Chris is a world traveler who snaps beautiful photos along the way. I always look forward to Chris’ brilliant retro/washed out feel creations from far away lands.
An interview with Chris Lazo…
(Refusing to die in obscurity)
EC: Where are you from? Tell me about yourself?
CL: I was born in California and currently live in Santa Barbara county (in a small town called Carpinteria). I am married to Brianna, and we spend our free time traveling, reading together, watching Glee/Modern Family/24/LA Lakers, and ending our dates with ice cream cones from McDonalds. (She also has an iPhone 4, and I’m jealous!)
I used to be much in to rock-climbing, and East Coast Swing dancing, but with a family and a full-time job, I am ecstatic with simply shooting iPhone photos. I was pursuing portraiture photography and commercial retouching as a career, but took a drastic change of direction, and became a pastor. iPhoneography is my hobby, and traveling to metropolitan cities is also a hobby that Brianna and I both share deeply. Those worlds collided when I met her. Now I get to shoot iPhoneography in some of the sweetest cultures in the world.
EC: How did you get into iPhoneography?
CL: I owned an iPhone since they first came out, but rarely used its camera. I worked at Brooks Institute of Photography as a studio supervisor. I oversaw the studios, and over $2M worth of camera equipment, so needless to say, I was disgusted with the 1st generation iPhone camera! I was also unaware of any kind of processing apps to assist the poor quality of the photos. Years later, I only began to use the iPhone out of necessity—it happened to be the only camera I had on me at the moment. One day, one of my techie co-workers, Shmitty, told me about an app called Camera Bag. It was the first photo app I ever heard of, so I bought it and remember being BLOWN AWAY by the Helga filter, with its boosted contrast, and vignette. It was like stumbling on a new toy. For the first time, I thought that there might be hope for my camera phone. As I got more familiar with the community of great iPhoneographers, I was blow away by how they were able to blow away the professional training of a Brooks student with sheer creativity and ingenuity. I wanted in.
(Hand in the jar)
EC: Do you have any formal training regarding traditional photography?
CL: I graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, with a degree in photography/digital imaging.
EC: Can you recall the first iPhoto you took that made you go, WOW, I really got something here!?
CL: I took a trip to New York City with my wife, Brianna, and I took the below photo on the subway (processed with Camera Bag). It wasn’t riveting, but it was here that I began to see that with a combination of great lighting and provoking composition, an iPhone could actually be the greatest camera around—it’s always in your pocket with you, and it has a style about it that is completely unique.
EC: What does iPhoneography mean to you?
CL: It’s a more pure form of art for me—not depending on expensive equipment, heavy retouching, or traditional methods—rather, the iPhone has allowed me to become a better photographer all-around, simply because it makes me think differently…outside of the box, if you will. And this is just a fun dynamic for me as a photographer. I think I have more fun with an iPhone than I do with an SLR.
It also means community to me. I love this intimate, yet growing niche of iPhoneographers. It’s only going to get bigger, and I want to enjoy it will it feels personal. It has since taken me over, as I have not picked up an SLR in years.
EC:What about your hometown is so special that it makes you what to capture it through your iPhone?
CL: Carpinteria is a town of about 12,000 people, so it’s too small to shoot creative photos! I guess this make me try harder to see things that I ordinarily would not notice. And it also forces me to travel outside of my neighborhood more.
EC: Who or what are your artistic influences?
CL: I was and am most influenced by other iPhoneographers. I think the ones that deeply impacted my shooting early on were Reservoir Dan, Max Berkowitz, Robert-Paul Jansen, Dirk Dallas, and Sam Cornwell. These iPhotographers were shooting things that were blowing my mind and making me want to go to the next level in my own shooting. Since then, I’ve stumbled upon an entire community of iPhoneographers too numerous to list that inspire me.
EC: What has been the some of the challenges of using the iPhone as a camera?
CL: Quality of the image has been much to be desired. But that was a bigger concern before the iPhone 4 came out. Now my biggest challenge is buying a new one, ha.
EC: Has your work been published before, if so, where? Did you ever expect your work to be noticed by the iPhoneography community?
CL: My iPhoneography has never been published. I never expected it…it started as a necessity, then a hobby, and now it’s an obsession. I haven’t gotten farther than this yet—I guess I’m still in the romantic stage.
EC: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction from people to your iPhotographs?
CL: “You spent all that money at a photography school, and you’re shooting with what??”
EC: What’s in your iPhone camera bag? What app(s) do you currently use the most often?
CL: I really love bold, dramatic colors, so my methods are dependent on a great exposure (by this I mean evenly lit, and able to stand on its own without apps). For this I sometimes rely on Pro HDR to prevent blown out images, and PictureShow for the interesting color combinations. However, I must say that the app I depend on most is probably CrossProcess—I love the sterile, washed-out silver feel it gives my photos. I also use PS Express and TiltShiftGen for fine-tuning.
EC: One of my favorite photos of yours is “The Meadow and the Mademoiselle.” Do you mind taking us through a workflow of how this was created?
CL: Sure! There wasn’t a long process in this image. I am more concerned with getting a great exposure. When this happens, the app of my choice will apply without too much tweaking.
STEP 1 This is the original, unedited JPEG straight off the camera…AppleMark
I already have the composition and the exposure that I was hoping for, so all that is left is applying a little adjustment.
STEP 2 The girl’s skin is beautiful, but the flatness of the original image doesn’t do this justice. I want her face to pop out more against the grass, and I also want more of a rustic, aged feel. So I pull the image into PictureShow, and apply the Retro filter…
STEP 3 Now that the girl stands out a bit more, and it looks more like a documentary photo than a camera pic. But I want a boost. Since the image has a wide range of tones in the exposure, I don’t have to wrestle around with the adjustments—a simple 50% contrast adjustment does the trick. After a light 5-point sharpening in PS Express (I left this 3rd image out because it’s so minute), the grass has the detail, color, and contrast that I need for it to support the Ethiopian girl, without stealing her glory…
(The Meadow and the Mademoiselle)
EC: What other thoughts would you like to share?
CL: 1) I’ve been hearing a steady dialog concerning whether iPhoneography is legitimate art since the art takes place mostly in the apps. As a former retoucher, I never considered photoshop as my main tool. I always thought of it as an enhancement for a great image, not a band-aid for a bad one. I think the same holds true for good iPhoneography: it’s already artistic—the apps are a bonus.
2) I always see Tumblr meet-ups happening in large cities. I would love to see iPhoneographer meet-ups happening in California.
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All images shown here are copyrighted property of Christopher Lazo, please contact Chris for copyright privileges.