Somehow I lost this interview with Rudy Vogel in the move to the new server. I have no reasonable explanation for that. So I am re-posting now. I have two or three interviews in the can, will try to publish over the next week or so.
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.
RV: Well let’s see, last I looked I am currently residing on this planet although there are definitely times when I believe I am surfing the rings of Saturn. I currently occupy some space in Springfield, Massachusetts – born and raised there. However, I only hang my hat here in between the times I travel far and wide. Aside from being a lover and practitioner of art, it is my avocation and not my vocation. I pay my bills through my business advisory practice that has taken me to several places off the beaten path like Cairo and Sri Lanka and, some pretty standard locales such as London, Paris, Amsterdam and other such itinerary stops. One thing is for sure though, no matter where I go I always carry my DSLR and of course, my iPhone.
KB: How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
RV: It all began long ago and in a far away place. I have had an iPhone since the 3 came out. But I had used it primarily for the standard stuff, you know like phone calls and, of course games. But then, last Christmas, my life changed. Permanently. I brought my family to New York City to see the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and to enjoy the crowds, bustle and cheer. And, to grab a steak dinner. Well, aside from the myriad games I had on my iPhone, I had also downloaded this cute little app called Hipstamatic. I decided that night was the perfect opportunity to try out this new curiosity and experiment I did….result: I must have shot more than 200 pix in the span of a couple of hours. The next day I reviewed these shots and said to myself: “Self, there’s something here!”
Having been a photographer since I was a wee one (my Dear Ole’ Uncle gave me a Kodak Brownie when I was about six years old and I have been taking pictures ever since), I have always had an appreciation for imagery. I took a few courses in photography at The New School in New York City when I was in college and learned about composition, lighting, portraiture and so forth. I briefly considered pursuing a professional career as a photographer, but even back then the competition was something fierce. Although, I have kept up with my photography over the years. Whenever travel was on the horizon I always had my DSLR with me. My family always complained vociferously “Dad, haven’t you shot enough pictures of that building?” “No”, I said, “There is never “Enough”! I would goad my kids by telling them: “You know those incredible shots that you marvel at in Sports Illustrated? Do you think the photographer took that epic shot the first time? Absolutely not!!! S/he probably took about 1,500 photographs during the game to get those 10 incredible “poster” shots! “Oh”, they said, “We didn’t know that! Now we understand!” Right….until the next time. What they didn’t know was that over a four-day trip to London with the family I took over 3,000 shots with my DSLR…..of buildings! Which leads me back to Christmas at Rockefeller Center. That was the day my life changed. When I reviewed those 200 pix on my iPhone, I said: “Self, there is something here that is magical, aside from just Angry Birds!” But, this epiphany wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. It was at that moment that I became an asphyxiated appoholic! Over last holiday season I began to research the entire medium of iPhoneography: the sites, the blogs, the books, the apps, the articles. And it was through my spade work that ultimately, I, the mountain, found its way to Mohammed, the P1xels site and, Knox Bronson, the Dalai Lama of iPhoneography. And, now I am officially an ‘iPhoneography Junkie’ or, an iPhoneoist as I refer to myself!
KB: How often do you work on your art?
RV: If a day goes by and I am not apping, I go through severe withdrawals. There was a span a couple of months ago that I hit the grassy gutter of Expressionless Valley. No inspiration. No vision. No nuthin! It was a creative wasteland for me! So, in my pangs, I turned to P1xels and became awestruck by the latest visual inventions by my mentors: the most incredible Carlein, inventive Jon Betts, surreal Alan Kanter, awesome Lene Basma, fantastical Lu Guada, Master Roger Guetta, colorful Jose Chavarry, inspirational Souichi Furusho, fabulous Andrea Mdos, fantasmagorical Jennifer Bracewell, uniquely gifted Liz Grilli, professional’s professional Dan Berman, painterly Paul Moore, magical unruly-e and others. And, suddenly I felt this mad rush through my veins and into my temples and I became reignited. I crawled from the crags back onto Creativity Hill basking in the glow of these artistic titans and I felt whole again. I haven’t stopped since.
KB: How did you discover apps?
RV: I read voraciously. I poke around. I search various app review sites. And, then I buy. Then the madness begins! I test them out. Tear them apart. Stretch them to their limits. And, try to memorize each of my ‘Go To’ apps features. Thereby, I can plan a piece in my head and app away. It’s like boarding a sail boat with no course in mind. Just letting the winds take you in the direction of their choice. That is how the creative process works for me.
