Cindy Patrick is this month’s featured artist here at Pixels. Cindy is a professional photographer who intuitively grasped the new potential of the the iPhone as its own medium.
Her style is immediately identifiable: warm, bold, vibrant, full of life, intelligence and humor, whether she is shooting a street musician in the heart of the city, a placid and meditative beach scene, or her unique surrealistic explorations. Or animals. Or anything, really.
I think you will enjoy this interview immensely. It is clear that Cindy’s work reflects who she is in a most wonderful way.
And with no further adieu, we present the lovely Cindy Patrick, in her own words.
KB: Please tell us a little about yourself – where you live, if you hail from Earth, anything like that. Whatever you feel like sharing that isn’t covered in the questions below.
CP: I’m a 52-year-old professional photographer living in New Jersey, which is where I was born and raised. I grew up in a pretty typical, middle-class household in the sixties. My Dad worked for an insurance company in Philadelphia and my Mom was a homemaker. No one in my family was particularly creative or practiced any of the traditional visual arts, so I’m not quite sure where my creative genes come from.
But I was always drawing or painting or writing stories, so it was pretty clear early on that I would become an artist or a writer. I attended college in the late seventies/early eighties and studied fine art. I had dreams of becoming a cartoonist or animator and working for Disney because I loved to draw cartoons. All that changed the day I discovered photography. The magic of the darkroom was irresistible, and I spent most of my four years roaming the streets of New York City with my first 35mm camera — a Minolta — loaded with Tri-X film pretending to be Henri Cartier-Bresson.
The pictures I took caught the attention of a couple of my professors, and I ended up in a few group shows on and around campus, which was pretty exciting and gave me tons of encouragement. After graduation, with limited access to a darkroom and the need to earn a living, I put my fine art photography ambitions aside and went to work as a graphic designer. During that time, however, I was always looking and thinking about photography and taking a night class here and there so I could have darkroom access (don’t forget, this was before the invention of digital cameras!).
A turning point came one day when I walked into a gallery in Provincetown, MA and fell in love with the pictures hanging on the walls, which looked like tiny paintings but were actually photographs. I learned that they were Polaroid image transfers, and I went home and began learning all I could about Polaroid materials. This reawakened my love of photography, only this time, I didn’t need a darkroom at all. Image and emulsion transfers and SX-70 manipulations are done in daylight, and I was in heaven.
I found myself going out on the street again, shooting pictures of people and places and translating them into my photo-paintings. I had a couple of gallery shows, but for the most part I simply pursued it as a hobby, sharing my work with family and friends. There was no Pixels. IPA, Instagram or Flickr in those days, so sharing my work with the public was very difficult. When Polaroid stopped making many of the films I used, my art making was once again put on hold. In early 2004, at the prompting of a dear friend, I started my own wedding photography business which is what I still do today. In many ways, that filled the creative void in my life, but I still found myself looking for personal photography projects. Then, in 2009, I discovered the iPhone.
When I look back, it seems as if everything I’ve ever wanted or aspired to become has been made possible by this palm-sized device and the amazing communities that have sprung up around it. I can honestly say that this is the most creatively-fulfilling time of my life.
This featured artist interview brought to you by SCRATCHcam!
KB: How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
CP: I bought my first iPhone — the 3G — in 2009, and I honestly didn’t think of using it as a camera at first. Discovering Chase Jarvis’ book “The Best Camera is the One That’s With You” was a major turning point for me. I suddenly began to look at the world around me differently and began snapping pictures like crazy with my iPhone just to see what things would look like. Now 100% of my personal work is created using my iPhone.
KB: How often do you work on your art?
CP: I work on my art every day. I don’t necessarily shoot every day, but I definitely work on an image or images daily. I tend to work and re-work an image, trying a variety of different apps and combinations of apps, until I feel it is finished. I’m one of those artists who has 10 or 20 or more versions of a single piece on my iPhone or iPad. I almost always use multiple apps — sometimes 6 or more — to create a final image. I’m definitely an app maniac!
KB: How did you discover apps?
CP: My entire life changed the day I discovered Hipstamatic. I know that’s not a favorite app of yours, Knox, but from what I’ve read in interviews with other iPhoneographers, Hipstamatic seems to have been a first app for a lot of us! My “aha!” moment was when I snapped a Hipsta picture of some waiting room chairs in a doctor’s office while waiting for a friend to get a cast put on a broken arm. It was magic. Everything changed for me in that moment. From there, I just went crazy! At present, I must own nearly 200 apps. I may only use only a handful at any given time, but I’m always experimenting and combining lots of different apps to create different effects. I discover new apps all the time just by looking at the work of other artists. [Editor's note: Indeed, Marty Yawnick of Life In LoFi calls Hipstamatic the "gateway app." I must concur.]
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
CP: The first iPhone artist I discovered was Jorge Colombo. I stumbled upon his work for the New Yorker magazine, and I was blown away by the fact that he was creating these amazing works of art — these “finger paintings” — with an iPhone. I did a Google search — I think I typed in “iPhone Art” — and naturally came upon IPA (iPhoneArt.com.) I stalked the site for a couple of months until I eventually worked up the courage to post something in December of 2010.
