagement. To make art that is both beautiful and really thought provoking is my lifelong goal… and I still have to achieve it.

There have been many “real” people recently who have influenced a new found passion for creating through my interactions with them on places like IG and AMPt community. Some of these mobile photographers impress me with their skills and techniques, while others inspire me with their expressionism and creativity, but the list is long and varied.

A:How long have you been creating? 

E: Creating? Since I first drew or colored as a child I guess. From a very young age I enjoyed arts and crafts of all sorts and I think like most children I was always keen to “create” something. By high school I knew I had to pursue something that allowed me to be creative, so I studied Painting and Drawing in university, and then went on to get a degree in education .  Now I teach high school art….which I absolutely love, but there’s always been some creating going on in the background, when time permits. Painting was my main medium for years and for I while I enjoyed some success exhibiting and selling.

I started using my phone to create in November of 2011. I stumbled upon Instagram downloaded some apps and away I went. It has become my main form of creative expression for the past few years. I enjoy it as a hobby and an outlet for creativity but would like to see it develop into something more. Although I’m not sure what my come of it I am working on something! Top secret though…wink wink!


A:Do you have a favorite subject matter?

E: Nature comes to mind first and most of my images revolve around nature but often I edit my pics…sometimes to extreme. Its not enough for me (usually) to just be a pretty landscape. I’d rather create something with a meaning or message, even a story to it. I like to add text at times, or layer several filters to create a painterly effect. Always I want my images to feel clean and crisp though, and they are dominated by my favorite color blue. I also really like surrealistic images, so juxtaposing seemingly unrelated objects/things is a favorite technique of mine.


A: I recently read an article that said filters killing photography. Do you agree?  

E: Absolutely not! That’s like saying did the paint brush kill the pencil? Cameras, mobile cameras, apps, filters etc, these are just the tools used to create something. It cannot replace the need for high quality, professional (mostly) unedited photos that are needed for large format print. However images shot with a mobile camera and edited with various apps and filters is a relatively new art form. I think that we all want to quickly define it and place it into its category to be studied in the future, but its still too young. Funny enough most of the artworks mobile photographers create are strongly influenced by some art movement from the past. It is too fresh to define and fully understand but something is there and its exciting to see it evolve. Recently I discussing this topic with some friends and came up with this; photographers tend to be technical and editors tend to be expressive, for me as a mobile photographer/editor its about finding the balance between them both.

A: What is it that makes this community of photographers so special?

E: I think what makes the mobile photography community special is that the very tool we use to create is also a tool for communication. So we are a very well connected group and because of that we are sharing ideas and developing trends fairly quickly. What also makes the mobile community great is that people come from all different backgrounds…it’s not just a group of exclusive artists, so the artsy fartsy attitude isn’t there (most of the time)

// IG  // Twitter // G+  //

Buy Erin’s work:  Instacanvas and Ink361

Thank you so much for your time Erin I truely enjoyed getting to know you and your work better <3

[field] notes

Morning breaks clean and fierce across the sill.

I lay, waiting. Listening to you breathe

Crisp linens rumpled from a nights dreams woven in crimson and ochre across your brow.

As I lay beside you, I wonder what secrets crouch behind the small smile that plays across your lips.

You heart seems ever full, spilling over onto me even as you dream




the days

stretch wide and long[er]

i’ve noticed my heart beats slow[er]

more now

coming fast

a breaking to the left

it is no wonder i have lost my sting





run through me

liken me to a washed out bed


now than ever


the laughter is stuck tight like a cork behind my teeth

biting into my joy

biting back the words

[more now] forgotten me [than ever]


the confessions of depression

the stink of decay coupled with a babes sweaty palms
the passing of seasons is caught where arms used to clutch
age runs away with LOVE
you lay in wait
   for your
to come back
             around                                    wings clipped and waiting

I met god in Valley View

There are many nooks and crannies within my area that amaze me every time I drive through them. I am always surprised at the way people live. Many times I have taken a house as abandoned just to approach and find wet clothing hanging on the drying line or a child playing on a rotten porch. Valley View is perhaps 15 minutes from my front door down by the Kentucky river. Valley View boasts the only ferry left on the Kentucky River and it is the oldest ferry operating in the United States.  The ferry is what drew me to Valley View two years ago.

It was a novel concept to me and I wanted my son to experience a ride on the ferry. After we oohed and aahed and I, admittedly, took lots of terribly angled photos out the window, we reached the other side and just kept driving.{ One of our favorite things to do is go for an adventure, which basically just means a really long drive.} The stretch of road after the ferry will  remain as one of my favorite adventures of all time. I have been back multiple times since our first visit to the ferry but what I wanted to share with you was my most recent trip. I am participating in the windows phone challenge and have visited all my favorite haunts to see how the camera measured up on familiar territory. I went specifically to visit an abandoned church and rectory but I never made it to the rectory this visit. I visited the church first, sad that the pews had been removed and the walls had been gutted in a few places by people looking for copper. It was never a particularly lovely church  but I adored the white clapboard and deep brown wooden floors. It is never hard for me to imagine a place as it was before it was left to rot. I can see the people standing in the pews singing hymns like The Old Rugged Cross or Amazing Grace, fanning themselves in the summer heat.

