I am excited to present the next in our series of interviews. This is my first contribution to iPhoneogenic and am happy to have had the opportunity to have a virtual sit-down with one of my very favorite artists, Benamon Tame.
From the first time I saw Benamon’s work it stood out as being quite different from anything else I had encountered. It is beautifully dark, sometimes whimsical, introspective, and always surprising. Benamon has mastered the use of apps, making beautiful, thought-provoking creations and leaving us wanting more and wondering what he will come up with next. I am a huge fan of his abstract self-portraits as well. Best of all he is a wonderful person and I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend. Now, let’s hear from Benamon:
JB: Tell me about yourself? Where are you from?
BT: I was born in Worcestershire,UK. but worked all over the country and am presently living in Cornwall with my wife and two daughters. I am between cats. I work in a local secondary school as a Head of Year and Pastoral Manager (though in the life before children I used to run a bar!)
JB: How did you get into iPhoneography/iPhone Art?
BT: Purely buy chance! I have always had a weakness for technology and was Palm fan. My Treo had died and the new Palm Pre was delayed so I bought an iPhone 3G. Prior to that I had never had any interest in photography, I wrote and painted but I think it was the accessibility of the photographic apps that made me think again and got me hooked.
(Numbered Amongst The Fallen)
JB: What does iPhoneography/iPhone Art mean to you?
BT: I have always had a need to express myself creatively and it was something that was very much encouraged when I was growing up. iPhoneography has given me a way to fully express myself without feeling I have had to make compromises, being able to create what I envisioned. If I was to never post another image and just have to keep them in file unseen I would still have to create.
JB: Can you recall the first iPhoto you took that made you say WOW, I really have something here?
BT: The first picture in took that got noticed and made me think was one of an old American car and taken with one of the Vint apps ( Blue Car) The first one I actually created ( edited with Photoforge, Photogene, Tiltshift, Camerabag and Camerakit) was one of my wife and daughter ( Mother and Child) when she was first brought home and really opened my eyes to the potential of the iPhone.
(Mother and Child)
JB: How often do you work on your iPhoneography? Do you spend a lot amount of time working and reworking your photos?
BT: Not as often as I would like but every minute that I can! I think one of the reasons iphoneography works well for me is it’s portability, I don’t have the time to spend hours in front of a desktop with photoshop ( and the hours learning how to get the best out of it) but with my iPhone I can sit down when I am able and pick up and take advantage of minutes here there elsewhere. Most of my images are heavily reworked and usually spend a couple of hours on each one, though I think it is important when working with a piece knowing when to give up or walk away come back to it later. I rarely post an image just after it is finished and usually wait a day and keep coming back to look at it first.
(Dark Eden Project.Movement by the Seed)
JB: How have social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram changed the way you choose to share your work with others?
BT: I think social media has played a vital part of iphoneography in general, initially helping these individuals who first started to link up and realise the potential and to take themselves seriously. When I first started I was just someone who used the camera on his phone and edited a bit (Camerabag- Hega)
But when I found others and started to see the community that was emerging, sharing ideas and validating what we were doing as an art and not just playing on a mobile and pressing a button to make it look good. Overall social media has helped, allowing more people to access my work than could ever been achieved in any other way. It has allowed me to develop as an artist, it is an inspirational community and one that is very generous with its ‘secrets’ For some Apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram have muddled the waters and given some the impression that iphoneography is just about adding a filter or pressing a button they I have done their bit in furthering the cause and anyone with any serious interest can soon know the difference from an iphoneographers and someone who uses Instagram as just another social media outlet (this is my lunch, here are the pictures I found on the net I like, this is cute animal, this is Starbucks and this is me…)
(Still Red Inside)
JB: Do you have any formal training in traditional photography?
BT: I have had no formal training, I had stared an a-level in photography but found with limited time I have ( between work and family) I was doing that and not my own work which seemed to defeat the point so stopped.
JB: What types of subjects do you like to shoot?
BT: When I started it was just about everything but as I have developed a lot of what I do is created pieces so what I take is used to fulfill my vision rather than be itself. Street photography is something I enjoy and dip into when I get the opportunity for my ongoing Urban Deck series, though Cornwall doesn’t quite cater to big city life!
(Urban Deck Queen of Mannequins)
JB: Who inspires you? Who are your artistic influences?
BT: Inspiration is everywhere, the more I got into photography the more my perception of the world changed, I started to look at everything, the lines and colours, textures and shapes, light and shadows and how everything interacted, you could fill a lifetimes worth of photography and art and inspiration from a square metre of anywhere.There is a drive to tell stories in me and a lot of my work is based on that, snapshots and moments from stories that the images inspire in me or that I have dreamt and want to express. I am a big fan of films, TV and music videos, they spark ideas with either stories or new angles and ways to approach an image. Graphic novels and books for the same reason while music can provide a more a scat inspiration and fuel for the creative engine. Art movements like the Pre-Raphaelites, surrealists, Constructivist always draw me, for specific artists it would be Dave McKean, Tim Burton, Jon Blanc and many of the Games Workshop stable of artists, Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison to name but a few. within the iphoneographic community there is almost to many to mention and I would be afraid to start for fear of missing some, if I follow you on Instagram or linked via iPhoneart or Flickr its because I love your work and am just a bit jealous :)
(The Lady Fades)
JB: When you’re having creative block what do you do to break out if it? Do you look at the work of other iPhoneographers for inspiration ?
