I posted an Audioboo podcast the other day about my discovery of photo apps for the iPhone on October 4, 2009. Having done that, it occurred to me that perhaps I should acknowledge the upcoming ten-year anniversary of the launch of Pixels and and our first shows and that very exciting era in the iphonic art movement.
It’s way too much to put into one article, so I imagine I will write several over the next couple of months.
Ten years ago at this time, I was taking basically awful pictures with my iPhone pretty much around the clock. Below is a sampling of my work. I was shooting with an iPhone 2 and my only apps were ToyCamera and BestCam. And I think I got Lo-Mob at some point in there.
Here is a sampling:
As you can see, it was pretty bad, what I was doing, although I do love both pictures of Maia Panos and her daughter, Sophia.
In hopes of encouraging her creativity, after husband’s death the year before, I had bought her different art supplies, watercolors, pastels, sketchbooks and so on, hoping to reignite her passion and, hopefully, get through the grieving process just a little easier. Nothing had taken hold until I showed her my iPhone photo apps.
She immediately downloaded them and, without my knowing, got as obsessed with making pictures as I was.
A week or so later, she showed me some of her new pictures.
I remember these two pictures like it was yesterday:
Maia and I rolled along for the next month or so, taking pictures constantly, texting each other ones we particularly liked. I was really happy that Maia was engaging, somewhat as madly as I was, in a creative pursuit.
I was so intrigued by her pictures, they were so different from mine, like these …
Maia’s worked confirmed what I had come to believe, which was that we were dealing with the emergence of a new artistic medium on the global stage.
So make no mistake: without Maia, there probably would have been no Pixels, and therefore no iphonic art movement as we know it today. Maybe someone else would have come along and done something along the lines of what we did at Pixels, but …
Near the end of November, 2009, Maia, Sophia, and I stopped by the Giorgi Gallery one afternoon on our way to Rick & Ann’s, a favorite restaurant of ours right below the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, to say “Hi” to Rae Douglass, an architect, artist, and proprietor of the gallery.
Just as we were leaving for the restaurant, I said to Rae, “How would you like to do an exhibition of iPhone photography.”
Without missing a beat he said, “Sure. You have to curate it.”
Maia and I were pretty excited at lunch that day. My sole motivation had been to get some of our pictures on an actual gallery wall. Little did I know what we were about to unleash, or what was about to be unleashed on us, but for the moment, we had succeeded.
When I got home, I googled “iPhone photography juried gallery show” along with a few variations and could not find anything. A juried iPhone gallery show had not happened yet. I called Rae in the morning and said, “If we do it fast, we can be the first iPhone photography gallery show ever.”
He said he would get back to me. Either that day, or the next, he called me and said, “Okay, I pushed back another show. We can open January 30th and run for a month.”
I said, “I’ll build the website.”
I wasted not a moment. After trying a number of different derivations of “iphone” + “photography” combinations, I registered iphontography.org and commenced building a website our show could call home.
The first morning of working on the website, I told a friend of mine about it. He was a consultant in Washington D.C. He said, “Oh yeah blah blah blah venture capital blah blah IPO blah buzzwords blah blaaahahhhhahhhhhh de blah blaaaahhhhh …”
And for the rest of the day, seven hours to be precise, I worked feverishly trying to build a gallery website that would appeal to some mythical venture capitalists and all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore. This was the very first day of what we now know as Pixels ~ The Art of the iPhone.
I called my friend up and said, “Ralph, there isn’t going to be an IPO. I’m not having fun anymore. I just want to do this so that it’s fun.” He reluctantly agreed, but saw my point.
The next day, I saw Rae and we discussed some details for the show:
How many pictures to display? 200.
Entry fee and number of pictures to submit? $5 and five images.
Submissions accepted up to what date? January 15, 2010.
What should we call the show? Rae said, “Pictures At An Exhibition.” I replied, “Pixels At An Exhibition.” We both smiled.
And there we were.
I launched the first Pixels website, iphontography.org on November 29, 2009. Sometime in December, I tried to register pixelsatanexhibition.com, but it wasn’t available. However, it was expiring soon and I was able to grab it. I was able to grab it on January 1, 2010.
I spent a few days tweaking it and began reaching out to the few bloggers I could find, like Glyn Evan’s venerable iphoneography.com and Marty Yawnick’s great lifeinlofi.com, and posted notices on some Flickr iPhone groups, announcing the show and sending out calls for submissions.
Rae wrote our call for submissions:
Pixels at an exhibition.
The virtual image image of the iphone gets exhibited in the real space and walls of the Giorgi Gallery. Since the advent of the coupling of the digital camera with the mobile phone, we have witnessed an explosion in the number of photos taken. A folk art form has unfolded where the depiction of reality and spontaneous events has been assisted not through the sophistication of the camera, but through its ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives.
Iphone images are crude with low resolution, so they can only be judged by their basic composition and the manner at which they capture the moment. With this show we are not looking for seductive images loaded with technique, but images that are alive with the ephemeral spirit of reality.
200 images will be printed and displayed in the gallery for the month of February 2010, and will be sold as individual works of art. A book will be published that will include all of the images along with names and a short bio of each iphonetographer.
We welcome all applicants and encourage amateurs, since there is no such thing as a professional iphonetographer. For many of the artist this will be their first introduction to having their work shown in a gallery, and we look forward to the chance to discover new talent!
At first, we were asking for $5 to enter five photos. I think we got three entries, so Rae and I decided to forego the entry fee.
After that, the entries began to come in. Amazingly, the New York Times did an article about our show on December 28. It was very exciting.
All in all, we got about eight hundred submissions for that first show over the next month and a half.
What became very apparent to me was that a substantial segment of the artists/photographers were clearly pushing the technology, the apps, the phone itself in attempts to bring forth a person vision. And those were the people I wanted to know.
There was a lot of bad street photography, but it looked very cool to me at the time. Some good as well. Sunsets and cityscapes. Exactly one nude. No still-lifes, beyond one bright bunch of bananas, that I can recall now. A few self-portraits and pictures of pictures. A number of dog and cat pictures and an assortment of other odd and wonderful images.
Here is a sampling of what came in. Some of these images made it into the show, some didn’t. I will post more Giorgi pictures in the next installment.
For next installment, I’ll write more about what was going on in December of 2009 and January of 2010 as we approached the opening date for the opening of the show.
Things were hopping and it was just the beginning.