I approached what I thought was one more in a long line of abandoned houses along Valley View. I loved that  sign so much I kept snapping away until I heard voices.

Oh that picture is lovely. Look at that sky.

Yes yes it is. Turn the page.

Tired. Tired of the magazine.

Keep turning. Keep turning

You can imagine my surprise after listening to the conversation to only see one man on the porch. I knocked. Once. Twice.

Sir? I took a step closer and knocked on the rotten door barely making a sound. I have a cold and a whisper for a voice so I stepped closer.


I finally, quietly, walked across the porch and into the eyeline of the man.

Oh! You!! How the hell are you?
She’s fine. Can’t you see that? She’s standing right there.

I just stood there. Shocked at the words and voices. I don’t know what I thought. Perhaps that there was someone I couldn’t see inside. But there wasn’t.

I…. I just wanted to take a photo of your sign. Is that okay?
What? Speak up. I can’t hear.
I typed on my phone that I was sick and had no voice and that I couldn’t speak any louder. I asked if I could take a picture of his sign.

Oh yes that sign. Love it. Used to be a store here. Do you know God?
I nodded yes.
He cupped his hand to his ear like he was talking on the phone.
Well. Then. He says your healed.
Yes healed you heard me. I love you and your healed. You have your voice back.

I whispered thank you and smiled as big as I could at him. Waved and went back out to take a picture of the sign.

She just wants a picture of you. Let her have it. She needs proof.
Nah. She doesn’t. She didn’t ask. It’s the sign.
Where’s the magazine?

Again, I walked onto the porch. I held up my phone and pointed to him. I figured if God wanted his picture taken I would take it. He sat up tall and brushed off his shirt. He smiled crookedly at me then relaxed. I snapped and snapped. I scrolled through my pictures and turned the screen to show him.

There look. That’s good. That’s a good picture of you.
You think? I don’t know.
Nah it’s good. I like it. Where’s the magazine.

I typed thank you and tell God thank you for me.

He smiled real big at me. I smiled back trying not to cry or to throw him over my shoulder to bring him home with me. He went back to his magazine. I stood there for a second trying to think of something else to say to engage him but he had already forgotten about me. I quietly left the porch and went back out to the road and started sobbing. It broke my heart that he was sitting there amid trash, dirt and firewood in a crumbling down house all by himself. I remembered shooting here a year ago and hearing men arguing loudly and I wondered if it was perhaps him and God. I wondered how long he had been ill and where his family was. I was grieved I had to walk away and leave him with his magazines. There are times when something touches you so deeply there are not adequate words to describe it. I will never forget his smile and kindness in healing me but more than that I will always remember the conditions he was living in and how he was happy with just his magazine.

Dan Berman and the MPAs: A Chat about Rumors & the Intergrity of the Awards

Image by Marie Matthews, Honorable Mention Performing Arts Category

Dan Berman and the MPAs: A Chat about Rumors & the Intergrity of the Awards by Anna Cox

Recently, the Mobile Photo Awards held their yearly competition and many people waited with baited breath to see the winners in each category. The awards had a record number of participants this year and we were all very very excited when news outlets such as Huffington Post picked it up and published an article about the awards.  According to Huffington Post article about MPAs  The 2013 awards received entries from nearly 1,000 photographers from more than 40 countries. How awesome is that? The mobile community for the most part is a loving creative community that cheers on each and every victory for our growing art form. Publicity for things like the MPAs validates what we are doing and what we are collectively working for with every photo and blog post about the subject.

As the submission date came and went, we all waited on pins and needles for the judging process to finish and for the awards to be announced. We watched the official MPA twitter account for updates and finally the day (or tweet) arrived letting us know the winners would be announced soon. As the winners in each category were announced and I went through each genre, my heart sank more and more. It isn’t that the work that was chosen wasn’t fantastic for the most part, it was, hands down, but it was the amount of duplicate winners in each category that really tripped me up. To me, it seemed that the encouragement that could have gone to many went to few. Perhaps it is the mother and teacher in me that cringed at the amount of duplicates, perhaps not. Let me make clear that this article is not driven by my lack of winning. I have operated within the art world for many years and understand that rejection goes along with success and growth.  This article grew out of my concern for the amount of negativity surrounding the MPAs this year.

If we, as a community, are going to continue to grow in a healthy manner sometimes things have to be faced head on. In talking with multiple photographers, they also expressed frustration and a lack of understanding about the duplicates in the categories and cross categorically.  Funnily enough, upon doing a extensive internet search on the topic of the MPAs I didn’t find one negative statement. I began to wonder why this was. Do you think it is because people were afraid to voice any concern because they didn’t win? Perhaps people thought that if they said anything it would cast them in a negative light. Well, fortunately, I am unafraid of looking like a brat throwing a fit in the cereal aisle so I figured why not take the rumors and negativity straight to the source- Dan Berman, the creator and head of the MPAs. Dan graciously agreed to chat with me one afternoon to discuss the MPAs and the judging process.

We both agreed that getting all this out in the open is better than letting it fester.

