Nathaniel Cordova, best known as Nacho is like no iPhoneographer I’ve met before. His work suggests a philosophical component that’s thoughtful and enchanting. Nacho never ceases to amaze me with his words of wisdom he leaves others by commenting on their work.
(Life is a series of small moments)
Nacho in his own words…
EC: Where are you from? Tell me about yourself?
NC: I’m originally from Santurce, Puerto Rico. I grew up in the island surfing, running, swimming, and from when I was about 15 onwards enjoying shooting with an old Minolta film SLR. I’m a faculty member in a Rhetoric and Media Studies program at a private liberal arts university, where some of my students do short documentary work. My non-iPhone photography lies primarily within the photojournalism and documentary traditions. I love to shoot social protest and civic activism and street photography. I am a proponent of mindful photography.
I love to read, cook, philosophize, and be of good cheer and help.
EC: How did you get into iPhoneography?
NC: I had attempted to take a few shots with my old Samsung phone and was sorely disappointed. Then I bought an iPhone and immediately tested the camera, expecting nothing but low quality shots to share with family and friends via email. Was I in for a surprise! Not only were the shots good in terms of basic quality, but the ease of use and apps made it all the more fun to actually transform the device from primarily a phone to a photographic tool. What a hoot! From then on I was taping the iPhone to my forehead shooting everything I saw… well no, not really, but it was loads of fun and it sparked more exploration.
EC: Can you recall the first iPhoto you took that made you go WOW, I really got something here!?
NC: I can’t recall the first image, but I remember that my thoughts were more about how the iPhone opened up such avenues for exploring the artistic or creative imagination. Some of the first images were probably of trees. I love trees.
EC: How has social media such as Twitter helped or hinder the way you choose to share your work with others?
NC: Well, I sometimes post to Facebook, or Twitter, and I keep active primarily in Twitter, and other wonderful sites such as iPhoneArt, but I really find it difficult to keep up with all the social media outlets out there. On a regular day I can’t keep track of all the conversations and information threads coming through all these outlets — so my participation tends to be sporadic. On the other hand, having apps that facilitate posting to various social media sites makes it easy to share my images. I want a social media center or hub app that will facilitate management of all these threads.
(where do I fit in)
EC: What does iPhoneography mean to you?
NC: It primarily means another opportunity to express my creative imagination, to bask in playful exploration with yet another medium. Granted, I am not engaged in anything but photography, but it is realized quite differently than the other photography I do.
EC: Do you have any formal training regarding traditional photography?
NC: Not really. I had a brief workshop when I was first starting in High School, informal mentoring by a photojournalist friend when I was young, and a class/workshop here and there when I was an undergraduate and graduate student. I’ve attended training about lighting with flash units (specifically the Nikon system), I’ve attended lectures by photojournalists, I’ve read plenty of academic work on the subject, and I have some art training. I’m taking an online workshop now on PJ work, but primarily mine has been a self-taught journey over the years.
(The Lie and how we Told it)
EC: What about your hometown is so special that it makes you what to capture it through your iPhone?
NC: Hmmm, assuming that “hometown” means where I currently reside… I think there is a quiet and laid back feel here in the afternoons and weekends which is very intriguing to me. You see, this place straddles a tenuous line between small town and larger regional town/city. Consequently, it feels as if one lives in both, and in different spaces — and at different times — one can step from one into the other. I haven’t figured out yet how best to capture that in-betweeness, or those transitions, but I have my eye on it for both iPhoneography as well as regular straight photography projects.
We also see a lot of rain during Fall/Winter, and it proves a challenge to capture such a rainy feel to the place. I want to capture the lush greens, the trees, the rain, the mist and fog — and it is much easier to venture out when all you have to carry is your iPhone!
EC: Who or what are your artistic influences?
NC: Everything is an inspiration… in the sense that I get ideas and artistic motivation out of almost all work I see. Primarily a bunch of folks working early in the documentary tradition and in particular in black and white: Walker Evans, Elliot Erwitt, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Emmett Gowin, Paul Strand, Minor White, Garry Winogrand, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, Alfred Stieglitz, Eugene Smith… and many more. But I tend to be irreverent toward all such figures. I don’t worship anybody. I am vastly inspired and influenced by the wonderful iPhoneography and iPhoneographers I encounter everyday.