One of the first artists there to ever comment on my work was Nacho Cordova. He became a friend and mentor of sorts to me, and he gave me a lot of encouragement and advice. IPA became a comfortable place for me to explore apps and techniques and share my work and receive feedback from the iPhoneography community. Seeing all the amazing art that was being created was an awakening for me, and I became obsessed!
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
CP: I am drawn predominantly to city and suburban street scenes, and the beach. I lucky to live in a suburb of New Jersey which is only about 15 minutes from Philadelphia. Philly is a great city – very historic with lots of culture and wonderful colonial architecture. I am also lucky in that I am less than two hours from New York City and about an hour’s drive to the beach, so I have a lot of photo opportunities within a short distance of where I live. I think my work really reflects the diversity of the region I live in — city, suburbs and beach… It’s all within reach and all potential subject matter for my work.
As I said, I don’t shoot every day, but I try to get out at least once a week and shoot something new and gather new material to work on. I’ll wander around the streets of my town or Philadelphia, and occasionally take a drive to the beach. Atlantic City is only about an hour away, and I went there recently and captured some wonderful images of people on the boardwalk and beach which became a series. I love working in a series, tying images together with a common theme or processing technique. When I run out of material, I just go out and take more pictures! I’m not a prolific shooter, but a simple walk around the streets of Philly could result in a dozen or so images, which will keep me busy for a while! I tend to work very intuitively, sort of knowing how I want the final image to look but being open to the “accidents” that happen along the way and going with it.
My work has evolved quite a bit since I first started out. In the beginning, I was all over the place, trying new apps and not really thinking about developing a style. Also, I think I was trying to emulate photographers whose work I admired rather than going with my natural instincts. For example, a lot of my early work was black & white and more purely photographic and narrative. Now I’m all about color and I have a distinctive painterly style. My “Arc of a Diver” series was a turning point for me in my work, and a turn toward vibrant color and a more lyrical style. Since then, I’ve really become interested in color and using it in a very expressive way.
My work is now about creating images that surprise people. Taking an ordinary image and making is extraordinary somehow — usually through color. I love capturing the world around me and showing it to people through my eyes. For me, showing what something looks like is not enough. I want to show how I feel about it, which is usually about light, color, beauty, and joy.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
CP: I’ve always been a proficient writer, and — with a couple of blog projects I have in the works — I’m hoping to do more writing in the near future.
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphoneographic artists?
CP: I do spend a lot of time on Pixels, IPA, Flickr, and Instagram looking at the work of other artists. It is very inspiring and I’ve met so many wonderful people. Even though I’m not a practitioner of it in the traditional sense, I love street photography, and I greatly admire those who can do it well. Sion Fullana, Aik Beng Chia, Koci Hernandez, and Star Rush come immediately to mind, and I love looking at their work.
But artists like Dan Marcolina are the ones whose work really resonates with me. I can completely relate to his selection of subject matter and processing techniques. His book “iPhone Obsessed” has been a great source of inspiration to me. I’ve been recently working on a series of colorful street scenes in an attempt to combine my love of street photography with my love of color and apping. I’ve received some wonderful feedback on those pieces, so I definitely plan to continue that. I could name a hundred artists in the iPhoneography community whose work inspires me, but i would be afraid to leave someone out. So I’ll just say that I am tremendously inspired daily by all the incredible work I see being produced.
KB: Do you study other art forms?
CP: I wouldn’t call it study, but I do look at the work of many painters. I love the Fauves especially, and the work of Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Raoul Dufy in particular. Also, Van Gogh has long been a favorite artist of mine and I just recently saw an exhibit of his work at the Philadelphia Art Museum. His landscapes are simply brilliant and I find them tremendously inspiring. And of course I look at a lot of photography. A few of my all-time favorites are Keith Carter, Sylvia Plachy, Robert Frank, William Eggleston, and of course Cartier-Bresson and lots of the Magnum photographers.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
CP: As I said in my initial statement, I did a lot of traditional photography in college and well into my twenties and thirties, working extensively in the darkroom making black and white prints. But once I discovered digital photography, I never picked up a film camera or stepped into a darkroom again. Similarly, since I discovered the iPhone as a creative tool, I haven’t picked up my digital cameras once for my personal work. For me, the appealing thing about the iPhone is the sheer joy of creating art in an instant. Shooting, processing, and sharing all on one device. My personal work is now 100% iPhone, and I don’t see that changing for me.
KB: We are a couple of years into the global iphoneographic phenomenon. How do you think things have changed in that time. How do you perceive the social aspects of iphoneography, i.e., Flickr, Instagram, and their effect on the medium? Do you have any thoughts about the near-term or long-term future for the medium?
