Geri Centonze is a well known and popular mobile photographer with a unique artistic, painterly style to her work. She has been showcased on many leading mobile photography websites and in exhibitions around the world. As well as helping to run the family business, Geri also runs the website Art of Mob (formerly iArtChronicles). I was keen to catch up with Geri to find out more about her work and the approach she takes when producing such eye catching works of mobile photographic art.
Hi Geri, could you begin by telling us a bit about yourself and your work?
I’m 58 years old and I live in Southern California. My life’s journey has included living 21 years in the Cayman Islands where my two sons were born and raised. After a divorce and relocation, I’m back in Southern California with my husband Paul. We have four children and three grandchildren between us. We’re empty nesters but very busy with our family business and are lucky enough to work out of our home.
I experimented a bit with film photography back in the 70’s and digital photography with a DSLR a few years ago, but never really studied it in depth. In 2008, I started sketching original collectible “sketch cards” and sold them on eBay. The main subject was Sci-Fi characters. I even got a few gigs doing official card sets. This was a successful venture as I sold over 1300 originals to collectors worldwide.
In 2012, I saw the work of Karen Messick online. Karen does painterly edits with her iPhone. This was totally new to me. Shortly after that I attended the L.A. Mobile Arts Festival in Santa Monica and that opened up a whole new world. I put down my Copic markers and haven’t looked back!
It’s been a great first year! I created a blog devoted to the subject, Art of Mob (formerly iART CHRONiCLES). I had a brief stint as a blogger for wearejuxt.com but relinquished my spot due to time constraints. I now occasionally write for iphonelife.com. My work has been exhibited at the D-ive Festival in Barcelona in April 2012 – I was one of ten winners in the portrait category. I also was part of the JOINT Exhibition in Tijuana, Mexico on June 8, 2013. Several pieces have been featured at New Era Museum in various categories. I was also pleased to be named Artist of the day twice at iphoneart.com. Joanne at The App Whisperer conducted Day in the Life and Extension of the Eye interviews with me in 2012 and I was recently featured on the iPhone Photography School website with an interview. In September of this year I found out that one of my images, The Recital, made it to the short list for the IPA Quarterly Exhibit.
How did you first discover mobile photography?
As I mentioned, my first exposure to mobile photography was when I discovered Karen Messick’s website. Her painterly style caught my eye and when I found her website I spent several hours reading every post. Karen generously shares the apps she uses, so it was very useful in helping me to learn.
How would you describe your style and how did this style develop?
As a person who always liked to draw faces, I gravitated toward shooting and editing images of people. My main style would be described as painterly achieved by a combination of various layers created and combined using different apps. I achieve a great deal of satisfaction from this process as I am able to manipulate images on my iPad the way I always strived to paint them with real brushes and paints. Although this is my favorite style, I love experimenting with street photography, landscapes, HDR and even fantasy edits.
Do you have a background in the creative arts and have there been any other photographers or artists that have influenced your work?
I’ve always loved creating, whether it was pencil sketches when I was a teenager, scrapbooking when I was a young mom or drawing sketch cards just a few years ago. I’m happiest when I create. I find I am more influenced by living artists creating on their iPhones than by the masters. I don’t necessarily imitate them but seeing what they have achieved in their particular styles, however different from mine, encourage me to keep striving. Artists that come to mind immediately are Sarah Jarrett, Dilshad Corleone, Koci, Nico Brons and Patrick St. Hilaire. I’m also drawn to the work of traditional artists Roz Hall, Lisa G. and Michael Shapcott who work with paint and canvas.
Describe the process you follow when producing your work?
I don’t get a lot of opportunity to shoot images since we run our business out of our home. I try to grab the random shot whenever I am out doing errands. After finding a suitable image I usually begin by cropping in Snapseed and making general adjustments. Then I will run the image through a variety of painterly apps including, PhotoViva, Glaze, Repix, Tangled FX, ubrush and combine various parts of each layer using Sketch Club. Sketch Club is mainly a painting app but I grew comfortable with it when I was experimenting with digital painting and tend to use it as my go-to app for combining layers. Once I have the image combined the way I like, I will often add more texture and effects using Mextures, VSCO Cam, Distressed FX or a number of other apps.