In terms of what… Zen, mindfulness, those artistic moments that tried to open our eyes to something present that we hadn’t seen yet (not new mediums per se, or technique), but rather moments when new approaches are meant to disrupt the placidity and sedimentation, the calcifications that no longer let us see anew.
EC: What have been some of the challenges of using the iPhone as a camera?
NC: The same everybody else probably has encountered: size of sensor, fixed small lens, no dynamic range, lens placement… but all of those challenges are not always negative — they just give shape to a space of practice for us.
EC: Has your work been published before, if so, where? Did you ever expect your work to be noticed by the iPhoneography community?
NC: My iPhoneography has not been published. Some of my images have been featured in some sites such as Pixels, iPhoneArt, iPhoneography, LifeinLoFi, and Mortal Muses, but I don’t necessarily think of those as being published, nor do I tend to think of my iPhoneography as work to submit for publication — at least not very often. That is mostly because I tend to see my iPhoneography work still as fanciful exploration. That does not mean I don’t give it serious consideration, but rather that the way it primarily nourishes my creative imagination is by letting me explore, discover, and play.
My other photo work has seen publication in some newspapers, newsletters, other sites, and for other uses.
(who sings to us in silence)
EC: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction from people to your iPhotographs?
NC: Oh, I think this one is common for everybody: “wow, you took that with an iPhone?”
EC: What’s in your iPhone camera bag? What app(s) do you currently use the most often?
NC: Quite a lot of nifty apps, but I find I don’t use too many at once. I like PictureShow, Iris Photo Suite, Photo FX (Tiffens), Pure Carbon, Monophix, Photoforge, Filterstorm, Mill Colour, TiltShift Generator, Vintage Scene, Pro HDR, and others. More important is how to combine them — lightly — to achieve your vision.
(La mer vous attend)
EC: Do you mind telling us how you have created a recent piece of iPhonographic work from start to finish?
NC: This one is recent and very simple and straightforward.
Title: “One Morning the Woods”
Image 1: I visited a memorial park I like and once again headed for the trees. I like these tall trees and decided I just wanted to shoot a few frames from all angles just to explore the moment. This particular gap between the trees spoke to me. I could see how walking between these trees led to grave-site markers and how the idyllic world the memorial sought to create soon lost its fanciful guise of “resting place” and turned visitors world upside down. I wanted to depict that lurching feeling in the pit of the stomach when things go awry, when the floor is removed from under our feet — when the space we occupy no longer has the solidity we thought (even if temporarily).
Image 2: I opened the image in FaceGoo and manually distorted the picture until I achieved the desired result. Now, keep in mind that FaceGoo only saves at 288×432 — but in this case the resolution was unimportant to me as I was going to blend it with another image and force it to keep the proportions of the second image.
Image 3: I opened the background image I wanted to blend with the trees in Backgroundz as the first image to blend (this is the image that would ultimately lend its aspect ratio to the final image). Since this image was lighter I did not bother to run the dark tree image through Perfectly Clear. I also knew the resulting pixels of the image would be fairly distressed so I did not add any extra sharpening to either of the images.
Image 4: I next opened the distorted image of the trees as the second image in Backgroundz. I moved to the mode selection screen, and made sure the “maintain aspect ratio” button was set to the “on” position. I experimented with a few blending modes and, if I recall correctly, settled for the softlight blending mode. I then clicked on “results” and liking what I saw, saved the image to the album. The blend was precisely what I sought, a general look of the earth cracking and our world breaking at that moment.
Image 5: I knew the image would look better with a lighter frame that added contrast with the general tonal palette of the image. I also wanted something that had a vintage paper finish. I opened the blended image in Camera+ and added the “Vintage” mat from the collection of borders available.
Perhaps influenced by the line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” in William Butler Yeats poem “The Second Coming,” the image ultimately captured a sense of impermanence, a momentary rupture in the solidity of our world — part of an artistic vision I’m trying to develop regarding the utter contingency of our world, of the present. I hope to expand on that soon and present a clearer explanation in my blog.
EC: What other thoughts would you like to share?
NC: Funny you should ask! I have lots of thoughts, some archived in my Foto-Rhetoric site. Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thinking here, and thanks to all those folks out there that serve as wonderful inspiration!
For more on Nacho check out these links:
All images shown here are copyrighted property of the artist, please contact Nacho Cordova for copyright privileges.