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
RV: Well, I have always been serious about it. I don’t plunge into anything unless I am committed…..or, institutionalized, whichever you prefer. The turning point was definitely last Christmas. That’s when the transformation began. But I have to admit, I view iPhoneography as a never ending series of ‘turning points’ or, levels. P1xels is like the Oracle of Delphi for me. I am summoned by it and I go to the Mountain seeking out inspirational and creative answers. Each time I marvel at what I see. Many times I am thunderstruck at what my fellow P1xies have conjured. It is simply magical, almost symphonic to see what I see. I often try to empathize with the particular artist who blows me away with his/her mesmerizing piece, trying to envision what s/he was thinking while creating. For sure, I try to figure out the answer to the numbing question of “How the heck did s/he do THAT?” I can’t pass under that ‘Limbo Bar’; I can’t scale that broad jump…..no fricken way! I then find myself sitting there and becoming completely demoralized saying, “Nope, that’s it. I’m hanging up my apps for good.” And, before the ride into the sunset is about to occur, I get off my iHorse, hang the rope on the coral fence post, and muster up the courage to create anew. In my mind I create this aura of competition with my fellow P1xies. Its what pushes me…..it drives me to constantly scale new heights, to try something new and fresh.
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
RV: ! I knew this question would come up! The dart just pierced my bulls-eye. I love to shoot architecture, landscapes, some still life, and everything macro. I love flowers. There is something so innocent about them. Their lines and colors, so very alluring. People can be interesting. I don’t really do portraiture much, but when I do, I always think of uncommon angles or extreme close-ups. To me, image creation is all about doing something fresh and new. I mean, with all due respect to my fellow P1xies and other photographers out there, after a while, how many shots of people can you take? How many skylines, trains, oranges and streets can you possibly photocopy? After a while it all becomes the same cereal. It’s like vanilla ice cream, the base for all other ice creams known to man. To me, so much of photography is vanilla. I on the other hand believe that ice cream should be a cornucopia of flavors with different variations and offshoots – it’s what makes the world interesting. Now don’t get me wrong, I marvel at the works of Man Ray, Ansel Adams, Annie Leibowitz and other ‘greats’ and the body of work their style represents. However, I personally favor the ‘outrageous’ in image creation. That’s why insofar as visual artists are concerned, I favor Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Kandinsky and of course Warhol. Now these paragons of the arts are not necessarily photographers, but stylistically, it’s from where I draw my personal signature. That is why I concentrate on the abstract side of visual creation or, in this case, iPhoneography.
I will shoot images whenever I travel, see something that interests me, or of course at family events. Often times I’ll take out my iPhone and shoot an image of a brick wall, a stained piece of paper, a line on the street, a puddle of water tempered by an oil slick, anything and everything that I believe could be intriguing later on during my ‘image creation process’.
The next part of your question is quite dangerous, since many people believe that creativity can be “switched on” or, that it is a serial or sequential process. On the contrary, it’s a moving amorphous mass that consumes and evolves and ignites. For me, when I create a piece that P1xels deems worthy to curate, sometimes it starts with a plan. Most of the time, as must be the case with many of my fellow P1xies and other artists, the piece is derived from a thought or inspiration. If I were to take a picture of a marvelous sunset, there would be quite a lot of planning required. You would require a certain kit of equipment – lenses, tripods, and so on, you would have to be in “the right place at the right time”; you would have to ensure that solace was around you uninterrupted by people walking by or cars whizzing past. In a similar vein, my pieces are planned. I set the stage by opening a shot in Camera Roll and then saying to myself “How can this piece evolve? What are the apps I will need to get to the end point? What are the snippets I will require that are to be added to this piece?” You see, a lot of questioning, a lot of planning. But most of the time, that’s not how it works for me. Most of the time, I start with the background and determine what is required in the foreground. A piece becomes almost multi-dimensional for me. I think of the space it will require, the flow of colors that could erupt, the composition of the abstraction that may evolve into something more real or remain as a pastiche of colors, lines, shadows and textures. I guess it is how I think, how I approach a piece. For me it is never a straight line….there are always detours involved. For those readers who have been to Italy, it is certainly a most beautiful country. Some will argue that it is the Capital of Art. But what makes Italy so astoundingly interesting is walking through the streets of Rome or Florence and always taking the detours into the nooks and alcoves – off the beaten path – it is there that you will find the most fascinating architecture, shops, curios, bistros and galleries. Art is the same way for me. The standard tour is boring for me. Breaking away from the group and travelling alone in search of something new, down old cobblestone paths and bumping into a weathered statue that no one else has seen – that is inspirational. I bring this same approach to my art. I take detours.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
RV: Music is another drug for me. I love it. It feeds the soul. As a child I learned to play various instruments. But, unfortunately, due to the various pressures of life I had to give them up. I write constantly. I also painted as a child and took all the requisite art courses. That all stopped for years. It wasn’t until computer art began to evolve that I reignited my interest in painting and image creation through the use of software that I once again picked up the mouse brush and began to paint away. I even spent years creating my own image manipulation algorithms that I have used to create images, the output of which hangs in some private collections. Those images are often 200 layers deep and in some cases, half a gigabyte in size.
