We are happy to present the latest in our series of artist interviews here on Pixels At An Exhibition. This week, Marty Yawnick, who was also one of our first featured artists and the publisher of Life In LoFi, a website we consider to be essential for every person interested in the emergent art form of iphoneography and one we recommend to everybody, whether new or old to the medium.
KB: Please tell us a little about yourself – where you live, if you hail from Earth, anything like that. Whatever you feel like sharing that isn’t covered in the questions below.
MY: Hi, Knox! I’m Marty Yawnick. I have a camera. Sometimes I use it to make phone calls. I’m an iPhoneographer and I also publish the Life In LoFi: iPhoneography blog. I grew up in Southern California, but have lived in Fort Worth/Dallas for over 25 years. I make my living, such that it is, as a graphic designer. I have my own small studio in Fort Worth. I love to travel and my girlfriend Stacy and I try to do so as often as we can.
Anything I missed?
KB: No, although you avoided the not-of-this-earth question. How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
MY: I’ve been shooting for art with a phone since about 2005. I started shooting a project with my old Motorola RAZR. It had a horrible camera! VGA, small picture, no dynamic range, noisy like you wouldn’t believe! And I thought it’s qualities would compliment the bleakness and monotony, if you will, of the Dallas/Fort Worth suburban landscape. I keep threatening to exhibit that project’85!
I’ve been shooting with my iPhone since I got my 2G in June of 2008. I shot with Snapture a lot on my jailbroken 2G for a long time. CameraBag was the first iPhone filter app that really got me excited!
KB: How often do you work on your art?
MY: [laughs] Not often enough. With rare exceptions, I shoot when I stumble across a moment. I process them when I have the time. I’d like to be a more prolific iPhoneographer.
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
MY: Photography’s always been a hobby for me since I was a kid. iPhoneography became serious for me when I started writing about photo apps on my first blog, which I won’t name here — it’s kind of a dead blog at the moment.
The turning point was when I started writing Life In LoFi as a way to share with the community my thoughts on photo apps and as a way to get my photos seen. Response and feedback have been incredible and it’s been going up from there.
Another huge turning point was the Giorgi Gallery show. It seems so long ago, doesn’t it Knox? But that was the first brick and mortar iPhoneography exhibit and it attracted global attention. Being a part of that show was important and I still talk about it.
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
MY: I like to shoot found moments — those moments of beauty that most of us walk right by. I like to capture people in those moments, but it’s tough to do in Dallas/Fort Worth — not everyone here ignores a camera like they do in some other cities. I call it “stealing souls”. I believe it’s a Native American superstition, as well as a few other cultures.
I like contrast. I like old signs. I like color. I like lack of color. I like shadow. There’85 I’ve just given you my catalog!
My creative process? I shoot maybe with a particular app in mind, but I try to get the best image in camera first. Later, I’ll tweak, process, app. Apping for me usually involves multiple apps and I often forget the recipe. I like to make my images look like I didn’t put a lot of work in them, but there’s a lot of detail in them and in fact, I’ll spend a lot of time on an image just trying to get the shadows right. Lately, I’ve been working on ways to make my iPhone images look more and more like real analog film images. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
I used to use a ton of apps to process. It’s easy to do when you have to purchase and play with everything to review them. Visually, my styles were all over the map. I still buy a lot more apps than I need (for the blog), but I’ve narrowed down my toolbox quite a bit.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
MY: My day job (and sometimes night and early morning job) is a graphic designer. I have my own studio. I guess you could say I’m a commercial artist. Because of the blog, I also write. A lot. (Editors note: Marty is not mentioning his at one time very promising career as a record producer in the dance music world, which he left behind due to the corruption inherent in that milieu.)
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphoneographic artists?
MY: Yes, I do and I’m constantly amazed at the photography people with iPhones can create. It’s incredible the beauty and vision that people in this community have and share. Places I go for my iPhoneography fix are your site, of course, Pixels. I also check out Flickr groups often — Photos taken with an Apple iPhone, iPhoneography, and Life In LoFi’s Flickr group are where I usually head online. Sometimes, I’ll head straight to an iPhoneographer’s website. I like to view their work unfiltered.
KB: Do you study other art forms?
MY: I did. My degree is in Fine Arts. I studied music, theatre, art and film in college.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
MY: I used to. I used to shoot with film until a few years ago. I sold my old Canon 35mm SLR for $20 to a friend of mine. It’s so much easier to do everything digitally now in Photoshop for commercial work. I still have several film cameras in the house, but they’re showpieces now. We have two “big boy” DSLR cameras here, but I rarely use either.
