For the next installment in the ‘Talking iPhoneography’ series I caught up with JQ Gaines who is a co-columnist on theappwhisperer.com website, an active member in the Flickr community and has had her unique style of photography featured on publications, blogs and exhibitions throughout the world. I wanted to find out more about her, her work and outlook on iphone photography.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My art background is rooted in printmaking and textiles. I studied painting and printmaking at Pratt Institute and then went on to own and manage a Bookbinding studio in NYC for nearly 2 decades. I designed and created one-of-a-kind-books and taught traditional bobbin lacemaking.
When my husband and I had our first child, I put all my tools and materials in storage, thinking that I would go back to my work when our children got a little older. However, my kids and husband presented me with an iPhone and iPad about 3 years ago insisting that I needed to “get with the times.” Well, my bookbinding/lacemaking tools never made it out of storage, they’re now collecting dust while I converted my art studio over to the iPhone/iPad.
We live about 5 minutes outside of Princeton, NJ which is a really wonderful international, artistic and academic community.
Some of the projects and exhibitions I’ve been included in:
- The App Whisperer — I am a co-columnist with Catherine Restivo on “Parallel Perspectives” and I am also a co-columnist with Maddy McCoy on “Streets Ahead.”
- I am a contributing artist in “The Art of iPhone Photography” (published by Rocky Nook, edited by Nicki Fitzgerald/Bob Weil), which will be available on Amazon in August 2013.
- I’ve had work shared on many of the mobile photography blogs and have had images exhibited at:
- Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival (California)
- Kiernan Gallery (Virginia)
- The Lunch Box (Florida)
- SoHo Gallery for Digital Art (NYC)
- Overpass Gallery (Italy)
- Format Festival, Chocolate Factory (Derby, UK)
How were you first introduced to iphone photography?
I was introduced to iPhonoegraphy completely by accident. And to be honest, I never seriously took a photograph until about 3 years ago. My iPhone was originally dedicated to educational apps and my iPad was used for digital drawing and painting. I’ll never forget the day I discovered photo processing apps, I was casually browsing iTunes to see if there were any new drawing apps, and I stumbled upon Photo Studio so I downloaded it started processing a drawing that I had done. I was so amazed and intrigued by the variety of textures that I could achieve with one image and immediately fell in love with the possibilities. It never occurred to me to employ photography with this technique until months later I was doing some research online and stumbled upon lots of different Flickr groups that were dedicated to iPhoneography. And that’s how it all started for me.
What subjects fascinate you and how would you describe your style?
I am visually interested in pretty much anything and everything. But my real passion is in portraits and street photography. Because I come from a painting and printmaking background, I am extremely drawn by the possibilities of merging photography with painting and drawing all while maintaining the original integrity of the photograph. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to take a street shot and then artistically work with it, adding marks and textures which lends a subtle painterly feel.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from my studies of vedantic spiritual teachings. I believe that there is a divine energy that exists in everything (including living beings and inanimate objects). And in my work, I try to “see” that energy, so that I can capture the true essence of all subjects. Am I always able to accomplish this? Nope. I am forever learning and making mistakes. But I hope, over time, and through study, practice and hard work, that I can get closer and closer to capturing it.
I find it incredibly hard to identify the specific artists who have influenced my work (because there are so many that I admire). But I would not be the person I am today, had I not been exposed to Robert Motherwell, Paul Klee, Robert Henri, and Rufino Tamayo.
What apps do you use and which are your favourites?
I am pleased to share that my Art Bin has dwindled over the past year. When I was first exploring photo processing, I would pull out lots of different apps to use in one image.
However, now I’m in a place where I use as few as I possibly can. In fact, I’d love to ultimately narrow the number of apps that I own to only 4 or 5. But for now, the ones that I use regularly are: ProCreate, SketchBook, PhotoCopier, iColorama, Hipstamatic, KitCam, Snapseed and Touch/Retouch.
What would be your top tips for aspiring mobile photographers or artists?
My first and foremost tip for mobile photographers or artists of any genre is: Don’t be afraid to explore and experiment no matter what the popular trend may be at the moment. Create for yourself and don’t get caught up in how many “likes” or “followers” you have (or can acquire) in the social networking platforms. Instead, consider these environments as an art school. We are so lucky to be able to constantly engage in artistic dialogue with others as well as learn from each other. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t marvel at how much is possible with these portable art studios and the internet. And last, but not least (and the mantra that my kids complain most about is): Don’t forget the importance of humility. I think humility is the most significant value in all threads of life and is of the utmost value in the creative world.
As artists, we might have captured or created the most beautiful image but if we really analyze how a work came into existence, we will see that many components were involved. And most often, the artist was only but a tool or instrument in the process.
Could you tell us the story behind a few of your favourite photographs?
Sikh Parade (02)
This series of images really came about by accident. I had gone in to NYC to visit some friends and as we were leaving the Coffee House we noticed a lot of activity going on down the street, with the police putting up some barricades. So, we rushed down there to see what was happening and landed at the strategic ending point of the Annual Sikh Parade. And we were extremely lucky to have our mobile devices fully charged because we must’ve spent over an hour shooting non-stop. Everyone was very gracious and kind to us not minding at all that we were aiming and photographing everything in sight. It really was a memorable day.
Window Shopping (11)
This is from a series of 2012 Bergdorf Goodman Window Displays. I love the challenge of taking pictures that have a lot of city life reflections in them. I then import with these images into a paint program (ProCreate), to integrate the reflections into the photograph, as well using different brushes to clean up and fine tune all of the lines, tones, etc. This is, by far, my favorite kind of work.
Asking for Forgiveness
This photograph was taken at our Ashram in NJ. There was a special event going on that day so a lot of women were in the main house preparing food for everyone. And just as I was looking out the window, a little girl had run across the field to this tree and was talking and dancing with the flowers. It completely melted my heart. There is a prayer that Hindu children learn and recite at a young age. First thing in the morning, before they get out of bed they will ask Mother Earth to forgive them for putting their feet upon her. It is a very beautiful and universal prayer and this little girl reminded me of it.
Man and Woman (06)
I am fascinated in capturing different NYC street shots that involve a man and a woman. I was actually late, I mean, REALLY late in meeting up with someone. So I was frantically walking through the East Village, trying to navigate myself through pockets of people on the street. And just as I turned the corner, I nearly ran into this couple that was standing in front of a Hardware Store reading some advertisements. Well, I instantly pulled my camera out and took this shot. And once I saw this shot on my Camera Roll, I happily skipped to meet my friend.
How do you see iPhone photography developing over the next few years?
I think we’re going to see some very exciting and dynamic work coming from the youth especially from those who are in art school. Exactly how these kids will develop and integrate this this technology with their art, I can’t say. But I am certain that this is the group we will be blown away by. And I’m so looking forward to seeing what emerges.