P1xels

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{interview} unruly-e, the thomas pynchon of iphonic art

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I am republishing this interview with Monsieur unruly-e, which appeared sometime last year. I also wish to publicly thank him for all his incisive comments and insights in helping me shape and define the Indiegogo campaign we are launching shortly for the taking of the P1xels website to the next level, as the club kids say.

Herewith, a reprint:

It was early this year that unruly-e submitted his first pictures to P1xels. His work caught my eye immediately: I loved the cubist/fragmented/deconstructed-reality aspect of him images. They were uniformly beautifully composed and then apped in strange and wondrous and absolutely appropriate ways. There was humor and wit to be found in images, and in his titles.

Every so often, he would send in a still-life, or landscape of such simplicity and striking beauty, graphic, bold and serene simultaneously, that I would have to pause, again, to consider the artist that could produce such disparate works. Mr. unruly-e embodies everything I love in an artist: intelligence, humor, range, and an amazing ability to take an image, break it apart, put it back together again in a manner totally his own, thereby bringing forth a new reality.

Plus, he has been very supportive and writes me great letters, funny, insightful usually telling me to be nice. Even after reading his interview, which I know you will enjoy as much as I did, he remains one of P1xels’ true enigmas.

We are happy to present the next in the series of artist interviews here on Pixels At An Exhibition. This month, unruly-e.

KB: unruly, please tell us a little about yourself – whatever you feel like sharing that isn’t covered in the questions below.
ue: Fun Fact: growing up, I was quite certain I was going to die somewhere in the wilds of Yosemite with my father’s large-format gear strapped to my back. Thirty years have passed, the large-format is long-gone, and I’m carrying my own full kit of gear in the pocket of my Carhartts. Huzzah for progress!
KB: How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
ue: I started on a jailbroken 2G back before the iPhone was officially available here (ATT didn’t conquer us as a territory until they bought the local GSM carrier in 2009, 14 months after the initial release). Today, if the planets are in the right alignment, we get one bar of signal, but as a rule, it’s “No Service” at our house, so the iPhone has never really been an actual phone for me. Much more like a Palm with a camera.
KB: How often do you work on your art?
ue: As often as possible. Sometimes it’s a moment or two while standing in line, others it’s a set-aside block of couch time (why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lay down…).
KB: How did you discover apps?
ue: Circulating in the community: looking at work (here, flickr, IG, IPA, etc), talking to other iPhers, cruising the big blogs (Marty and Edie and company), looking at things sent to me by up-and-comers, app digging (looking for new releases at the app store; cruising appdeals, appshopper, and the like).
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
ue: The notion of “serious” gives me the hives. I gave in to the need to create every day (or perhaps realized that I *could* with the studio with me all the time) in the spring of 2010.
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
ue: Stylistically, l like taking the ordinary and massaging something unexpected from it. That may be a function of living in the boonies and not having much for people or sexy or exotic. I’m of the school that the ascension to the status of a true artist is the ability to take anything from an environment and make it compelling.
I hear a lot of people say they shoot with a vision or work an image in a particular direction. That’s never worked for me; I’m always disappointed with the result. Perhaps it’s born of not wanting to be completely responsible for the end result, but I have to let the image have its say in a back-and-forth.
I like to think my work has matured from the heavy-handed apping of back-in-the-day (when Camera+ and PictureShow were all there was) to a more learned, gentle approach.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
ue: I have to touch things to understand them, and out of that has grown a strong affinity for anything in 3D. I just wrapped up a 10-ish year stint doing technical theatre, which is the ultimate sculpture experience – carpentry, painting, electrics, light, sound, invention, glue guns, welding, cardboard, fake snow; it’s all there.
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphoneographic artists?
ue: Yes. I believe it is an integral part of forming a strong community (*starts looking around for soapbox*).
KB: Do you study other art forms?
ue: “Study” gives me the hives too. Good, long, thoughtful looks, however, are always well worth the time.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
ue: Like a number of iPhers of my generation, I started out in the world of film and darkrooms. I’ve since sold all of my Big Glass, have an occasional twinge of remorse (usually when trying to shoot wildlife), but am overall thrilled to give up the bags and backpacks and wheelie carts.
KB: Where do you stand on the “Is iPhoneography photography or a whole new medium” debate?
ue: That’s a bit like saying, “when was the last time you beat your wife?” To each artist is his or her own to decide (or not, for that matter) if they feel they need to compartmentalize.
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
ue: Every piece I have ever laid eyes on has influenced me in some way – overtly, subconsciously, whatever. Drek has just as much (or perhaps more) to teach as Beauty.
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as Marty Yawnick calls it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
ue: Conveniently enough, I’m working on a set of blog posts on that right now. There are 14 that I use with regularity:
My capture apps are Camera+, Lomora2, and Hipstamatic.