Where do you get your inspiration from and what subjects fascinate you?
Faces fascinate me! Usually the inspiration comes spontaneously when I see someone I just “have” to photograph. I’m not sure what happens, but I feel compelled to capture a person or particular scene. This also happens when viewing Instagram. I often see images that I would love to edit and have requested permission to edit and post their photographs. Everyone I have asked has been more than happy to oblige and I’ve formed some wonderful friendships this way.
You run the popular blog iArtChronicles which has now been moved to Art of Mob, what was the driving force behind setting up iArtChronicles and what was your aim with the website?
The driving force behind iART CHRONiCLES was basically to “chronicle” my iPhone photography journey. I thought it would be nice to have an online representation of the evolution of my work, mainly for personal use and perhaps one day something my children and grandchildren could look at and hopefully appreciate. But over the course of the first year, I quickly moved from focusing on myself to including the community at large.
Why did you decide to change the name and move the blog?
By the end of the first year, iART CHRONiCLES evolved into a site that mainly included artist interviews, app reviews and giveaways, featured mobile photographic works and tutorials. I also began curating a Flipboard Magazine about mobile photography and called it Art of Mob (short for “mobile). I liked the name so well that I decided to change the name of my website to Art of Mob. Not being as tech-savvy as I would like, I didn’t know how to keep the content and just change the name and url, so I moved everything to the new site.
Running a popular website can be hard work and very time consuming (I can vouch for that), only recently Glyn Evans of iPhoneography.com announced that his website will be coming to an end. What has been your biggest challenge in running your website?
I certainly wish Glyn Evans all the best – his site has also been an influence and fabulous resource for me. My biggest challenge has been finding the time to get everything done that I want to do. As mentioned earlier I work in our family business, have the normal day to day chores that we all have (cooking, grocery shopping, laundry) and in addition I help my Mom who now lives in an assisted living facility a few miles from our home. If I could find a way to not sleep and still function that would probably help!
What would be your top tips and advice to anyone wanting to develop their mobile photography?
Take some time to learn the basics of composition and light. Look at images that you find appealing and study what it is you like about those images. For someone seeking to develop a painterly style, my biggest tip would be to experiment. Set aside a few hours and pick a particular app to play with. Find out what it can do and learn how to use it. If you don’t like the interface or the results, delete it and move on to something else. Also, if you see someone’s work that you admire, ask them how they achieved their results. Most people are willing to share. Visit all of the great mobile photography sites out there (like Mobiography). There is a tremendous amount of information you can glean for free!
Finally could you select a few of your favourite images and tell us the story behind them?
Portrait of a Young Man in Black and White.
One of my favorite things to do is photograph random people while I’m on my daily errands. While getting my hair cut, I spotted this young man also in the salon, talking with his girlfriend. I snapped the image of him and then used Repix, Snapseed, iColorama, FaceTune, Sketch Club and Super Noir Cam to edit. It went from a random shot to looking a bit like a posed portrait.
I chose this because of what it represents for me. My sister and I were at the park where I was shooting some images of her for her blog. After the shoot, I told her I was going to stay on to see what I could photograph and she looked around and said, “there’s nothing here”. I guess I see with different eyes. When I spotted this leaf and a sawed off tree stump I put the two together for this image that I call “Fallen”. Once I started to photograph the world around me, I began to see beauty everywhere. Edited with Snapseed, Bracket Mode, True HDR, Filterstorm, Tangled FX, Scratch Cam, Pic Grunger and Sketch Club.
This is another image where I took a rather mundane photo and turned it into something worth salvaging. As I walked into a local market, I spotted a girl standing with her hands clasped. She was actually wearing a white top and white shorts. Through the use of apps, I changed the background to a heavily textured solid brown and turned her shorts into a tea length gown. I blurred out the features of her face to give it a more painterly look and added a ray of light coming down from above as if she were on a stage. I titled it, The Recital. Edited with: Sketch Club, Repix, Snapseed, Lens Flare HD