As well as being a mother of two boys from Yorkshire, UK, Elaine Taylor is an enthusiastic amateur iphone photographer. Her unique style of iPhone photos of children all convey a sense of fun and vibrant colour. Elaine’s widely recognised in the iPhone photography community and is on the leadership team of the AMPt Community and is the UK’s editor at large for Shooter Magazine.
I wanted to find out more about Elaine and her approach to the iPhone photos of children that she so skillfully takes.
Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your background and achievements in the iPhone photography space.
I graduated with a fine art degree quite a few years ago then stumbled straight into University administration while I decided what to do with my life. Turns out I was quite good at it and I ended up working long hours as a senior manager in that field for over 20 years. A few years ago I reconsidered my priorities and left work to spend more time with my family. My boys keep me very busy and I do quite a bit of voluntary work, but I manage to find time to throw myself into the world of mobile photography. That allows me to tap into a creative side that might otherwise have been locked away.
I’m on the leadership team of AMPt Community, I’m an editor for Shooter Magazine, I’m an ambassador for ink361.com , and I am a moderator for a number of Instagram groups. I’m not quite sure how I found myself in those positions, but I feel honoured and incredibly lucky to have done so.
My work has been published in Shooter Magazine and included in exhibitions in Mexico (AMPt/Juxt), Portugal (Shootermag) and Canada (MPA Pocket Vistas). I have sold some of my floral images at some of those exhibitions, which is such a treat. I received 3 honourable mentions from the iPhone Photography Awards last year. I’ve also had the honour of being featured/interviewed by a number of mobile photography communities such as the The App Whisperer, iPhoneography Central, GRRYO and the iPhone Photography School.
How were you first introduced to iPhone photography?
I’ve always loved taking photos of the people in my life and the moments we shared. I have a ridiculous number of snaps from my student and pre-children days, but I don’t have many photos of my childhood. I wish I did. So when my children came along I started taking more photos, and began recording their childhood. That was made easier when I got an iPhone3S a few years go. A whole new world of photography was opened up to me in an instant. A friend introduced me to Hipstamatic, and soon after that I found Instagram. I was very unsure of Instagram initially, but after a few months exploring I was hooked!
Discovering @AMPt a couple of years ago was a huge turning point for me; it gave me confidence to throw myself further into creating and sharing my iPhone images.
What inspires you to take photos with your iPhone?
My iPhone makes it easy to capture my children ‘in the moment’; it’s always to hand, not intrusive and I can grab it, take a shot (and even edit and share the image) quickly and usually without my boys even noticing (most of the time!).
My images are primarily of, and for, my boys. They are my biggest inspiration. I’m also hugely inspired by so many mobile photographers that I’ve come into contact with. It never ceases to amaze me what can be created with a mobile device.
How would you describe your style and approach to your photography?
My approach is driven by a desire to capture the real essence of my boys and their childhood. I shoot as candidly as possible and avoid staging images or asking my boys to smile (although I have been guilty of shameless bribery if I think a shot is too good to miss). Staging their childhood would feel like removing an important element, and their false smiles are not that convincing (as can be evidenced by their annual school photos, which I never buy). It’s tempting to be constantly taking photos rather than simply enjoying my children doing what they do; I hope I get the balance right.
I’m not sure if I have a distinctive style in terms of how my images look. Maybe others would say I do. In the main I create candid and colourful images, although last year I
started to broaden my subject matter and experiment with floral images, some street photography and a few more black and white edits. I hope to do more of that this year.
What apps do you use and is there a general pattern to your post production process that you follow to create your photos?
I have a lot of apps on my phone. A lot! If an app is recommended by someone I really admire, then I’m trying it at least once, but in most cases I do follow a pattern and stick with the apps I love best, which is this: I shoot a few shots in Hipstamatic or ProCamera; I take the image I prefer into Snapseed to make basic adjustments to elements such as contrast, ambiance, saturation, crop etc. Sometimes I stop there; sometimes I move into apps such as Stackables, Tangent and Union to blend images, add layers, shapes and textures. I go through phases: towards the end of last year my images mainly involved experimenting with painterly layers and textures. More recently I have been stripping back and keeping editing to a minimum.
You are part of the AMPt Community Leadership team as well as being the UK editor at large for Shootermag. What does it mean to be part of such communities and how have they helped to develop and inspire your own photography?
Oh massively! I have the pleasure of ‘working’ with some incredibly talented, supportive, passionate and dedicated people through a number of groups. My involvement gives me the opportunity to discover and feature a vast range of amazing artists and their work. Every day I learn and I am inspired by the people I connect with and the images I see.
You are known for your portraits of your children. What are the key ingredients that make a superb portrait?
I am far from being an expert and I only really take photos of my own children, so my experience is somewhat limited. But, for me, the best portraits are candid, they are real, they invoke some kind of emotion, they give an insight into the subject’s mood and character. I am in awe of people who achieve that with their photos of strangers. I might not always manage to capture those things, but I start from a good place when I’m taking photos of my children simply because I know them. I can anticipate how they might react to a situation and I can grab my phone and shoot relatively quickly if I am feeling the shot is there.
Can you tell us the story behind your three favourite photos?
Charlie and the Round Window
This is my eldest son, Charlie. He can be a bit of a thinker and a dreamer. I think this image is a good reflection of that part of his personality. It was taken in the children’s art space of our city art gallery. One minute he was sat at a table creating a masterpiece, and the next he was looking out of that window. He stayed there for quite a while, still and staring, despite the fact the view outside appeared pretty dull to me. I could not have wished for him to place himself better. I love the simple composition, the colour, the curves in the fabric and the waves in his hair. Charlie has told me many times that this is one of his favourite images too. That makes me very happy. I’m proud to say that this image received an honourable mention in last year’s iPhone Photography Awards.
Billy, Charlie and the Angel of the North
I thought for quite a while before choosing this image, because it’s been featured a few times recently, including here at Mobiography (as the 2014 image I was most proud of). But it’s probably my favourite image so far, perhaps for emotional reasons, so I felt I had to include it.
This image is of my sons and The Angel of the North; a steel sculpture created by Anthony Gormley, located in Gateshead, in the North East of England. This is where I call home, despite living in Yorkshire for almost 28 years. My trips home were mostly to visit my sick parents, so were often difficult and emotional. I feel like The Angel welcomes me home with open wings, offering me a comforting hug, every time I go back. This is a very special image to me: it reminds me of home; it connects me to my parents; it brings my children and my childhood together.
This is my youngest son, Billy. He’s a funny, lively, happy-go-lucky boy. He’s also a feisty boy who knows what he wants. He’s not keen on the word “no”. He’ll always try to find a “yes” and he quite often succeeds. Not this time. We’d spent quite a few hours playing around the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey in Yorkshire but it was time to go home. He really didn’t want to and refused to move for a while. I couldn’t resist capturing that cute moody face (and his crazy hair). I love colour and rarely produce black and white images, but I felt the mood of this one would be enhanced by it, especially given the backdrop of the old ruins.