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphontographic artists?
RV: Yes. Yes. And, yes! All the time. I follow certain artists and their work. I mentioned many of them before. But for me, the payload is P1xels. Where else is there?
KB: Do you study other art forms?
RV: I have a vast collection of books on all sorts of topics. As I said earlier I am a voracious reader. I never really read just one book. I always have 5-10 of them in process. And, when I finish those, I move on to the next load. Part of my collection includes books on architecture, design, fashion, music, writing, painting, textiles, fonts, runes, mythology, cryptography and other such bodies of interest. I often walk the aisles of museums and galleries wherever I go. So, yes, I try to keep up with all forms of art.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
RV: The answer to the first question is a resounding “Yes”! But just as resounding as the acknowledgment is the fact that I am now nearly exclusively taking all of my photos with the iPhone. It’s just so damn elegant to use your iPhone. No waiting for the perfect lighting, no screwing around with lens changes, no uploading pix to your desktop or laptop and then into a Photoshop workflow. With the iPhone, it’s just all there! True there are limitations but for every limitation there are least 2-3 pluses. So, the question becomes “Why bother?” True, if you’re a fashion photographer and you require that full-frame, $25,000+ Hasselblad for that $10,000/hr. model shoot the iPhone may not cut it. But then again, during the most recent Fashion Week in New York City a lot of photographers were Instagramming along the catwalks. So, who really knows where it’s all going. But for my purposes, and my sweetspot, that being the creation of abstract art, the iPhone and my battalion of apps is all I really need. I guess at some point I may start using my DSLR again – I must admit I do have my eye on the new Sony a77, quite a revolutionary camera in its own right – but for now all there is, is my iPhone. An amazing realization when I think about that fact after the thousands I have invested into my various kits over the years. Truthfully speaking however, I do not view iPhoneography as photography – in my opinion it is a completely new medium. But that is an altogether discussion.
KB: Where do you stand on the “Is iPhoneography photography or a whole new medium” debate?
RV: And there it is, the fateful question. What a segue. Resoundingly, Knox, in my opinion iPhoneography is a completely new medium. When you really think about it and distill it down to its essence, the iPhone “camera” isn’t really a camera at all – especially when adhering to its definition. Where is the lens? Where is the optics? Where is the reflexive mirror? The answers are, ‘not there’. What is there is a small piece of round glass covering a tiny vision sensor, albeit a quite good one, but still just a sensor. Therefore, the image captured is really only the start of something much bigger. See, to begin with, I view the image captured as something completely different. I view the image as my palette with tiny gobs of paint. These dabs become the colors that I paint with; the textures on my canvas. I have been researching a theory of mine for the last seven years on what truly comprises an ‘image’. There is so much more that meets the eye. As I mentioned earlier, I have developed my own image manipulation algorithms that I have used to create my abstract art – art that in my opinion, has never been created before. So, I ask you, what constitutes an image? Isn’t a shot of a landscape or anything you may capture in actuality an abstraction? No sensor, no lens, no camera will ever truly replace the human eye – at least not in my lifetime. So, truthfully speaking, any image becomes an abstraction of reality – and in my case and in every artists’ case, it becomes their own personal reality that they share with others, whether the ‘others’ are in agreement or, not. So, to underscore the topic, iPhoneography has opened new corridors, new vistas, into that which is defined as “art”, in ways that we have not even begun to imagine. And it’s the apps where it’s at! The apps are the Mojo – the secret sauce – that makes this whole medium ‘HOT’!
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
RV: Well, here’s something very personal, I guess it starts with my Mom an artist in her own right. A painter and vocalist – she always encouraged me to explore the vistas into my inner soul. I mentioned some of the artists I admire earlier but to add to that list are Rembrandt – you know, a little factoid about him – the Art Masters till this day are still trying to figure out how he mixed his colors and paints – a secret he took to his grave – and, that premise, that artists must protect their own personal recipes was a codex I derived from his principle; DaVinci for his vision; Michelangelo for his superlative ability; Gehry for his lines; Peter Max for his panache; Lagerfeld for his coolness; Peter Gabriel for his theatrics and innovation; Cirque De Soleil for their inimitable performances; and, my all time fave, Dali for his beautiful mind.
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as Marty Yawnick calls it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
RV: OMG! That is a nearly impossible question to answer. I mean I have my kit of ‘go-to apps’ that I always use, if that is what you’re asking. But, I try every and any “Photography” app on the iTunes app store that strikes my fancy. I scour it every day for ‘what’s new’. But here goes: I use Iris for everything – for me it’s my Photoshop; next to that is Filterstorm – what an incredible piece of code that is; Camera +, but everyone uses that; PictureShow & Dynamic Light – another masterful piece of code – for lighting effects; PicGrunger for grunging – isn’t that obvious; PhotoStudio, Blender, SuperImpose, PhotoGene, PS Express exclusively for sharpening – I find its sharpening algorithm to be the best, LoMob, Lumiere and Scratchcam for what they do best. Insofar as creative apps are concerned, my absolute fave is Decim8. In my opinion this transformative device is the single most misunderstood app. It is incredibly powerful and versatile and should be considered as a stanchion for any iPhoneographic abstract artist out there.
