I am happy to present the next in the series of artist interviews here on Pixels At An Exhibition. This month, Marcele Augustine. (Apologies to Marcele for publishing this so late: between the OCCCA show and a lingering cold, I just could not get to it.)
I noticed Marcele’s work quickly when she began submitting to Pixels: highly apped shots of Manhattan, street photography reworked into mysterious, romantic vignettes of city life. It has been a pleasure to watch her work—the joy of experimentation and exploration of the iphonographic medium combined with wonderfully captured urban moments—evolve and I am happy to feature her here this month. We had the pleasure of meeting Marcele at the Apple store event last October—it’s always great to meet a member of the Pixels’ community. And I’d like to thank Robert Mullen for his participation and contributions as Pixel’s featured artist last month.
Herewith, Marcele in her own works:
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.
MA: I’m 46 and I live in New York City – specifically in Brooklyn. I moved here 15 years ago from San Diego, California. I’m southern California born and bred, raised in a small town near the border called Chula Vista. I’m an elementary school teacher at a private school in Manhattan.
KB: How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
MA: I started shooting photos on my iPhone exactly a year ago in March of 2010. Before that I had an iPod Touch, which was my portable canvas at the time and an important prelude to iPhoneography. When I finally got an iPhone (3G) I stopped painting and became immediately drawn to capturing photos and using apps for editing images instead of painting them.
KB: How often do you work on your art?
MA: Usually, everyday – I’m either taking a photo or editing one – sometimes to the dismay of friends or family members who (at times) get tired of my constant distraction and obsession with iPhoneography. I live in Brooklyn, but I work in the Upper East Side. My commute is rather long, so it’s a perfect time to immerse myself in the whole process of manipulating and tweaking a photo without compromising my attention to being with a friend. It’s a very satisfying experience. That is, when I’m not in the clutches of an artistic gridlock.
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
MA: The turning point was the moment I took my first photo with the iPhone. I think I downloaded Camera Bag, DXP and CinemaFX first, and couldn’t believe the world that had just opened up. Being able to double expose and manipulate an image on the fly amazed me. I was hooked the moment I started. I felt immediately connected to the creative process of working on an iPhone, more than any other medium I’ve worked with. I get a huge rush from taking an ordinary photo and working with it until it evolves into an entirely new image. Expressionism is one of my favorite movements in art because I think I’m more interested in the emotional experience of a piece of work than the reality it’s meant to depict. For me, this is what iPhoneography is about. I’m less interested in the realistic portrayal of a subject. Not that I don’t like realistic photography (I do!), but that’s not where I’m at right now. IPhoneography has shaken me up and helped me find artistic parts of me that I didn’t know I had. It’s a very intimate process. I also love that I can point, shoot and manipulate an image anywhere and at anytime. The mobility and immediacy of the art form is what is most exciting to me.
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
MA: One of the great things about living in New York City is that there is such a variety of urban life to capture – people (my favorite), buildings, bridges, street life, subway scenes, etc. The medium of iPhoneography has really inspired me to look at my everyday environment with a sharper pair of eyes. My relationship with New York City has deepened, because now, I pay attention to the beauty in things I tend to overlook. Unless I’m really late to be somewhere, I will stop to take a photo of any subject that seems to call my name. Whether it’s a street scene, a leaf or an interesting reflection at the bottom of a drinking glass, I’ll stop what I’m doing and take a photo. I may never go back to it, but I take the photo because when I don’t, I usually have regrets. That moment can never be recreated. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to work fast, only editing an image for a day or so before I feel it’s finished. That’s because I tend to be an impulsive person and rush through things way too quickly. I’ve been trying to work slower and take longer periods of time with processing an image. I work with it, take time away, then go back to the image several days later. I think this has helped me grow.
I have a large number of photos I’ve snapped or images I have worked on that never make it to my blog or get submitted to Pixels. Even if the image eventually gets discarded or abandoned, I really value the process of messing around with it. Right now I have well over 5,000 photos on my iPhone 4 which I’ve taken since July. I keep meaning to clean house, but it’s hard to part with them. I don’t like not having them available to me.