The most important thing I came away with from our conversation is that Dan believes in the integrity of the awards beyond all else. When choosing his judges, he was careful to choose fellow artists that were in the public eye and actively contributing to their genre. From the moment the judging began, he had to trust them fully to take the responsibility as a judge seriously and conscientiously. Dan himself has no part in the judging and deals with the administrative side of the awards only. He described the process of judging to me in great detail and I appreciated his transparency immensely. He assured me that each entry is nameless and that the judging is blind as much as it can be. Of course, the judges are also a part of this community so odds are they had come across some of the work at one time or another.

Once the judges, working alone, whittled the entries down to short list of 30 the list was then sent to a 3 group team that would further narrow it down. The original judge chooses the best in the category. In talking about the duplicates in the catergories Dan’s reply was that he had to go with what the judges chose. In his words, “If I overrode their choices then I was destroying the process. It would be me saying to the judges “sorry your choices are not valid.” 

The amount of duplicates came in part by entrants being able to entry one photo into multiple categories. For example, a strong photo black and white landscape is a strong photo in landscape and black and white, thusly it would receive a nod in both categories. Entrants would also receive multiple nods within a category if the judge happened to blindly chose two or more of their photos.

The most telling part of our conversation is when I shared with Dan some of the rumors surrounding the MPAs. {I am not going to talk about those here because they are, as I said, rumors.} Dan got quiet for a second, perhaps gathering his thoughts, perhaps choking back anger. He let out a big breath and said he had never heard any of the rumors and was quite shocked by all of them. He pointed out that all of the rumors pointed to either the judges or himself jeopardizing the awards and ultimately, their reputations in the mobile community. He also mentioned that he wished people would come straight to him but my guess is that most people would not say anything for the reasons I cited above. No one wants to look like a spoiled sport, but I will say that our conversation was a great one and that Dan is open to discussing anything. So, if you are like me, hit him up. I bet you money you would find him warm and receptive to whatever you bring to him.

All we have in this online world is our reputation and integrity. If Dan, or any  judge, was to intentionally sabotage the awards what would it gain? In the immediate, whoever they chose would have the notoriety of winning a mention etc but in the long run, the awards would be impugned. Word would spread and the next time the entry call came people would be more hesitant to spend their money buying spots. For me, this is what it came down to- integrity. One of my favorite movie quotes of all time says, “Our integrity sells for so little, but it’s all we really have”. In a world that is connected by bandwidth and megabytes, we have to be cautious to maintain our respectability and  integrity. Does this mean that Dan and the judges aren’t fallible? Of course not, everyone makes mistakes every now and again. Does it sound like mistakes were made within the judging process? No, it doesn’t. Do I think that Dan would have put a stop to any hinkiness that he caught wind of? Yes, because again it is his time, integrity, and family he sacrifices for these awards.

I wrote to a few of the judges to get their take on the MPAs but unfortunately most didn’t respond so we  have only a small view on that side of things but I was able to snag a few of the winners from last year to hear about their stories.

Thankfully, the judges that I did hear back from were thoughtful and well spoken and I found their responses incredibly helpful.

Image by Cecily Caceu, Honorable Mention Beach Category

This is what Judge Andy Royston of the Beach category had to say when I asked him about the judging process and the MPAs:

This was my second year of judging on the MPA Awards. A great honour – even if it means I could not enter my own work, which I am intensely proud of.

Last year I chaired the Sunlight category, whereas this year I was – in theory in my comfort zone – beaches.

As chair of the group my role was to refine the entrants down to around thirty so the other judges didn’t have a huge set to work with. I expected the category to have images that might be superficially similar to my own way of shooting but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The category attracted everything from verité to conceptual to good old fashioned fun.

Although I’m known mainly for quite naturalistic photography rather than layered multi-app creativity I do have a good knowledge of what the iPhone can do. I run a course on iPhoneography at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale and try to present the widest range of styles and skills to my students. I would show a collage piece to my class and one of the first questions would be “how do I do that…” As tutor it’s my duty to show and tell, so I’m quite adept as layered collage work even if I don’t share too much on the internet.

I worked late in the night to make sure that the selection was varied in approach, though images do tend to have a power regardless of technique. I’m a passionate colourist and do admire artists and photographers who are not shy with their color choices. But a strong black and white can be so powerful and at the end of the day my selections to go to round two were really easy.

The beach is a very challenging arena for photography. It can frequently be very bright, so controlling that and getting a strong emotive capture is part of the fun. Which brings me to the second aspect of beach photography. Fun, humour, spontaneity and chance have as much of a role to play as any carefully exposed natural scenic.

I’m a big fan of our genre and regularly look through the work of my favorite artists. So more than most I’m very much aware of trends in different iphoneography genres. I just love the medium and am fascinated by what can be done in this genre.

What surprised me was how few of the works felt familiar. Dan was careful to make sure that no names were associated with the images he passed on. I could hazard a guess or two but very often it turned out that I was quite wrong.

When my fellow ‘beach’ judges joined in a different dynamic came into play.

We used private Facebook groups to discuss the works, and my approach is always to write detailed analyses of each – partly to spark debate. I was seconded into two other areas including ‘landscapes’. I consider my own work as landscape even though I shoot the ocean all the time – I shoot it as a landscape not a ‘beach’ per se. The only challenge I had in this area was that so few color shots had made the cut, but otherwise it was all about doing justice to the shots in front of me.

