Kitty Stolzenbach is an iPhone photographer and passionate Instagrammer living in Silver City, New Mexico. Originally from Denver, Colorado she now works as a social media coordinator for the Silver City Arts and Cultural District, as well as doing other social media work for several local businesses.
Her Instagram portfolio showcases a superb mix of urban scenes filled with perspectives, symmetry, vibrant colour and gritty streets. The urban images Kitty shoots contrasts with the odd landscape scene all of which blend to convey a sense of space and isolation.
Kitty’s work has been featured in several galleries, in the Huffington Post and numerous VSCO blogs and Instagram community hubs.
I caught up with Kitty to find out more about her approach to the photos she takes and their composition, what inspires her and about her involvement with various Instagram community hubs.
How were you first introduced to iPhone photography?
When I first started my Instagram account in 2012, I had an android phone at the time. Instagram had only recently become available to android users and at that time most of the editing apps were iPhone only. After a month or so on Instagram I got my first iPhone, a 4s. Needless to say, I’ll never own another android phone.
What inspires you to take photos with your iPhone?
I’ve always used my phone for photography on Instagram. Originally everyone used their phones as cameras for Instagram. That was the whole premise, shoot whatever you were doing, the moment you’re doing it and upload it for your friends to see. Instagram has changed quite a bit in five years, but I still love my iPhone. It’s convenient for one, I always have it with me. I don’t have to spend time setting it up or adjusting the settings. Using a tripod or using an external lens might take a few minutes of setup, but not nearly as much time as a camera. I like the challenge of shooting with my phone and producing a beautiful, high quality image. Many people have questioned whether I use a camera or not. Why would I lie?
I love the iPhone 7 because it’s great for shooting in low light. I was recently in NYC and had a blast shooting at night. It’s leaps and bounds better than my 6 was.
Your photos have a strong focus on clever composition with leading lines, low angles and reflections. What is your approach to the framing and composition of your photography?
I’ve always loved perspective and odd angles. “Low grams” are my favorite because it’s almost like using a wide angle lens if you do it right. Plus, it gives a perspective not normally seen by the human eye. I love symmetry, too. It’s not always easy to get perfect symmetry on an iPhone because the camera is on the side of the phone, not in the center. It’s something I’ve struggled with, but practice makes perfect, again, I’m really pleased with some of my recent shots from NYC. The symmetry was perfect without using a tripod or spending a lot of time setting up my shots.
Reflections are my absolute favorite thing to shoot, ‘puddlegrams’. I think if I could only shoot one thing, it would be puddles. I love it when you almost can’t tell which half of a puddle shot is the reflection and which is “reality”. Those are fun to ‘flip’ upside down just to mess with the viewer. I also like when you get a little ripple in the water and it creates a sort of dreamy effect. I’ve been playing around with depth of field on my iPhone 7 and getting some cool, abstract effects.
What apps do you use and is there a process or methodology that you apply to your post production editing?
I use Snapseed, VSCO and After Light, almost exclusively. I use VSCO mostly for filters, and not for basic editing tools. For about 8 months I was editing my photos in a very specific way, using only one VSCO filter for every photo, but after a recent trip to NYC, I’ve been playing with more vivid colors and switching the edits up on almost every photo. I think you have to break out of your box occasionally to learn and grow. Trying something new changes the pathways in our brains. We begin to think in a new and different way. That’s almost always a good thing.
Do you use any iPhone lenses or other accessories in your iPhone photography work?
I don’t currently have any lenses for my iPhone 7, but I am researching them. I was wishing I had a good wide angle lens when I was in NYC. I’ll definitely make sure I have one on my next trip to any city.
I had a few different lenses for my iPhone 6, but honestly, I wasn’t happy with the quality of any of them. They all leaked light in a bit.
You are the founder of a few Instagram community pages, tell us about these groups and how the idea of them came about?
