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iPhone App Reviews and Critiques -

INTERVIEW WITH CARLEIN VAN DER BEEK:
The 2011 IPA Mobile Art Grant Recipient

JANUARY 2012
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Carlein Van Der Beek, recipient of the 2011 IPA Mobile Art Grant, and a rising star in the emerging field of mobile art sits down to answer a few question about art and life. Carlein’s full portfolio can be seen in her IPA Gallery. And a full listing of the 2011 grant results including winners, finalists, semi-finalists and honorable mentions can be found on the 2011 Grant Page.

1. Where did you grow up and what were some of the things in your upbringing that lead to your interest in the visual arts?

I was born and raised in Holland and lived till recently near the sea, close to The Hague.

My world always has been purely visual, I see the world in images, moods and colours. And for as long as I can remember, I have been drawing and painting. After finishing my studies in marketing and communication, I attended the art academy where I majored in painting, abstract and mixed media, as well as photography.

2. Before the invention of the iPhone, how did your interest in art manifest itself?

Mainly painting until five years ago when I took up photography again. I don't think I have ever been without an interest in arts 

3. What was it that first caught your attention about iPhoneography and made you want to try it out?

I was in a store to buy an iPod and the salesman also began telling about the iPhone. He studied graphic design and showed me the work he made on his iPhone. From that moment on I was sold: I *had* to buy one myself. Since that day it never left my hands.

4. How do you feel your personal aesthetic has developed and transitioned from your first attempts to create art with your iPhone?

My overall style hasn’t really changed that much. My work primarily involves layering different pictures and working with a couple of apps for each image.

For my "unapped" images, I work with Lomora 2 or Cameramatic and don't change or crop anything afterwards.

The main thing was gaining a familiarity with the apps. I experimented a lot (and still do of course) while trying out every app in the store that had anything to do with photography. After a while you know how to "work" the apps, and in the process I developed a list of favorites.

5. Is there a driving motivation or theme behind your work - a concept or idea you are working to explore - or do you see each piece a separate idea?

When I started in December 2009, I mockingly called myself a "post conceptual iPhonista". So no, I don't really work with concepts before i go out to shoot.

Sometimes I do work on a series, but they start only after I have already taken a few shots and then see something that might develop into a nice series. One example is "Living temporarily in Suburbia", a series of images that depicts the surroundings of my temporary digs.

Another ongoing series is that of my Slow Shutter shots. I am kind of addicted to those since buying the app a year ago. Hence the "post" in post conceptual.. those things mainly happen afterwards.

Still, when I go out to shoot, I *do* know what I need or want for my layered images

I try not to get stuck in one style. It is tempting when you finally mastered a style or certain effect to keep repeating that. It might be done well and look really good, but it also tends to get boring. The same goes for using the same picture(s) over and over again.

One thing I learned early on at the art academy is to keep experimenting, changing styles, and changing material to work with. The same goes for photography. Change format, lenses, colour or black and white, and angle. In the case of iPhone, it means changing (camera) apps and setting yourself a theme, or limiting yourself to shooting with one app. There is so much you can try! This fits me perfectly as it is also the way I look at the world. I am always curious, like to learn and discover new things.

Though I know there is a kind of common thread in my work (the extensive layering), there is also a lot of diversity.

6. Some artists direct their vision inward while others turn their focus outward. Do you feel your work is more of an exploration of what lies inside of you? Or a comment on what you see around you?

I am in no way expressing myself in terms of documentary or political styles. So yes, my images do reflect my emotions and moods, though the actual subject of my image might not in the sense that I don't use self-portraits to express myself. My images and titles go hand in hand. I often use song lyrics, music, poems or quotes from movies as titles.

7. In your work, do you seek out particular moments and images to work with, or do you primarily react to the things you come across by chance?

I think this question is linked with question number 5. As I always have my iPhone with me, I take pictures everywhere. For my layered pieces, I do look for specific images, faces, reflections, and window shots.

I tend to shoot more than I need, though, and something that caught my eye and i thought would work well may turn out to be a disappointment when looking at it closer at home. Conversely, some of those shots may surprise me and reveal great potential I hadn’t recognized when shooting. Something I collect continually is textures, (rust, torn up posters, glass etc.), as I often use them in my layered pieces.

8. Is there a process you follow when creating a new piece? Certain steps you always take to get you started? A technical checklist? Questions you ask yourself? Or do find you approach each piece differently?