The challenge of judging iPhone art is knowing the genre capabilities – not only of the iPhone as a camera but also the tricks used to turn a small photo into a big one. If anything this year the difficulty was being able to spot the easy textures and overlays from filter apps like Lenslight and Filtermania.

The use of filter apps was hotly debated. It was clear we needed to be across the differences between ‘out-of-the-box’ filter layers and work that was hand-done and original. Sure it’s possible to create great work via a simple combination of filter effects, but if all things are equal genuine artistry and invention must be rewarded.

That some artists won in more than one category is very exciting. I am in awe that different sets of judges could see quality in different criteria. I don’t see this as a problem, more an inspiration. I think the artists who took a win in more than one category are fantastic =- it was a thing of celebration that they took several prizes. The level of artistry was spectacular and all the category nominees are very worthy.

In the end we have to celebrate the whole of the iPhone oeuvre. Amazing photography and extraordinary multi-app collages. All fit into our movement which is still to be recognised as such in the collectable fine art world. At least a dozen of our finest are six-figure artists in my opinion. A huge challenge is to keep our nerve collectively and make sure that the fine art world recognise and collect the artists in our art/photography genre.

I guess next year’s challenge is to differentiate between iPhone and iPad, which have very different capabilities and challenges artistically. I guess Dan’s got that particular problem to handle! good luck mate!

A word from the people category Judge Dutch Doscher on the character of Dan and how much he personally invests into the MPAs every year:

Dan has always wanted the best for the MPA and when I say the best. I have seen the MPA spend more money than he should have for the prints. Rejecting prints that weren’t good enough and having them reprinted. I spent a week with Dan putting up the first two shows in LA and SF. If there is someone who should know it’s me.

In one day we framed over 70 images for 2 different shows then drove them to San Fran.

As far as the judging goes, I only want the best image in the category’s I’m judging in. We have no idea whose images they are, how many images the person submitted or anything else about the image or person.

I had the category of people and had to go though the literally thousands down to about 40. And every one of those 40 could have won. Then Dan has me weed out the top ten. When I say he makes me… This part hurts. People look and care for these 40 to 50 photos and you can tell. In some cases I’ve been moved deeply to see the care and honesty that went into them.

Ultimately its about capturing an image that is rare, moving and light.

There are other places in the community that have done shows, but the presentation has been on poster board or foam mounted. Dan gets the best frames for presentation and really cares about the prints.

Hope this helps.

Image by Amy Hughes, Honorable Mention Landscape

Now a word from past winners who share their moments of joy and success with us:

Melissa Vincent:

I entered the MPA/ArtHaus essay portion of the Mobile Photography Awards with a series of photos titled “The Rooms of William Faulkner”.  I shot them on my iPhone at the Pulitzer Prize winning author William Faulkner’s home in Oxford, MS. I was born and raised and still live in Mississippi today. It is very important to me as an artist to show a different side of Mississippi, one more positive than the normal, stereotypical one portrayed by the media. I took pictures of different rooms in his home and blended them with landscapes of photos I’d taken in Mississippi to create surreal, fine art pieces. Being chosen as the winner of the MPA/ArtHaus photo essay by gallery owners James Bacchi and Annette Schutz came as a big surprise to me. I am a self-taught photogapher/editor who began a journey in the fine art photography field only in the last year. The words that James and Annette used to describe my series and why they were drawn to it really motivated me and gave me the confidence I needed to continue making art. I went to San Francisco to the ArtHaus opening April 6 to see all five of my pieces in the series hanging. Daniel Berman, founder of the Mobile Photography Awards, did a beautiful job displaying my work. I was very pleased with how they looked. The opening was packed full of people who were interested in listening to how and why I created my William Faulkner series. It was definitely the most exciting adventure in the mobile photography/art world I’ve had to date.

Michał Koralewski:

I think I’ll remember this edition of Mobile Photo Awards to the end of my life. In just few days from a shy and overworked father-of-three I became a local celebrity and mobile photography expert, thanks to Dan and his contest.

Very late at night (it was the MPA results announcement day) I got some Twitter messages from my friends saying I won second prize in DPReview category and 3 honorable mentions in two other categories of MPA. I read these messages next day (it was friday, 1st of February) and it was just in time, because 10 minutes later I got first phone call from a journalist of the biggest local newspaper, who asked me for a comment about the prize and for an interview. Right after the interview I received few another phone calls – from two other local newspapers, one radio station and two internet magazines. Everyone wanted to know more about MPA, mobile photography, my passion, my prize, everyone wanted to show my photos on their websites and newspapers. It was very surprising and unexpected. I received a lot of e-mails, tweets and SMSes with congratulations from my friends, my family and even people I don’t know. When I finished my office work, went back home and opened my front door, I saw my wife talking on the phone and I heard “Yes, he just entered”. It was Onet, the biggest Polish internet portal, they wanted to interview me and publish the winning photo. Later this day I got an e-mail from Polish Radio, asking for an interview for their english language station. I have been receiving links to the news about my success for another 2 weeks. There were over 30 news and interviews about the winning photo, my mobile photography passions and MPA in many regional and national newspapers and magazines. I got tons of SMSes from my friends saying they heard about me in radio stations, tv news etc. I got even a letter from a member of the European Parliament with congratulations. Some days later I had a live interview in the biggest regional radio station about MPA and mobile photography. And after two months it’s still not the end of MPA impact on my life – thanks to MPA I had my first mobile photography exhibition, supported by the head of the municipality I live in, and another exhibition will start at 15th of April (it will be supported by the local Voivodship office). I know there is one more exhibition coming in the end of the month. I was also asked to be a main jury member of a nationwide mobile photography contest (which is a big honour for me) and to lead some mobile photography trainings.