CP: Last weekend, my New York Times delivery guy left me a Wall Street Journal by mistake. Well, I’m not a Wall Street Journal reader, but it must have been fate because I opened it to a section called “Off Duty” where there was a two-page article with a headline that read, “Is the iPhone the Only Camera You Need?” The author stated that: “If you’re armed with the right photo apps, editing tricks and shooting know-how, it just might be.” I think the mobile photography phenomenon is exploding and that, in time, all personal photography — and even some professional photography — will be done on a mobile device. Just today, as I write this, Facebook announced that it plans to buy Instagram for $1 billion. That should tell us something about the future of mobile photography and photo sharing.
I just want to add one thing to this, and that is how wonderful it is to see people from all ages and walks of life sharing a passion for an art form. It is heartening for someone like me, who is 52, to see so many people my age and older finding their artistic voice — some of them for the first time in their lives — through iPhoneography. Or to see Moms and people who never thought they had an artistic bone in their bodies creating and contributing meaningful art. I believe that sites like IPA, Instragram, and Flickr have played a large part in this. Without the ability to share our work, our trials and errors, our successes and failures, where would we be? Nowhere is where. We’d be shooting pictures and… then what??? The community that is being built through these sites is amazing and strong and so inspiring. Becoming a part of it has been life changing for me, as I think it has been for many people, and I am so grateful.
KB: Where do you stand on the “Is iPhoneography photography or a whole new medium” debate?
CP: For me, it’s both. iPhoneography is photography in the sense that the iPhone is just another photographic tool that photographers are using to make pictures. Whether those pictures are “straight” photographs or something that leans more towards pictorialism, it’s all photography because the final product was created with a camera.
I think the “new medium” debate comes into play because the camera we are using just happens to be attached to a cell phone! It is going to take the public and the mainstream art establishment a while to take the iPhone seriously as a creative tool, and to recognize that it’s just another camera after all! I believe it’s up to us — the iPhoneographers, the bloggers, the app developers — to educate the public through writing, exhibiting, and promoting the art and the artists. Through our efforts, I strongly believe that iPhoneography will ultimately find its rightful place in the world as a serious art form.
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
CP: My work is very painterly, so there are many painters whose work has influenced me. As I mentioned earlier, the work of Matisse, Chagall, Dufy, and Van Gogh has been a great influence on my work and my use of bold color. Lately, my work has been compared to the paintings of David Hockney and Milton Avery, which I consider a huge compliment because I admire both of those painters very much and love their work. As for photographers, I absolutely love Keith Carter and look at his work quite a bit. It’s very unlike my own work, but I find him to be a tremendously gifted and inspiring photographer. There are also many artists in the iPhoneography community who inspire me every day, but they are too numerous to list! They know who they are:)
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as Marty Yawnick calls it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
CP: My apps have evolved tremendously over time. In the beginning, I was drawn to apps like Hipstamatic or LoMob which provided an instantaneous effect or a look. Now, I am much more interested in apps that allow me to create layers of texture and color. Apps such as Shock My Pic, Artista Sketch, and Modern Grunge are recent favorites. Probably my main go-to app for processing is Iris Photo Suite. I love the color filters and the layering capabilities of that app. I also love ScratchCam which, contrary to its name, is not all about adding scratches and texture. I oftentimes use it solely for its color options. I tend to use it in some way on just about every image. Blur FX is also a favorite app. For capture, I like 6×6 or 6×7 and sometimes Camera+ or ProCamera.
KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
CP: I don’t care for “trendy” apps, such as Shock My Pic, Percolator, Wordfoto, and Tiny Planet when they are used by themselves. They can be great apps when used in combination with other apps to create a finished piece, but used alone they just look to gimmicky to me.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
CP: One of my favorite camera apps is ClassicPan, but the output resolution is relatively low. That is certainly one app that I would love to see improved because I would use it much more.
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
CP: I’ve often thought that it would be wonderful if we could comment on an image in one community — whether it be on Pixels, IPA, Flickr, or Instagram — and have that comment show up on that image wherever it appeared in all the other communities. I think that would be genius.
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 breaking out of artist’s block?
CP: My work is about people and places, so I don’t get stuck that often because material is all around me. Whenever I feel like I need new material, I take a trip. The trip could be to the next town or another state or country. I sometimes just need a change of scenery, and that usually does the trick. Sometimes I might do a self portrait, which is not really my thing, but can break me out of my routine and force me to use different apps.
KB: What features would you like to see implemented at the Pixels website?What makes Pixels unique is the curation. There is a certain cache to having your work published on the Pixels site. I know it didn’t work out for whatever reason, but I kind of liked it when you had guest curators for a while. I might like to see that come back in some form. But overall, I honestly can’t think of a single thing I would change. I love the “Daily Pic” and how you’ve begun to explain why you chose a particular image. I also really like “Second Look Sunday” and– of course — the featured interviews. I think you’re doing a great job, so just keep it up!
KB: A last word perhaps?
CP: Thank you, Knox, not only for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts and work with everyone, but for your continued promotion and support of mobile art and artists everywhere. You should be commended, and I am grateful to you for your efforts on behalf of all of us. I also want to take a last second to thank all the dear friends I’ve made in the iPhoneography community. Without you, this would all be meaningless, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your friendship and support.
KB: Thank you, Cindy.