I put my images on iPad as well, just to see them larger. That way I can check if they have everything I need to work with. But I have a good feeling of what an image needs regarding what app(s) to use and what texturing to apply. It’s hard to describe, as it comes from a gut feeling.

9. Are you most interested in the conceptual, the technical, or the visual aspects of your iPhoneography? Or are all three equally important?

For me it is the end result; the visual aspect; the mood/emotions it evokes. And, it has to be technically perfect as well.

It is such a waste of a good image when you take a closer look, see it large, and find it to be badly executed. Sloppy layering, blending or cloning, pixelation and banding are all things that can be avoided. It may take more time, but the effort is really worthwhile. That is why I don't produce five images a day.

10. Technology - both hardware and software - is a large part of iPhoneography. Do you find this dependence on technology to limit your artistic vision in any way - or do you find it leads to ideas and results you may not have otherwise happened upon? In other words - do you seek out apps that allow you to achieve your internal vision - or do you find that apps have the ability to take you to new places you might not have otherwise found - or is it some combination of both?

I try to think outside the box with apps, so use them in ways for which they are not originally intended. Of course, this applies to the more creative apps and not to the "technical" apps I use for cloning, blending and layering.

I believe I have used the example elsewhere before, but the "press one button and you have a Monet or drawing" apps don't get me very excited. HOWEVER, you can always blend some of the achieved result into an existing picture to positive effect. So, every app has its possibilities. So for me, these kind of apps can serve as an alternative for using textures.

11. What are some developments in the world of apps that you would most like to see?

To be honest, I don't feel I’m missing anything. Of course, it would be great to see some apps improve. For me that would be mainly on what they offer in terms of blending, cloning and layering capability. I’d also like to see all apps offer saving and capturing at full resolution. For the rest, I love to be surprised 

12. Do you feel that iPhoneography is a fundamentally different medium from traditional photography - and if so, what do you feel lies at the heart of the difference?

As far as the resulting image is concerned, I don't care how it is made, be it from a pinhole, shoebox or large format camera, from a Nikon together with Lightroom and Photoshop, or from an iPhone.

But as regards the process of getting there, working with an iPhone is for me a totally different experience. First of all, I always have my iPhone with me, which means I can also shoot in situations where I wouldn't bring my Nikon. For me this meant unlocking some extra, creative corners in my mind. That and having my editing tools always with me with more possibilities than Photoshop ever gave me.

On the other hand: my earlier two-year project of self-portraits couldn't have happened using an iPhone.

13. Historically, every new medium has had to struggle to gain acceptance in the world of art. As iPhoneography faces this same struggle, what are your hopes for its future with regard to finding its place on the contemporary art stage? Do you hope that more clear distinctions will be discovered and defined between this emerging medium and other art forms? Or do you hope that the boundaries will start to break down?

I have noticed that in Holland the art world is either way behind in their view of iPhoneography, or not at all interested in it. iPhoneography is not very popular in this corner of the world as photos don't sell well given the stagnating economy..

That is within the realm of the official art world. For the rest, I notice that people often think, “I can take a picture like that myself”. They have rather something on the wall that is either made by themselves or by a family member.

There is much more interest abroad. Examples include the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival, Eyephoneography #1, #2 and #3 in Madrid, and Latitudes, an annual International Photography Festival in Huelva, Spain. The latter is a major breakthrough where photography and iphoneography are shown on a museum level. Latitudes hosts works by renowned photographers, including Magnum greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Doisneau, just to name a few.

So yes, it IS possible and I certainly do have hope that the art world will pick up (though in America that is already the case).

14. iPhoneography as well as photography in general has the ability to freeze moments in time. What do you think it is about the ability to study a singular, frozen moment that is so captivating? Do you think there is a connection between photography and memory? And if so, do you feel the "apping" process enhances this connection - or lessens it?

Difficult one as this is probably different for everybody. I know that for me it has nothing to do with memory. I love to be a one frame storyteller. To me one frame showing an entire movie beats any memory. Maybe... in a way... i create new memories.. or dreams or hopes.. more of the here and now than of the past.

15. As the only species on the planet that takes the time to create "art" - what do you feel compels us?

Art is a form of expression. Sometimes people don't have the ability to speak what they feel, so they draw, paint, sculpt, or compose. For me personally, that is why i make images or paintings. It takes me a long time to find the words to express what i feel and even then it is never quite exact. With images i can tell what i feel.