I didn’t earn a cent on this craziness, but I met a lot of great people, wonderful photographers, known journalists and I feel the MPA contest opened many doors for my further photography career. And – what’s most important for me – I can see admiration and pride in my wife’s eyes. 🙂

Deb Braun:

My experience with the first MPAs last year was really great. I entered as a challenge. Deena Feinberg (deena21 on instagram) and I were talking about ways to push ourselves and we agreed to curate some images of ours to enter a contest. We thought it would be a good exercise in looking at our images critically. I think it was also her way of gently encouraging me to share my images in new places. So, I picked 10 images and worked with Deena to whittle it down to 5. I entered 5 images in a number of different categories and felt good about meeting my goal. I was shocked and thrilled to find that my image “into the wind” was shortlisted and then won the Landscape category.

Last spring was really fun, as a category winner. Daniel sent out the promised prizes for winning the category. My image had tons of exposure – HuffPo, a home design magazine, other print publications and online. I attended the ArtHaus Gallery opening, was on a local SF news station talking about the show and my work. The image was in another gallery show of MPA winners in southern California. I loved being at the shows and meeting so many kind, inspiring, generous, members of the mobile photography community. One of the best experiences I had during the whole thing was spending the day at the SF Fine Arts Fair, where select images from the MPA show were hung. It was amazing to talk to art dealers and collectors. Daniel Berman was a perfect spokesperson for mobile photography – letting the images speak for themselves to hone the point that this work is photography and art. I talked to people about my work, and as best I could, about the work of the other artists represented in the MPA booth. People were amazed, for a moment, about the whole “camera phone” thing. But they quickly got past that and saw the work for its intrinsic artistry. None of my prints sold at any event, but I still came away from the whole thing feeling really happy and excited about the whole experience and what the MPAs are contributing to the artists and the art. Daniel is one of the people really doing something about how the work we do is perceived by the general public, instead of just tweeting angry messages about how instagram is ruining photography. I think the MPAs and Juxt are both real forces for advancement of art in general. I also know that I grew tremendously by participating, last spring. Personally, I learned to let myself be vulnerable by sharing my work – I learned to look at my work more critically, but also more kindly – I learned that the people I looked up to in this art form are real quality people who share, encourage, take pride, work hard, and are great fun. And now I have the beautiful framed print of my image up in my house.

To see more of the winners head to the MPA website to be treated to multiple slide shows of the winners and honorable mentions. Also, if you would like to read who else inspires the MPAs check out the blog.

Abandonment Issues Vol. 1: Devin Graf

To kick of the Abandonment Issues Series let me introduce you to North Dakota native Devin Graf @durty2shoes. His eye for rural abandons caught my eye quickly and pretty soon I realized I had been wandering through these homes of his for over an hour. His attention to detail and mood make these abandoned homes almost cozy, his tones denote a measure of comfort as he shoots these crumbling, dilapidated beauties.

She’s Mean by Fargon.e.
Thrift Shop by Macklemore
Never Cry Wolf by DarkTimeSunshine
I Don’t Need Love by Evidence

A: Tell me a bit about yourself sir.

D: My name is Devin Graf. I was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. I’m 23 years old and currently work in the hospitality industry. I’ve been shooting mobile with the iPhone 4s since January 2012 and started shooting abandonment later that spring.

A: Tell me how you started shooting abandoned places.

D: My interest for abandonment all started when my good friend Nick aka @harvymoon mentioned to me about an abandoned high school located about 20 miles from my home town. I’ve heard about people going there before so it instantly caught my interest. There was just something about that place that made me want to see more of these old decaying places and how they have aged over years of no upkeep. We live in a city that’s not too far from endless miles of farm land. So exploring all this rural area for abandoned homes seemed like a great idea. It’s really unbelievable how many places we have found and keep continuing to find in just one area.

A: What i hear most when people find out I shoot abandoned places they ask about trespassing. Whats your take on it?

D: I guess my justification for trespassing would have to be that I have never broken in anywhere to take photos. If a place is locked up or is made obvious that whoever owns this property absolutely doesn’t want anyone there I will simply turn around and walk away. I wouldn’t want any trouble from something as harmless as just looking around and taking photos. I look at it as art and I stress that to everyone that asks me what my thoughts are when it comes to trespassing at these old abandoned homes.

A: To date what has been your favorite discovery?

D: I really had to think hard about this one. Old homes are definitely my favorite type of discoveries, but there has been so many amazing and unique homes I’ve explored that it’s hard to decide on just one. But besides that I guess I would have to say an abandoned church in eastern ND. It’s the only one that I have ever got the chance to explore. It was just really awesome to see the sun beaming though the stained glass windows and to look around at everything was left behind.

A: Is there a site somewhere else you would like to visit one day?