  • Primary processing apps are filterstorm, photofx, and iris (although less and less iris these days).
  • My mixing apps are Pro HDR, autostitch, and Juxtaposer.
  • Light effects are lensflare and lenslight. A delicate application of one of these algos – at say 10% – can give an unexpected luminescence to an image.
  • I use MagicHour and Pixlr to bring in a package of colour changes.
  • Photocopier – usually set much more moderately than the app pre-sets – makes a great finishing tool to blend things that otherwise look disparate.

KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
ue: I’m a throwback to the photo school in that I believe my work should be printable and “hangonthewallable” (which conveniently has also translated on several occasions to “saleable”). To that end, I want to work in as full a res as possible and apps that don’t support full res don’t stay long on my phone.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
ue: Less artifacting as images pass between multiple apps in pp. Filterstorm is at the top of my annoyance list and – if the artist has been lazy or doesn’t care – you can usually pick out an image that’s passed through FS by the artifacting fingerprint it leaves. Lomora is another culprit, albeit in a different way, with nasty banding in lightly-coloured, uniform areas. Don’t misunderstand, these are both terrific apps and my annoyances come as a function of using them with great frequency, but since Tiffen’s app has neither issue, I have great hope that it’s dev-correctable.
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
ue: I’m a big fan of destructo apps – decim8, 3Dphoto, fracture – to take my viewer to a whole new place. We saw a burst of those awhile back but they seem to have fallen out of popularity and therefore development.
KB: When you feel you have reached a creative stalemate, and believe your work is not cutting it anymore, do you have any tricks for breueing out of artist’s block?
ue: Depending on how balled up I am, I do one (or more) of three things:

  • Talk to other iPhers.
  • Leave iPh and start to work in another medium.
  • Walk away from unruly-e, let go of all the notions around it, and work from a different frame. Maybe this comes from too much time in theatre, but it can be an effective tool to set your usual self aside. Today’s Daily Pic from The Steerage is, handily enough, from the loosened hands of ‘Ruly.

KB: What features would you like to see implemented at the Pixels website?
ue: I would have to agree with Jen on the print selling and Benamon on a controllable gallery.
KB: A last word perhaps?
ue: Thought you’d never ask. (*pulls out soapbox*) A Strong iPhoneography (or mobile or whatever) Community is Important for the Art.
We have the great good fortune of being on the front end of something new. Along with that glee comes the responsibility to help build the strongest iPhoneography community we can. You see, a strong community of artists builds a strong product, which in turn generates interest not only in that immediate product but also attracts new participants. Those new participants go on to become not only contributing members the community with a strong appreciation for the work of others but also – for you commercially-minded artists out there – are much more inclined to purchase iPhoneography.
We build a strong community through participation – commenting on the work of others (at several times the rate at which we post) – as well as through education. Taking a long, thoughtful look at the pieces produced by fellow members helps not only the artist who created the work (by giving them a fresh POV), but also the intelligent artist who is commenting on the work by forcing them to stop, look, react, think, disassemble, and generally inform their own artistic processes.
(*steps off soapbox*)
KB: Thank you, unruly-e.

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One Comment

  1. Ah, Knox, you are much too kind and I appreciate the reprint.

    You’ve got a fabulous direction for the site, both technically and mission-wise. I think the banner of “iphonic art” – as you’ve so strongly defined in the indiegogo campaign – will rally many artists who have been looking for a home that serves both their breadth and depth of exploration. Here’s to a successful fundraiser and many more years of history-making!

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