Todd Leban is a much acclaimed mobile photographer and an active member of the iPhone photography community. By day he makes his living teaching in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois but outside of this he is a member of the AMPt Leadership Team and a contributing artist and member of GRRYO.com, formerly We Are Juxt.
Todd’s work has been featured across many of the major iPhoneography websites including Art of Mob, INK361.com, Mobile Artistry, and as being an Instagram & EyeEm suggested user.
As well as his online success, Todd’s work has been featured in several exhibitions around the world including both the AMPt & JUXT (now grryo) “JOINT” show at LA Tentacion in Tijuana, and in the Mobile Masters PROOF show at the Empty Spaces Project in Putnam, CT. Todd also received a 2014 Mobile Photography Awards honorable mention in the still life category, had three finalist images in the GoPix Awards 2014, and was recently selected as a featured artist in the second edition of the Mobile Masters e-book.
A lot of Todd’s portfolio and style of photography is focused on documenting still life’s, small objects and antiques. His photographs have a distinct tonal quality and look to them which brings out the rustic feel of the objects and helps to convey the story that lies behind them.
I wanted to catch up with Todd to find out more about his work and approach to this unique style of iPhone photography.
How were you first introduced to iphone photography?
I’ve always liked to create imagery, and I was collecting apps heavily when I purchased my first iPhone. In fact, I still scour the photo/video section of the app store to see what’s new. And that’s basically where it all started. I began my mobile journey by playing around with effects, over-editing, and exploring montage and image blending.
I remember hesitating to start using Instagram as I had no real vision for how I wanted to use it. Eventually I threw caution to the wind, and started posting the typical dog pics and over processed shots of mundane things. Looking back, this was a great learning period for me and was essential to my growth as an artist. After while, as I followed more and more people, I began to learn about using hashtags and eventually stumbled upon @AMPt. That’s when I began to take things more seriously, and really focused on improving my skills and trying to find a voice.
How would you describe your style?
I’d like to answer that in two parts. In terms of shooting style, I’m pretty methodical. I look long and hard to find interesting objects and backgrounds. When I have found what I’m looking for, I grab my phone and start playing around with composition. It’s not uncommon for me to load up my camera roll with several shots of many different arrangements.
In terms of image style, I refer to what I create as “object portraits”. The graphic design, the colors, and the scratches all play a part in the character of each piece. They all just sit there while I put a camera in their face. They’re the best subjects.
What apps do you use and is there a process or methodology that you apply to your post production editing?
I like options, so I have more apps right now than I’ll ever have time to use in their entirety. I’ve been working on a master list for mobile photographers that I hope to be sharing in the near future. I generally shoot with ProCamera7 and then give each image some quick adjustments in Snapseed. From time to time I run an image through Muller Photo, PhotoForge2, or Pixlr Express. For montage I prefer Union or Superimpose. And I usually keep an eye on pixel size with Actual Pixels.
What is it about the small objects and antiques in your ‘object portraits’ that inspires you?
I’m fascinated with objects and their role in our lives. My vision is to enhance their wear and tear and develop a short visual story about them. I’m somewhat of a collector, and a lot of the objects I first started to shoot were my own, or were collected from family members. I prefer to create my images uninterrupted and in isolation. Objects afford me that comfort.
You are a member of several mobile photography communities such as Grryo and AMPt. How has being a part of such groups helped and inspired you in your photographic development?
The opportunity to connect and learn from so many talented photographers/artists in these communities was paramount in my evolution as a mobile photographer. I would be nowhere without it. You can learn a lot by simply viewing images day in, day out. Whether it’s discovering a technique you didn’t know about, or using a critical eye to analyze how you might approach something differently, it all serves to inform your own work. The members of these groups respect and support one another in a way that I’ve never seen before. This does wonders for the genre and the artists propelling it forward.
Are there any photographers that have been a big influence or inspiration to you?
I can’t help but continue to reference Markus Rivera @earlybirdninja for being an early inspiration. His work pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the mobile genre and it pushed me to want to improve.
What would be your top tips or words of wisdom for aspiring mobile photographers or artists?
Think big, start small.
Finally, tell us about a few of your favourite photos and the story behind them?
One of my all-time favorites is the photo entitled, if found, please return to… It marked a turning point for me in regards to complex editing and layering where the final outcome appeared more natural than previous ones I had attempted. I finally reached a point where I had enough app knowledge to select the ones that would help me achieve what I saw in my head.
And although I know that many have seen these next two images before, they still remain as those I’m most proud of. Their titles are musing, and i’m a loner dottie, a rebel respectively. In these photos, the objects have personal meaning and everything seemed to just fall into place. I arrived at a composition quickly, and had a clear vision that drove a fairly quick and seamless edit. Similar to the image above, they mark a cornerstone in the journey to find my personal voice as an artist and mobile photographer.
Connect with Todd Leban