iPhoneographer of the Day – Noi Mendoza

“People living in glass houses shouldn’t” and “I’m late for a very important date” are two of the most iconic street photos in iPhoneography today.  The creator of these wonderful pieces is non other than the lovey Noi Mendoza. She is not only known for these two pieces but her other work as well, ranging from nature, architecture, and everyday occurrences.

Lets get into it…

(People living in glass houses shouldn’t…)

EC: Where are you from? Tell me about yourself?

NM: I was born in Manila and raised in various Los Angeles suburbs. I moved to NYC ten years ago to pursue my masters degree in public health. I was originally on a 2-year plan to finish up my studies and head straight back to Southern California. Somehow the allure of the bright lights of the concrete jungle sucked me in and I have called NYC home ever since.

For my 9 to 5 job, I work as a health advocate for a public policy nonprofit organization. Much of my work involves building the capacity of community members and service providers to be more civically engaged. My organization also works to ensure that policies, services, and funding are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved communities in NYC.

EC: How did you get into iPhoneography?

NM: There is a running joke that my husband created a “monster” when he gave me his “hand-me-down” 2G iPhone a year and half ago. I admit I was one of those folks that didn’t get all the hoopla about the iPhone when it first came out. I was pretty content with my other smartphone (which shall remain unnamed). Slowly but surely… I became converted. He is to blame (or thank) for my growing obsession with iphoneography.

I took a few pictures but didn’t realize the potential of the iPhone camera until I discovered two apps, CameraBag and Best Camera. Ever since then, it’s been one app after another… and one experiment in photo taking and processing after another…

(Around the bend)

EC: What does iPhoneography mean to you?

NM: iPhoneography = accessibility, creativity, innovation, community, and challenge.

EC: I see you have recently (10/13/10) wrapped up your 365 project. Tell me about it, experiences with it, would you do it again?

NM: I started the 365 project, called Countdown to 33, with the intention to document the year leading up to my 33rd birthday. My first attempt at a 365 project was in 2008 and after the second week I failed miserably. Determined to follow through with it this time, I chose this past year to start it up again for several reasons.

1.   to document my life (as uneventful as some days would be)

2.   to remember how I felt, people I encountered and loved, and places/things I’ve seen,

3.   to be the “teller” of my own story. I didn’t want to reach another birthday saying,”Wow, where has the year gone?” We can all celebrate the big events as well as the small ones. Each is significant and shapes who we are.

Additionally, I would be celebrating my 10th year living in NYC during the 365 project. The date of my birthday 10.13.10 also added up to the year I would turn 33 (10+13+10).

Without a doubt, this was a challenging project. I read somewhere that most 365 photographers quit after the 3rd month. Having completed it and seeing how difficult it was to keep it up, I can see why. Not only does a person have to have the discipline to take a photo a day but you also have to find the time to process and update your blog regularly. My work and personal commitments often took precedence and prevented me from keeping my posts up to date. There were also days when I didn’t feel very inspired but to stay true to the project I continued to shoot and post photos… even ones I wasn’t completely satisfied with.

Despite that, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It allowed me to improve my photography. It gave me opportunities for self reflection. I was able to document my experiences good and bad… noteworthy and mundane… I captured the first time I met my newborn nephew and niece, numerous excursions throughout NYC as well as travel to other parts of the country, and even sad moments like the passing away of loved ones.

Would I do this again? Maybe one day but not in the near future. However, I will be starting up a new photography project on November 13th, called “Days of 13,” so look out for that.

(This one’s for the birds)

EC: Do you have any formal training regarding traditional photography?

NM: No, I am self-taught. I read a lot of photography books and magazines to learn basic techniques and to broaden my scope. I am also fortunate to have several friends and family who are photographers and they have been incredible teachers to me.

EC:What about your hometown is so special that it makes you what to capture it through your iPhone?

NM: Where do I begin? There is a saying that with 8 million people in NYC there are 8 million stories. I believe this is true. There are extraordinary photo opportunities everywhere you turn. Every neighborhood has its own character, the people are diverse and interesting, and there is something always going on. NYC is constantly evolving and that is what I find most exciting.

(Storm Chasers)

EC: Who or what are some of your artistic influences?

NM: I am most drawn to street photography and travel photography. I’m constantly browsing photography blogs and travel magazines for sources of inspiration. Of course, the larger iphoneography community also influences me. I love looking through others’ photostream on flickr and various photoblogs and engaging with iphoneographers/photographers through twitter.

In terms of artistic influences, I greatly admire the work of Henry Cartier-Bresson. He was an incredible storyteller as much as he was a photographer. The ability to capture a story – the context, the emotions, the atmosphere – is something I’d like to better grasp and improve upon.

(So close, yet so far away)

Another photographer that left an indelible mark on me was James Livingston. He took a photo a day, every day from March 31, 1979 until his death on October 25, 1997. The photos are a poignant look into his life. From the ordinary to the celebratory occasions throughout the years. The most heart wrenching depictions were those moments as his health slowly deteriorated. I was very moved by his photos. There is something profound in someone taking the time to say in their own way, “Yes, I existed.”

EC: Has your work been published before, if so, where? Did you ever expect your work to be noticed by the iPhoneography community?

NM: Yes, my photo “Contemplate” was featured in the Delta Lloyd Group magazine, Q2, in an article on mobile photography.

Three of my photos were also featured in an EYE’EM blog entry called “Your city has endless perspectives” alongside many amazing iPhoneographers.

I am extremely humbled when other photographers notice my iPhoneography. I never expect to get published or featured. I am still learning and working to improve my skills as a photographer.


EC: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction from people to your iPhotographs?

NM: The obvious reaction is, “What? You took that with your iPhone?” Then comes the bigger surprise when I tell them that all my iPhotographs were (and are still) taken with a first generation 2G iphone. One of these days I will upgrade to the iPhone 4. Probably sooner than later since many of the updates and new apps lately are no longer compatible with my version of the iPhone. That’s probably been the most frustrating aspect of iphoneography for me.

EC: What’s in your iPhone camera bag (apps)? What app(s) do you currently use the most often?

NM: My go-to apps are (in no particular order) Photogene, Perfectly Clear, Camera Plus, Camera Bag, Best Camera, PictureShow, PhotoFx, CrossProcess, MonoPhix, Plastic Bullet, Swankolab, Hipstamatic, Format126, Lo-Mob, ProCamera, Snapture, and TiltShiftGen.

Q: Do you mind telling us how you have created a recent iPhoneography piece from start to finish?

A: Sure

STEP 1       This is the original, unedited photo. I used the native camera for this particular photo. However, I sometimes use Camera Plus, Snapture, or ProCamera depending one the situation (i.e., faster shutter speed, zoom, or anti-shake).

STEP 2 I opened the photo in PhotoGene and made adjustments to the levels and cropped it into a square.    

STEP 3  Afterwards, I opened the photo in CameraBag and started flipping through the multiple layers to see which is the best processing. I ended up choosing Colorcross.   

STEP 4  I made several more adjustments to the photo in Best Camera. First, I darkened the photo to give it a bit more contrast and depth. Then, I added a vignette.   

STEP 5  Here’s the final photo titled “I’m late for a very important date”.

EC: What other thoughts would you like to share?

NM:Thank you so much for your invitation to be featured on your blog. I am really flattered to be considered.

Thank you Noi  for participating in this feature here on iPhoneogenic, the iPhoneogenic Facebook Page, and on Twitter @iPhone0genic. I’m honored to have you on my blog.

For more on Noi check out these links:


All images shown here are copyrighted property of the artist, please contact Noi Mendoza for copyright privileges.

©2010 iPhoneogenic

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