I started @Arkiromantix with a friend about 4 years ago. We discovered each other on Instagram through various hashtags and realized that we were shooting very similar photos of the same buildings. We started looking around Instagram and found that many others were doing the same so we started the feature hub to try to connect people through their architecture photography. That led to the creation of @Urbanromantix about 6 months later. We began hosting “instameets” in Denver and had a group of people we regularly went out shooting with. I met many people I would never have met any other way through those meets.
I was drawn to street photography and not strictly architecture so much. At that point, my partner took over Arki and I focused on Urban. Originally feature hubs on Instagram were about community and bringing people who liked the same sort of photography together, that was what it was all about for me. Through Arki and Urban I’ve been able to travel to other countries and meet people who shared the same passions.
@Natureromantix was created a couple of years ago, but I haven’t had much to do with it in well over a year. I love looking at other people’s nature photos, but it’s not where my own passions lie.
I recently moved to Silver City, NM and created the @IgersSilverCity profile shortly after. There aren’t a lot of what I would call “hard core” Instagrammers in Silver City, but I’m hoping that with change over time. We’ve only had one meet, but I’m planning one for the next World Wide InstaMeet in March.
You have quite a following on Instagram. How have you grown the account and do you have any advice to give others on this?
My current account, @this.kitty, was started about two and a half years ago. My original Instagram account was started about 5 years ago, but was deleted shortly after I created the new account for several reasons that aren’t very interesting.
In the summer of 2015, I was named one of Denver’s Top 20 Instagrammers by WestWord Magazine. That helped me to gain quite a number of followers very quickly. During that time I was very active in the Instagram community, hosting many local instameets as well as one in Chicago.
My feature hub, @Urbanromantix had gained some popularity, as well, and we were collaborating with several other feature hubs. This created a “trickle down” effect, if you will and increased my following. One morning I woke up and had nearly 500 new followers over night. It was very exciting.
Instagram has changed quite a bit since then. With the new algorithm it’s more difficult to have your photos seen and to gain followers. Like with anything, you just have to keep at it, post, comment, like, and repeat. Interaction is really the only way to get people to interact with you. Posting great photos is simply not enough on the new Instagram.
Do you have any incredible encounters or a story that really is part of your photographic journey that you would like to tell us?
Honestly, I have many, many great stories from the last five years. I’ve met so many amazing people and had the opportunity to travel to several foreign countries and US cities. Most recently I was in New York City and had the chance to meet several Instagram friends whom I’ve followed for years.
I was out one evening exploring the subways and Times Square with two friends, @lower.east.side_ and @alexphotolab.nj. We had such an adventure exploring and setting up shots. People looked at us like we must be crazy because we were laughing so hard and being so silly, but it was the most fun I’ve had in months and I was genuinely happy. That’s what Instagram is about to me – having fun, exploring, inspiring, learning, growing. It never stops and it never gets boring. There is always a new place to find and shoot, even if you’ve been there before.
What would be your top tips or words of wisdom to others who are wanting to improve their photography?
Never stop. Even if you’re just shooting the same thing you’ve shot 100 times before. There is always a new way to see something – new light, new lens, new weather, new people. There is always something new to learn. The more you shoot, the more you’ll grow. It doesn’t mater what your subject is. As they say – “practice makes perfect”. So keep at it.
Tell us about three of your favourite photos and the story behind them?
doze boots, doe
Last Spring, right before I moved to Silver City from Denver, we had a late snow and I went out shooting for what would be one of the last times in Denver. My friend, Michael, came along and I had such a great time shooting with him. I got some really great photos, but this is my favorite. It’s also one of my most liked photos ever.
winter is coming
This is shot is of my favorite alleyway in Denver. I’ve shot it countless times. This shot of a “busy stranger” in the snow is probably my all-time favorite photo. I snapped it very quickly as I jumped off the bus and was running for the train. I didn’t even notice until later that there was a figure in the alley.
This is a more recent favorite from my trip to NYC. I always look for puddles and was really happy to find a little trickle of a stream along the side of this tunnel. It didn’t look like it would offer much, but I am really pleased with how it turned out. It’s grimy and dark, yet colorful. The motion of the water gives a great ripple effect which, in this case, I prefer to a more clear, mirror image.