D: Some day I’d love to make it way up north towards the border to a place called San Haven. It was a former tuberculosis sanatorium that later on became a home for the mentally disabled. This site has been abandoned since 1989 and was so huge that they gave the area its own zip code. I’ve seen a few photos of this place and it just looks absolutely insane because of the amount of buildings and underground tunnels there are at this location.

A: If you could give one tip for people who want to start exploring what would it be?

D: One tip I would give to people who want to start exploring is safety. Many things go along with this such as, never explore alone, don’t explore places if you have the slightest concern about any trouble that may occur from being at such a place, and if you do this on a regular basis make sure you have the proper respirators so you don’t get any long-term effects from any harmful materials that have been left behind.

A: How has having a camera that doubles as a phone every once in a while changed the way you shoot or view your surroundings?

D: It’s really awesome actually. I was never involved with taking photos or owned a camera until I got my iPhone. So to me it’s just much more convenient to have something small in my pocket rather than a bulky camera that I may not even have with me if I see something that catches my eye. Plus now days they have all kinds of lenses and tripods I can use with my iPhone which in my opinion gives me endless possibilities for capturing many different types of scenes.

A: Who are a couple of photographers you draw inspiration from?

D: It’s hard to pinpoint just a couple of photographers that inspire me because there’s just so many talented people out there. I would have to say that my two good friends @harvymoon and @yelenaa__ are a huge inspiration to me because a main topic of conversation always seems to be photography and editing photos. A couple more well-known guys out there would definitely be @mrevidence and @tonydetroit. I’ve seen their work since my start on instagram and it’s always been so unique and on point.

Thank you Devin for allowing us to walk with you through these homes and for being our first artist in the series.

Abandonment Issues

Abandonment Issues by Anna Cox

Many photographers are drawn to photographing  abandoned or dilapidated sites across the globe. These locations hold mystery, history and a hint of danger, which for many explorers, is a heady mix. Locations such as abandoned hospitals, houses and amusement parks are hot commodities but there are groups solely dedicated to exploring storm drains also. Serious explorers will tell you they go to these locations just to see them, to experience them.

It is a common mantra to only leave footprints and to take only photographs. True explorers value and love the places they experience and want to protect them for the explorers that come after them.  I’m sure as a reader, you’re thinking something along the lines of “honor among thieves” aren’t you? I mean, we are already trespassing right? Unless you have a love for these types of locations I am sure any justification on my part will fall short. But, if you understand what it feels like to stand in a forgotten home that is strewn with belongings or a cavernous space that once  housed hundreds of people you will know the story is worth the risk. Trespassing normally goes hand in hand with exploration as do respirators for bad conditions.  Both of these things, and a host of others, are worth the risk for the experience for most explorers.

Types of exploration are limited only by the amount of sites people can find to explore . The first and most widely known is Urban Exploration, or urbex, and includes locations found in urban environments. Urbex can also include locations that are still in use but here we are only speaking to uninhabited  sites. Think abandoned theme parks, hospitals or factories and you have a pretty good idea of urbex. What was once a largely anonymous genre has begun to have more of a recognizable face as mobile sharing apps gain popularity. On Instagram tags like #filthyfeeds or #beautyindecay have thousands of photos dedicated solely to exploration.



The another subset of UE which is gaining more popularity is rural exploration and is mostly made up of abandoned houses and barns. I fall among these explorers. The wonder of walking through rooms with peeling paint, forgotten shoes, and books flipped open to random pages sets my imagination wild. Sometimes, standing in these houses I can hear the bustle of a mother cooking dinner or children playing upstairs. The phrase “if these walls could talk” always runs through my mind.

An antique mall was my first and most favorite exploration I’ve ever done. I’ve gone back and visited multiple times. The first time I visited I was fixated on the lone chair with no legs. I thought and thought about that chair. About all the items that were left behind. Something in me clicked. These items were a metaphor for my life then and now.Their purpose had changed, they were no longer utilitarian items. They were left behind, forgotten, derelict. Everything that they were meant to be had been cast aside when the doors closed. At the time, every door that had been open to me had been shut tightly. The roles I had been so practiced at had to be cast aside. My purpose had been derailed. When I walked into the upstairs of this place the chair called to me. I sat beside it and just looked at it for a long time. It wasn’t until the third time I visited that I finally understood what thought was holding me captive. The chair was still a chair. Even with no legs to stand on. It still had purpose even if that purpose had changed. I was still me. Even if I had no legs to stand on. Even if what I was meant to do was no longer an option. I had a story, a history. I’m drawn back to these places that mirror my heart so completely.

As far as camera gear goes, I like to have a wide angle lens to capture as much as possible. Mobile photography is perfect for exploration in that all you have to carry camera wise is your smart phone. That saves valuable room in your backpack for other items that may be needed for your excursion.

Before you make the trip, do some research on your location. A simple google search will usually bring up blogs and photo accounts of the location. Take your time reading through them. Many times there will be hints on when to go and how to get into the structure with the most ease. If you want to find more information on the location you’re interested in do a record search at your court house. This comes in especially handy for houses out in the country. It’s good to know wether or not a farmer will be showing up carrying a gun. Also, be prepared that you may be sharing the space with squatters or other explorers once you are inside. It’s always wise to have a buddy along with you to explore just in case you get into trouble. At the very least, let someone know where you are going and when to expect you back. Apps like Device Tracker Pro can be a solution to roaming alone. This app,once installed on two separate phones, can track either phone using a mix of GPS, cell tower triangulation and WIFI. If one party goes missing it only takes a couple steps to login and start locating the phone. Although, I would firmly suggest having a friend with you.

