Alon Goldsmith is a mobile Photographer from Los Angeles. His work caught my eye following the publication of the image, Noa Lily which became the front cover image for issue 2 of the Mobiography digital magazine. He was later featured on Mobiography talking about the ‘Photo he is most proud of‘ and later in the ‘24 mobile photographers‘ series.
I love Alon’s photographic style which captures a real sense of urban street life from the skateboarders performing their tricks to the quirky characters on the streets of LA or seaside shots in the evening sun. The images he takes are a contrast between vibrant colours and harsh shadows.
Alon agreed to do an interview to share with us his thoughts, views and approach to his mobile photography.
Tell us about yourself and your introduction to mobile photography
I was born in South Africa quite some time ago. I lived in Jerusalem in the late seventies and early eighties. I studied there at the Hebrew University – English Literature of all things, and also owned and ran a record store with a few friends. Left Israel in 84 and spent a couple of years drifting around South Africa and Europe before landing in Los Angeles. I had no intention of staying but one thing led to another and suddenly I’ve been here for decades. Beautiful family, decent career, spectacular hobby.
Interestingly enough, a photographer friend pointed out the other day that all photography is mobile. Interesting huh? Anyway, not being a hair splitter, I became interested in iPhoneography when I bought my first iPhone back in 2008. I had just started commuting to work on my bicycle, and the easy access of the phone camera combined with a new perspective from my trusty steed stirred something in me. But it was only when Hipstamatic was unleashed, that I really started exploring this new way of seeing things.
Your work is full of colour, how would you describe your photographic style and how have your surroundings influenced it?
Color is certainly central to much of my work. Although I love shooting black and white as well. There’s something about saying a lot with a little that interests me. But getting back to color – I live near Venice Beach, and it’s color crazy in so many ways. The murals, the characters, the light. Venice sweats in color. The place throws up in color at every turn. And seeing as I ride, walk and shoot there three or four times a week, I’d have to be dead in my head and flat on my feet not to be influenced by it.
What have been your biggest influences in the development of your photography?
As I said before my bike and my iPhone are the keys that gave me entrance to the mysteries contained in frozen moments. There are other influences I can point to as well. Social media has been critical. It’s a powerful sounding board. Being able to get so much feedback so quickly is fertilizer for my creative process. And then there’s Hipstamatic and the other app magicians that facilitate the miracles. And of course, all the generous Interweb-roaming image makers that I have the pleasure of playing with on a daily basis. And then going further back, my older brother Leon, who has been a photographer since he was a kid, and my brilliant image wizard friends Dale Yudelman and Larry Hirshowitz.
What are your go to apps of choice and do you put much emphasis on post production processing?
Hipstamatic, Oggl and Snapseed are my go-to apps. I’ve dabbled with many others and I’ve had a really good time with them. Right now though, I’m going through a bit of a non-apping phase, which is not to say that I won’t come back to the whole post-production thing. Been meaning to give iColorama, ProCreate and Photoshop Touch a go. Maybe when I stop procrastinating.
What do you think are the key ingredients that make a good mobile photographer?
You have to have somewhat of an adventurous spirit. Curiosity is key. Also, willingness to stop when you see something interesting. And patience. There’s one spot on the bike path in Playa Del Ray where the planes fly over. I’ve spent hours waiting for a perfect alignment with this old wooden staircase. Still waiting. I’ve gotten close though.
Stealth is pretty important if you’re shy like me. Although I know that there’s a mine of material waiting to be explored when I become more comfortable engaging the interesting people I encounter on a daily basis. I’m getting better at it. When I crack that nut, I think I’ll move on to the next level.
What would be your top tips for others looking to develop their street photography skills?
Be intentional. Look for juxtapositions. Repeated patterns. Humor. Incongruencies. I think there’s too much random street photography out there. Without intention, a random passerby is usually just that.
If you’re looking for stealth tips, Richard Koci Hernandez has already written the book. His tricks are hilarious and effective. Worth looking up.
If you could spend the day with any photographer past or present who would it be and why?
I’ll go with Henry Grossman on one of those days he spent hanging out with and shooting the Beatles.
While we’re on the subject, check out this post from my blog about almost hanging out with one of mobile photography’s rock stars, Ben Lowy.
Could you choose a few of your favourite photos and tell us the story behind them?
I found this cool “Coming Soon” ad on a Santa Monica storefront that was being renovated. I positioned myself on a bench opposite the ad and waited for pedestrians to walk into frame. I knew something cool was about to happen. I could say I planned the whole thing, but who would believe me?
This is what happens when you get brave and actually ask someone if you can take their photo. I shot this jolly camper at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Dental hygiene is everything – even when you’re higher than a kite in the high desert.
The White Sneaker
I shot this in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. The older fellow at the bottom was studying this group of younger seminarians from a distance. I couldn’t see his face so I didn’t have any facial cues as to what he might have be thinking, but there certainly seemed to be something palpable going on. Perhaps just in the eye of the beholder.
The Shape of Things to Come
I was at the Culver City Art Show with a friend and his young ninja-clad son. We were chatting when I suddenly knew exactly what was going to happen. I dropped my phone to my hip and shot. Bam!