I touched upon how I became an iPhoneographer in an earlier post (“iPhoneography and me”). Now I’d like to expand on that and go into details about my ongoing journey of discovery, and how living in Western Australia is helping or hindering my artistic endeavours.
When I first started out in iPhoneography in December 2010, shortly after arriving in Australia, the concept of mobile photography was still in its infancy. Apple was marketing the multitudinous functions of its iPhone, but not the photography side of it. When I happened to mention the word “iPhoneography” in social circles, I would be met with a blank stare and the conversation would swiftly move on to other things. Maybe it was an Australian thing, for certainly when I mentioned “iPhoneography” amongst my European and American counterparts, they knew what it was all about.
Nevertheless, undaunted and unflustered by an overwhelming lack of public interest, I approached the Perth Apple Store and instigated Western Australia’s first iPhoneography exhibition and talk. I rounded up 6 other budding iPhoneographers, and we submitted a total of 12-15 images each, which were displayed on large Macs at the Store in July 2011. Each artist got his/her own Mac and the images were rotated in sequence. I gave a short demonstration on iPhoneography, followed after by another iPhone artist, and then everyone mingled and fielded questions afterwards. I like to think it was a great success, however I’m not convinced Western Australians were ready for mobile photography art then, or even now, as there hasn’t been an iPhoneography exhibition at the Perth Store since. However, in Europe and America and even the Eastern Seaboard of Australia the Apple Stores have had numerous exhibitions and workshops, giving my fellow artists there a chance to shine, while back in this backwater I think I may be the only active mobile photography artist around! Thankfully there is the world wide web and various forums and online communities dedicated to the art, otherwise I think I would be working in a vacuum. It sometimes does feel that way, when I read about my fellow artists meeting up for photography walks and chats, or giving workshops and demonstrations on iPhoneography, or having exhibitions at this gallery and that.
As for myself, I must admit that Western Australia is proving to be as barren as its deserts, culturally. Here we have a dual speed economy, where society is split into the haves and have-nots, the haves being those in the mining services industry who easily earn over $150,000 a year, the have-nots, who consist of us other mere mortals. The Haves make up about 5% of the population but have driven up the cost of living for the other 95%, so much so that people are struggling to meet their weekly bills and home loans. The same appears to apply to the Arts scene…there is an invisible echelon of anointed and chosen people who get their work into galleries, have openings and occasionally sell a painting or two. Then there are those who struggle to even get a response from galleries. I fall into the latter category; 80% of my emails to various art galleries around the Perth region remain unanswered 6 months later. It could be disinterest, maybe their eyes glaze over at the mere mention of “mobile photography art”, or maybe the general belief is that it’s just not good enough to grace their walls and the walls of their clients’ homes. Maybe “mobile photography art” is somehow NOT real Art?? I followed the advice given by marketing books, and sent chase-up emails, and then further chase-up emails…and still the stubborn 80% of them remain silent and unobtainable.
Every so often, on the other side of the world, or just the other side of Australia, I hear about a mobile photography artist who’s been selected to judge a contest, or who is having a solo exhibition, or who has been picked to join a gallery, or who has sold a number of framed images, or who’s been invited to give a talk/write an article/write a book, contribute to a group show, fill in the blanks yourself.
I made the decision a while back not to participate in any contests/competitions that required an entry fee. The only ones who benefit from these contests/competitions are the organisers. Nowadays I will only take part in free competitions. I once made the mistake of paying quite a large sum of money to enter my images into a Georgia O’Keeffe photography competition. I submitted 10 of my best images of flowers, those that I’d received feedback on, with people saying they bore an uncanny resemblance to Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings. Did I get even an honourable mention? Nope! And the winning images that I saw later on were drab and mundane and ordinary. That was the last time I parted with my hard-earned cash entering a photo contest. Maybe one man’s meat truly is another man’s poison.
And so, while my fellow iPhoneographers were busy perfecting their chosen techniques and styles, I was busy exploring other aspects of mobile photography art. In September 2012 I bought an Olympus E-PM1 digital camera, with the idea to use its 10 MP camera to print extra large images at high resolution. I was using it in conjunction with my iPad 2 (which I bought about 2 months before Apple released the iPad mini grrrr!!), but transferring images from the Olympus to my MacBook Pro and to my iPad, and then working on them, proved cumbersome and time-consuming.
Then the Samsung Galaxy S3 came into the market. I did my research, saw that it was (IMHO) The best Android mobile camera around, and even though the camera was only 8MP, it was still more attractive than the new iPhone 5. So I jumped ship in November 2012, and bought myself a Galaxy S3. And as a consequence I inherited the best of both iOS and Android worlds. By then I was researching printing methods, and chafing at the old problem of mobile phone image sizes being too small for commercial purposes. I use Perfect Resize 7, by the way, so I know I can increase my image sizes up to 10 foot by 10 foot, within reason. I wasn’t too concerned now about image resolutions, as the Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced in March 2013, and by June 2013 I became an early adopter of an S4 with its 13MP camera.
Right now I’m investigating and researching the field of Art Licensing and Publishing. By Licensing I mean letting companies use my images for their homeware products such as bedlinen, curtains, china, etc etc. By Publishing I mean getting my images onto greeting cards, calendars etc. It’s hard work searching out these companies as there is no Magic Directory of names and numbers one can use. I believe the book that I need hasn’t been written yet. Once again, Western Australia did not fail to disappoint me by its strange black-hole attitude towards unknown and upcoming artists. I fared better with American companies, and an agent at ArtHog has 3 of my Madhatter’s Teaparty images with a homewards company, and hopefully I will make some sales come Christmas time when their catalogue is published in September this year.
My ambition now is to get my work licensed by not just one but a few companies, and to actually start generating some income, no matter how small. And so, whenever I have a free hour or two on my hands, I surf the net using keywords such as “art licensing”, “online homewares companies”, “licensing and publishing artwork”, etc, with the hope of winkling out one or two gems that I can then contact and submit my images to. I doubt very much Australia has the inclination to look at mobile photography art, well certainly not here in Western Australia anyway. So I shall be concentrating my efforts on the rest of the world.
If you know anyone who may be interested in representing me or using my work, please do lead them this way, thank you!