Exploration in and of itself is an adventure in your backyard. It’s an experience like no other and can open your imagination to untold stories. Going into these places is paying homage to those that came before us. Those that lived and worked where we are standing. Those stories alone are worth the research, hazard, and time spent before you even get there. It’s about respect, even if we are going in through the back door.

Think you might like to explore? Here is a checklist of things that might come in handy. It is always a good idea to be overly prepared.  You never know what could happen and how long you might be on location.

•respirator or dust mask
•multipurpose tool
•boots preferably with heavy soles
•waterproof camera case
•long sleeves and hat especially if you are rural. Ticks aren’t your friend.
•bug spray
•coat depending on the time of year.

Are you ready now?

You’re thinking of a building you drive past every day, aren’t you?

Join us every month for a different look at derelict photography in the Abandonment Issues Series. Today we are headed to North Dakota to explore with  Devin,  @durty2shoes so grab your boots! We have some exploring to do

One Screen School House goes to New York

One Screen School House takes a field trip: New York Facades With Steve Yegelwel by Anna Cox

I love New York City with its soaring sky scrapers, crowded sidewalks, and noisy streets. We used to travel there once or twice a year, but then we all grew up and started families and suddenly vacations aren’t as easy to plan. I happened upon Steve a little over a year ago and fell in love with his photos. He catches the colorful personality of the facades of NYC fantastically. Many times you feel you are gazing out the window in a fourth floor walkup with him. Steve is a master at catching the shadows and color that makes New York what it is. Many times, I feel like I can almost hear the taxis honking and the woosh of the crowd passing me by as I gaze.

A: Tell us a little about you away from social media.

S: I work in the music industry, and live in New York City.
I know it’s quite fashionable to say something like, “I’ve stopped watching television and now devote most of my free time to artistic pursuits and self discovery.” But that’s not the case for me. I love watching television and my taste is all over the map. Everything from Homeland and Breaking Bad, to car auction shows on Velocity.
I also love films: John Ford, Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Eric Rohmer, Luis Bunuel, John Huston…

A: I can tell you I woud be hard pressed to give up T.V. Beside books it is my favorite form of escapism. Tell me about NYC. To me it seems almost overwhelming with inspiration.

S: Yes, NYC is definitely a constant source of inspiration. So much architecture, so much energy. I really love it here!

A: When did you first start shooting? 

S: I first started shooting a little bit in high school, and even majored in visual media in college.  Oddly enough, I’ve never actually owned a D/SLR camera. (In college, I had to borrow my roommate’s SLR. Thanks Jim!)

It wasn’t until I got my iPhone 4, and joined Instagram last year, that I started to shoot again and became interested in architectural mobile photography. (Taking pictures of buildings with my cell phone).

A: I love it that so many people answer that they didnt really start shooting until they got a phone. What are some of your inspirations?

S: Honestly, inspiration is a tough one. It’s hard to explain, but I’m most inspired when I see something differently than how I’m used to seeing it, and it causes my heart to beat a little faster. (That probably makes no sense. Sorry.)
Also, the amazingly talented and supportive community on Instagram inspire me all the time.

Thank  you Steve for taking time out of your day to chat with me. And thank you for allowing us to see through your lens! It is definitely a beautiful view.


Here are some quick tips for the next time you go out:

~ Take advantage  of your environment. Focus in on the details the best show the building and its environment. Give your viewer a clue to what the energy is around a place. Times Square wouldn’t be Times Square without the tourists, taxis, and mobs of people.

~ Choose your angle carefully.  This may mean changing your vantage point. Watch for distortion as you shoot tall buildings.

~ Experiment with different times of day. Early and late light will pull details and textures from facades whereas full sun can wash out the details. Watch for harsh shadows that can hide the small details.

~ Try shooting in  different types of weather. A deep blue sky can be a perfect backdrop for a tall skyscraper when it accentuates the size but for a smaller building the vast blue can deaden your space.

~ Look for small details to photograph. Wether that means archways or wrought iron window frames they all give a taste of the larger design elements.

~ Try shooting in a series. Wide open shots coupled with the finer details can create a dynamic grouping.

~ Each structure has it’s own personality. Identify  that and use it to your advantage.


Class dismissed!



Shooting with Olloclip

Finding a way to use the macro lens creatively was a challenge for me. Sure, I could have photographed flowers and had you saying “oh look at that beautiful stamen” or “wow that pistil is just fantastic” but decided I’d challenge myself to find something less popular to photograph.  My subject of choice was a set of antique books.   My goal was to photograph them in such a way as to make the most of the textures, erring on the side of abstraction. The books are fantastic, beautiful in their lines, colors and textures. The old pages and woven covers made the lens really work for a shot. I wanted you to be able to almost feel the rough woven spines and smell the old pages. I think macro shots are the least popular and digestible to the mobile photography community when it comes to lens use, so I approached it in a way that made it interesting or at least different that the normal macro shots.  I was amazed the amount of texture the lens picked up. It performed better than I expected. I think I ended up with some pretty strong shots that had the characteristics I wanted.