For a while in the spring of 2010, I obsessively took photos of manholes, coal chutes, drains, gas and water covers around New York City. I was attracted to the geometric patterns of the covers. I became completely preoccupied with drain spotting. I must have snapped hundreds of manhole covers. I learned so much through that process of doing an image series and examining an object that is usually taken for granted everyday. In the last few months I’ve been taking a lot of photos of birds, which is hard because they move so quickly. Ichiro Koide’s Bird Song series is such an inspiration to me. He takes beautiful bird photos.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
MA: Well, I have dabbled. Many moons ago I went to welding school and took some blacksmithing classes, not as a career choice but because I was interested in making sculpture, furniture and ironwork. I draw and sketch sometimes and love building anything with my hands. I’m a computer science teacher, so the digital medium is where I feel most comfortable, whether it’s animation, video editing or photo manipulation.
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphonographic artists?
MA: All the time. I check the Pixels site everyday and I’m usually on Tumblr checking out my favorite artists. I’m very inspired by so many iphoneographers on Pixels. I can’t name them all but Jose Chavarry is a huge inspiration to me. Others are Emily Rose, Kimberly Post-Rowe, Robert Mullen, Daniel Berman, Edgar Cuevas, Edina Herold, Maia Panos. But that’s just scratching the surface of the many talented iphoneographers out there.
KB: Do you study other art forms?
MA: I’m interested in painting, Modern Art mostly, sculpture, and film. I’ve studied these forms in college, but now my interest is more informal.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
MA: I take digital photos sometimes, but not seriously. When I traveled around Europe a couple of summers ago, I took a lot of photos, but was extremely frustrated with my camera. I really wish I had had an iPhone back then because my traveling experience would have been different. I have a great relationship with my iPhone. With my digital camera, not so much.
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
MA: There are so many. I’m very inspired by the Expressionist and Cubist painters – Edvard Munch, Picasso, Marc Chagall, Modigliani. I love abstract modern art – anything that is highly geometric. I’m a huge fan of Mark Rothko. Paul Strand is one of my favorite photographers. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dennis Hopper, Moholy-Nagy, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorthea Lange are others who I really admire, too.
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as Marty Yawnick calls it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
MA: Iris, Lo-Mob, PS Express, DXP, PhotoCopier, PhotoFX, PhotoStudio, BlurFX, PictureShow and Vintage Scene are probably the ones I use most. I usually put a photo through so many apps during the treatment process that I can’t keep track of the how often I use each one. I use FilterStorm on occasion.
KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
MA: I would say that there are apps that don’t particularly speak to me, for instance, EffectTouch. I just don’t like the interface, but that’s just my preference. I don’t really have an aversion to anything in particular and I’m not really an app snob. If the app achieves a particular end, then I’ll use it. One thing I don’t like is when apps crash a lot.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
MA: The only thing that comes to mind is an app that provides a more comprehensive way of distorting photos. I love the physicality of pinching and squeezing the screen to manipulate an image. When I use PictureEffects, I feel like I’m sculpting a photo, but because of it’s limitations, I usually don’t achieve the results that I would like most of the time. If anyone knows of an app like this, let me know!
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
MA: Well, if there isn’t an app like the one I described in the previous question, that would be one I’d want to see developed.
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?
MA: I’m currently in what feels like a relentless stalemate in my iPhoneography work. I think it started the first week of 2011. Up until then, I was producing a lot of work. And no, I don’t have a remedy for breaking through a dry period and getting the creative juices flowing again. I’ve tried to distance myself a little bit, actually. I have confidence that things will change once spring rolls around. One thing that I’m aware of about myself is that my creative process is definitely linked to my state of mind and how I feel emotionally. I love New York City, but the winter months are particularly rough for me. Maybe it’s because I’m from Southern California. Since I’ve lived in the Northeast, January and February are traditionally very dark for me because it’s so cold and I’m indoors so much! I’m hoping that my trip to the Grand Canyon at the end of March will reinvigorate my creative flow. I’m hiking and camping for three days and plan on taking a lot of photos with my iPhone.
KB: What features would you like to see implemented at the Pixels At An Exhibition website?
MA: One of the things I would like to see is a link directly underneath each post that takes me to other images the artist has contributed to Pixels. I would like to click on their name and see their work instead of having to type it into the search engine each time. That would be nice. : )
KB: A last word perhaps?
MA: I would like to thank you, Knox and everyone at Pixels for all the work you do to support and promote this new, emerging medium. It’s an honor to be a featured artist on this site.
KB: Thank you, Marcele.
You can see Marcel’s wonderful contributions to Pixels: The Art Of The iPhone by clicking here.