Monday, March 12, 2012

iSpy: Camera Phone Photography Award Winners (pt. I)


          The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce the winners of iSpy: Camera Phone Photography: Karen Divine (Juror’s Choice) and Samantha Fielding (Director’s Choice). We asked Karen and Samantha a few questions about their work to gain some insight into how the camera phone’s technology and availability influence them both. Today we present a profile of Karen. Be sure to check back on Wednesday to read about Samantha!

Karen Divine
Juror’s Choice

            In general, camera phone photography does not convey professionalism to many people. Using a camera phone is seen as amateur; a technology that simply makes it easier to take snapshots when out with friends or on vacation. However, many artists have started to embrace the unique “lo-fi” nature of these images and, using professional-quality apps to manipulate these images, have created amazing works of art. When Life Becomes Your Art, Karen Divine’s winning image, is a perfect example of this. Using only her iPhone’s camera and her favorite photography apps, she has created an incredible composite image entirely on her cell phone.

                                                      When Life Becomes Your Art

            While that might seem unbelievable, Karen is extraordinarily skilled at using the tools and programs at her fingertips, first learning image manipulation through Photoshop. “Photoshop liberated me. It actually allowed me to completely let my imagination rule, knowing I could change my mind and move freely through the image until I landed on something that inspired me.”    

            With the iPhone, Karen appreciates the fact that it is always with her allowing her to shoot “easily and spontaneously.” Likewise, there is no need to be tethered to a computer to unleash her creative side, thanks to a variety of fantastic photo-manipulation apps that allow “endless possibilities to develop one’s own unique style.” 

            This has helped many artists such as Karen find new inspiration and creativity in ways that are unprecedented. “[One] can tap into that creative spirit at any time throughout the day and for even a brief ten minutes, delve into its visual playground.” Her preferred apps are Hipstamatic, Juxtaposer, Montage, Perfectphoto, Photocopier, and Scratchcam, though she has about fifty on her phone. These apps also allow her to create effects different from what is possible in Photoshop. In her own words:

Prior to the iPhone, I had been compositing images in Photoshop for thirteen years so compositing on the iPhone was an easy transition, albeit a bit more tedious than Photoshop, requiring more steps to adjust layers and opacity, in addition to the fact that after the second layer is placed, it’s flattened…not much forgiveness, rather like painting with watercolors. However, it can create textures in fresh new ways. The iPhone required me to learn to make precise decisions and to think about forms and placements in a whole new way.


            Photoshop does still have a place in Karen’s arsenal, just not with any of the images she’s created on her phone. “No post processing in Photoshop is appropriate if you are submitting work on iPhone sites or for submissions to iPhone competitions. However, I have created composites in Photoshop using my iPhone characters as in Mapping the Collective Unconscious.

                                                      Mapping the Collective Unconscious

            Even though her winning image is not part of a larger body of work, Karen does tend to work in series, sometimes gaining inspiration from her own completed work. In When Life Becomes Your Art, “the character on the ledge is similar to a story and book I created called Strange Things are Happening in Barbara Hepworth’s Bed.”

                                         Creates from series Strange Things are Happening in Barbara Hepworth's Bed

                                                                    Putting on an Opera from series Strange Things 

            The illustrative, ethereal nature of her work also hints at her study of painting and drawing years ago and lends itself nicely to storytelling, which is exactly what she strives to do:

Images that tell a story are important to me, images that are suggestive, a reflection of one’s inner turmoil and dreams, a personal documentary, images where the boundaries are somewhat obscure. I want to look at an image and be forced to look again and again. A teacher once said that my images were like an Italo Calvino story or like J. Winterson’s work and after reading them, I can only hope that my version of storytelling comes even close to that.
                                      Dancing Shoes from series Strange Things 

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