Some off the cuff tips for you while shooting macro:

•be steady – whether that means bracing yourself or using a tripod of some sort, stabilize your self.
•hold your breath- I know it sounds stupid but it helps
•take lots of shots
•look for strong lines and dramatic light
•look for textures

I really enjoyed getting to know the ins and outs of the Olloclip macro lens. The picture was more clear and crisp than the other lenses I have used. I particularly love the DOF this lens renders.  My results were across the page more predictable. I also found that my camera focused more easily with this lens compared to the others I own.

Fisheye/wide angle lens

I really enjoy having the options and ease Olloclip allows the iPhone when out and about shooting. The effect the fisheye lens gives you reminds me of Alice in Wonderland with its bowed lines and bulges. It has a definite look to it and I had a blast playing with different architectural subjects. Before I started shooting I made some comparison shots just so I understood the range of each lens. This  lens will give you almost a 180 degree view in your view finder, whereas the wide angle comes close to doubling your range. Both the wide angle and fisheye bend lines so be aware of that while you are shooting and use it to your advantage. Either be ready to crop some of the photo beyond the cropping you have to do to take care of the empty “lens line” or go with the rounded effect of the fisheye.   I shot with hipstamtic so I can’t speak to how  much of  it would need to be cropped using the native camera. I found I liked the shots where I really centered on a subject more than when I took large open shots, but that is just a personal preference.

I shot mainly with hipstamatic and while that helped with the cropping it also made me focus more on what I was shooting. I tried to find high contrast subjects that would play to the lenses strong points. The above shot is taken with the fisheye lens and I was quite taken with how it made the lock look more dynamic that the regular shots that I took of it. The added dimension really gave it a life of its own. The photo below was taken with hipstamatic tinto lens and super grain and the wide angle lens. The feeling of the building almost crowding the viewer appealed to me. The lens added more character to a building  that already had a large personality.



Without a lens, the doors and a small part of the bricked windows are seen in the photo frame, as compared to what you see above. Although, I also did the shot with the fisheye I preferred the wide angle for the minimal bending of the lines.  Once again, finding a subject with good contrast to highlight I think the lens created a more dynamic image. Overall, I was happy with the results while shooting with the wide angle and fisheye. If you go into the shoot knowing the amount of effect the lens will have on the scene if definitely helps. I found myself thinking of the lens as I would a hipsta combo, meaning, which lens would work best for a certain scene. Sometimes I guessed wrong and the shot was askew other times I was pleasantly surprised.


In Suburbia: A Photo Essay

In Suburbia: A Photo Essay by Robert Cuevas
“In Suburbia”

Suburbia, an environment in which all of its classes, qualities, and ideas can be both easily distinguished, and blurred, verging on the point of invisibility. There are those who love it, hate it, avoid it, and those who dwell in it. This essay is an analytical yet simple visual dissection of the given environment, in a sociological context. The goal is to achieve a better understanding on this place as a whole, and to understand its many issues.

“Important News In Suburbia”

There are those who support the idea that suburbia is a place where everything is “perfect” and correct. Other common ideas regarding this place deal with the political, social, and economical hierarchies that have been established, and usually stem from the opinions of those who don’t live in this place. It is normal for people who have seen it at a glance to generate negative thoughts about what they have seen.

“A New Generation In Suburbia”

The reality is, there is a point in which the suburban setting can have a negative effect on those who are grounded in it. Different from a city setting, there is a lack of balance in the social, political, and economic classes, ultimately causing people to be extreme in what they believe, and how they act. There is also a heavy sense of pride that is developed among opposing parties within this social group, as they believe there is no reason to find common ground. This can cause future generations to grow to either fear or despise different people, in other social situations and different environments.

“Young Woman In Suburbia”

There are many different results of the actions performed by those who consciously and subconsciously choose to conform to the suburban lifestyle. This in itself isn’t a negative thing. The negativity is exposed when people choose to turn the suburban lifestyle into something that makes it harder for a community to connect and learn from each other. Adolescents raised under the negative side of this lifestyle find themselves searching for something different, and in the end, are left to develop their own opinions on this society which they are apart.

 “Buildings In Suburbia”

It is valuable and healthy to recognize the flaws in your community. It is a way to start change, wherever you are. I am apart of a suburban community, which is why I chose this as my focus for this photo essay. I often find myself saying things regarding the “boring” nature of my community and how I never want to shoot here, but I have realized that there’s a lot more to this environment that you can’t see at a surface level glance. I encourage you all to do the same, wherever you might be.

“War Memories In Suburbia”

The inspiration behind this essay is mainly based on my reaction to the notion that you will only find important news in the grittiest, lowest places. This idea challenged me to look for a story in my area, and really pushed me to take a crack at a plain, but mysterious subject that has been a popular topic ever since the establishment of this type of environment. If you would like to respond to this, feel free to comment with your thoughts and opinions on this society, or any other environments and social situations. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all, and hope you have enjoyed this not so hard hitting exposé on suburbia.

© Roberto Cuevas, 2012

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