BT: If I do get stuck on ideas I try not to panic and try too hard, I think with having such a connected art form, the temptation can be to try and play keep up and post incessantly rather then when you have something worth sharing. everyone has their own pace and outside pressures ( work, children, the need to sleep and eat!) and I thinking it is important to trust yourself and find the right patterns for you. It is a continuing frustration that I cannot spend enough time looking and commenting on the work of other iphoneographers, from Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Twitter ( anyone on MySpace?!) to Flickr. IPhoneart, 500px, MPA and countless other sites, blogs and personal Portfolios. It is an amazing rich resource, let alone pleasure and shows iphoneography as one of the most dynamic and active art forms out there.
(The Spindley House creasted the hill and hooted into the dusk)
JB: What have been the some of the challenges of using the iPhone as a camera?
BT: I think because I started with an iPhone, using it as a camera I was less aware of its limitations. I do have the fear of dropping and breaking it as the one device represents both camera and studio! I now have a screw together metal case which does add a bit of weight but has reduced my concerns somewhat. In the early days the size of the shot was a concern, once you had edited it and got it how you wanted you could end up with something so small that it was almost a prisoner of the phone screen, I think the increase in size and apps being less destructive has helped not only develop the medium but allowed it to to escape the screen and been seen in print. Talking to a lot of my students who take photography a common theme is the next camera, that getting getting a better/more expensive will take them to the next level and make them better or more creative artists. Every camera has its limitations the iPhone and the work of so many amazing artists stands proof positive that it is not the equipment but the artist and their vision.
(Silent Song from the Paper Aviary)
JB: Has your work been published before? If so, where? Did you ever expect your work to be noticed by the iPhoneography community?
BT: I have been very lucky to have my work published on most of the major sites in the community from iPhoneography.com to LifeInLofi whose weekly selections are always a highlight of the week and also here with your monthly selections and more recently with your best of year which was huge shock and honour!
Coming from no photographic background I never expected the success I have had, or it to become such an important part of my life and though it connected so many other amazing people and artists.
(The Reflection of Beauty Faded)
JB: What has been the most surprising or most predictable reaction from people to your iPhotographs?
BT: I think for most people it’s disbelief, with my first Gallery show last year I had a some needed a demonstration on the iPhone to convince them and one who’s interest vanished once he realised that they had not been taken with the Hasselblad he had so confidently declared. Overall the reaction has been a positive one, focusing on what can be achieved as opposed to what it’s been achieved on
JB: What’s in your iPhone camera bag (apps)? What are a few of your favorite apps that you’re currently using and which ones don’t you like?
BT: I am always on the look out for new apps and with a 16gb iPhone about 2/3 of the space is taken with apps ( I think I am going to have to get something else for music!) My core apps are ProCamera, Iris Photo Suite, Cameramatic, Hipstamatic, Diptic, Snapseed, FotoLr Ps , Juxtaposer, BlurFx, Lo-Mob, Pictureshow and Scratchcam. After that Decim8 (though I still worry about its stability and would love to see more control over its affects) Phoster, TinyPlanet, Mirage, Colourspash, Camerabag, Pixlromatic and far too many others. I have yet to click with Filterstorm although it is an undeniably powerful tool and many of my friends swear by it. Apps don’t like tend to be those that don’t save in full resolution while a pet hate is those that tamper with themselves for an update which has made me a bit hesitant to update sometimes. instagram revisited all it’s filters in the it last major revision and the new ones are not as good and nor do they interact the same way when blended which is a shame. I would love to see apps like Addlib redeveloped again and look forward to the return of one of my favourite apps, Fotomuse, after it’s death at the hands of IOS 5.
JB: Where do you see iPhoneography/mobile photography in the future?
BT: I think iPhoneography is the way ahead and will be looked back on as the start of a whole new level of arts, blending digital canvas and photography with tools and an interface that allows a connection between artist a creations more akin to more traditional arts like painting and sculpture. iPhoneography represents the next step in what was begun with the mouse and then stylus and tablet, Whether the next big leap is holography, virtual or Augmented reality they will just be extensions of the immersive and tactile interface that has made the iPhone and iPad such a wonderfully creative tool. Ultimately the name iphoneography will be replaced by something less brand specific and representative of a wider tool set and output ( virtual sculpture linked to a 3D Printer for example) but it will always a have a place as the start.
JB: Do you mind telling us how you have created a recent piece of iPhonographic work from start to finish?
BT: The piece I have chosen is a self portrait called “Thoughts Take Flight” which was a finalist in the 2011 Mobile Photography Awards
My initial idea was to create a self portrait with my hair turning into birds in flight and was build up from a self portrait and a stock of bird images. I wanted the image to have a lot of space above the head to give a sense of movement so used Diptic to extend the top of the image and then blurred the background with Blur Fx
I started adding the birds using Juxtaposer, removing the image down to the bird and then saving it as a saved stamp. The birds were added I several layers, a couple of birds and then I would reopen in Photoforge and use the blur to stretch my hair to the bird. I repeated this several times, building up the layers.
I then worked the image through several editing and filter apps ( Pic Grunger, Pictureshow, Iris and Scratchcam) trying out several finishes before settling on a combination of Iris and Snapseed, finishing off in Snapseed and giving it a blue sheen which reinforced the air and flight theme.
(Thoughts Take Flight)
JB: What other thoughts would you like to share?
BT: I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the interview and also including me in your 50 for 2011. 2011 felt like a real breakout year for iphoneography, so many artists involved with gallery’s, wider media coverage and competitions like the Photo Fx and Mobile Photography Awards. I have no doubt 2012 will be even bigger.
For more on Benamon check out these links:
All images shown here are copyrighted property of the artist and are published on all iPhoneogenic outlets with the consent of the artist, please contact Benamon Tame for copyright privileges.
Published by: Jennifer Bracewell. 01/24/2012