I’m thinking of getting a Holga to shoot with — an original 120S. I like the look of the Diana camera better, but I prefer the qualities of the images you get from a Holga. If I can find one that won’t break me, I’d also love to get an old Felica just to display in the “museum”’85.
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
MY: Henri Cartier-Bresson. The original street photographer. It’s amazing the images he got with the equipment he dragged all over Paris.
I love the portraits of artist Vik Muniz — he’s brilliant in how he captures the essence within, as well as some of the media he uses.
I love the look and staging of Cindy Sherman’s photography.
I like the straight documentary style of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s monochromes.
I’m inspired by great cinematography — photography that moves. Say what you will about Stanley Kubrick, but most of his frames were art in themselves. Chris Nolan’s DP, Wally Pfister is another one who’s vision I love. Andrzej Sekula, who shot Tarantino’s early films, has some great composition. I think Robert Rodriguez has a great eye, and Larry Fong — Zack Snyder’s eyeballs. That said, Frank Miller is a great visual artist and one who’s work I’ve loved for years.
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as you call it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
MY: When I came up with the term “Camera Bag” on Life In LoFi, I wanted to use a term that would be a direct link and a nod to traditional photography. You know, something better than “The Apps I Use”, which probably wouldn’t be a bad subtitle’85. In fact, I believe it was you, Knox, that suggested I add the word “My” to Camera Bag to make it more personal. Thank you, sir!
Anyway, this week, the apps I use — there you go — currently, the apps I’m using are Apple’s Camera app. The new one on the iPhone 4 is simple, fast and a great camera to get the photos into your iPhone. I’ve also been using ProCamera a lot. The new new separate exposure and focus controls are the best out there.
I still use Vint B&W a lot. It makes the best monochromes. FILM LAB is a fave of mine. I use TiltShift Generator to create focus effects and to add depth of field. AutoStitch makes the best panoramas. When your subject is closer, it has this really cool distortion — almost a fisheye effect. I call them “bends”. Really cool! Photo FX and Picture Show are two filter apps I’ve been using more. And I use Hipstamatic from time to time. If you use it to enhance the image, not be the image, i think Hipstamatic is still a good camera app.
I keep my camera bag list updated on Life In LoFi.
KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
MY: [laughs] There are far too many to mention, Knox! I’ve reviewed some clunkers that really pissed me off. Most of them are really lousy, low-res apps that charge a buck or two for postage stamp sized output. Spotlight Camera is the latest. Most of the time, I just don’t talk about them, don’t draw any attention to them and hope they go away quietly’85.
There are a lot of apps out there that I don’t use, but only because they don’t really fit my style. It’s not fair to say that I don’t like them. I’ve seen other iPhoneographers create some great work with these apps.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
MY: Not really. The developers seem to have a good handle on things. Writing the blog has taught me that there are just some things the iPhone camera can’t do, and it’s these limitations that are one of the things I embrace about iPhone photography. (Editors note: Marty is not going on one of his rants about developers being too lazy to program apps for full-resolution output, as he does on the phone from time to time.)
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
MY: FILM LAB is the app that I would have invented. It’s an app that applies the tonal qualities of analog film stock to images on your iPhone.
As for anything else, let the developers surprise me. They often do!
KB: When you feel you have reached a creative stalemate, and believe your work is not cutting it anymore, do you have any tricks for breaking out of artist’s block?
MY: Scotch. It gets me into a hazy groove where I’ll start looking at things and say “why not?” It removes any hesitation I may have and puts me in a good place to look at things differently.
I’ll stay away from sites like Pixels and Flickr when I have creative block. Quite honestly, if I feel I’m in a funk, I’ll get intimidated by the work I see others doing. I just have to go out there, get through it myself and shoot a few images that hit it out of the park.
KB: A last word perhaps?
MY: The iPhoneography community is an awesome community that I’m glad to be a part of. The talent is amazing. But I also feel like a lot of photographers who I only know online, they’re a really great and interesting bunch. Despite our varied backgrounds, i have a feeling that if you got us all together in a room in the real world, it’d be like we’ve known each other since way back and have been friends for a long time. When I travel, I feel like I have friends everywhere who I can hit up and say “Hey, let’s get a coffee and talk shop and stuff.”
Okay, I’m giving your web site back to you. Thank you, Knox for letting me ramble on as you do!
KB: Thank you, Marty.