Insofar as evolution is concerned, well I guess I can answer that by saying that my use of apps has evolved alongside my production of my art. I remember the very first piece I submitted to P1xels what now seems to be ages ago – in actuality, last December. Today, I wouldn’t even consider submitting a piece like that to P1xels and, frankly, I don’t even create such pieces any more. It was quite basic and I recall maybe using one or two apps. Now, it’s an entirely different story. The bulk of my work is abstract, which I know is quite personal and may cause a great deal of awkward confusion for most. It simply is misunderstood. But for me, it becomes an expression of one’s inner soul. And, like minded souls will connect with what you have created since it speaks a different language. So, when I create a piece now, it usually has been apped 2, 3, maybe 4 dozen different times. And, that may be just to get the base of an image and, then I stretch that base even further with intricate layering and brushing in Filterstorm, as an example.
KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
RV: Well for this question, I have the shortest answer, and that is ‘NO’! I care for them all and experiment with them and ultimately find a way to integrate them into my workflow.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
RV: I believe one of the sweetest improvements and recent trends with apps is their ability to immediately integrate with other apps. This is a real time saver and improves workflow. I also believe that users should mandate that all apps should be able to save at the highest resolution possible. But, there are always downsides and upsides to anything. The upside to low rez, especially in my art form, is that you get some rather interesting effects that mimic textures and ridges, giving off the appearance that there is some ‘bulk’ or ‘etching’ on the canvas or, ultimately the image.
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
RV: That is an exciting area for me to think about because I have a whole host of ideas that emanate from the essence of what Decim8 represents. I always look out for what I define to be “creative apps” or, those that totally deconstruct an image and allow you to reconstruct it in accordance with your own tastes. Lighting effects create mood – I would like to see more of those – Noir, at the moment, is probably the most creative example of that ability. I would love to see an app that allows you to build textures much like PicGrunger does for ‘grunging’ and, be able to integrate those textures directly into the image. Let me be clear, I do not mean the ability to mask or blend a rough surface, like cement, as a layer, I mean building heft directly into the image, along the lines of what ArtRage allows you do on the iPad – but I don’t really utilize what I would call “art apps” much – other than creating snippets for integration into my final piece. A really cool app is Evolution that allows you “evolve” images – I would love to see this app migrate into what I would call “full image manipulation” – refracting light, altering colors on the fly and, I don’t mean replacing colors like the “color splash-like” apps – I mean creating gradients and/or blends on the fly. I would also love to see an app that allows you integrate shapes and forms into an image, combining geometrics much like Kandinsky in his works.
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?
RV: Yes, my biggest trick is gazing at P1xels art repeatedly. But I often will dive into an ancillary art form like music and that stimulates ideas or, if I read about a new idea in technology that will spark my creative juices. It seems that every time I’m ready to hang up my apps and call it quits, a new app comes out with a different twist or a new trick and that just causes a fall of dominoes to occur and I find myself right back into the thick of that which is creative.
KB: What features would you like to see implemented at the Pixels website?
RV: Oh boy that is a subject near and dear to me: let’s start with the concept of ‘digital playground’ or, ‘artists’ salon’. What I mean by that is, wouldn’t it be cool if us P1xies could converge through the P1xels site and crowdsource or remix an image together or, as groups/teams? Or, if P1xels had tools or, app components, much like widgets that could be downloaded from the site and be integrated into our resident apps offering each artist a new capability when apping, much like the ‘brushes’ capability in Photoshop – as you know there are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands of different customized brushes that can be downloaded and used in Photoshop or, you can even create your own. That kind of capability through P1xels would be ‘Way Kewl’! I believe all of this doable – it just takes the appropriate resources and partnerships. I also believe that there should be more of a “conversational capability” embedded in P1xels, allowing artists to chat and share.
KB: A last word perhaps?
RV: Is there ever a ‘last word’? I guess the only parting comment I can make is “Thank you Knox Bronson for having created a new world of creativity and exposure, allowing me the opportunity to share bits of me with fellow artists and friends. Thank you Knox Bronson for your passion and for your unwavering belief in this cause at great cost to you – not just monetarily, but in spirit, in hours that should be slept away, and, in your support and genuine caring of the artists that comprise the P1xels community! Kudos and Bravo to you Knox. It is a pleasure knowing you!!!
KB: Thank you, Jen.
You can see Rudy’s striking contributions to Pixels: The Art Of The iPhone by clicking here.
And buy limited signed editions of his work here.