Welcome to another new series of interviews and insights that we are running on theappwhisperer.com. This new section, entitled, “Extension of the I,” goes deeper into the photographic aspects of mobile photography. It delves into the lives, thoughts and influences that our artists experience from their photography. No other mobile photography website reaches the depths and emotions of the mobile photographers as we do in this new series of interviews. If you’ve missed our previous interviews of this series, you can read them here.
We think you’re going to enjoy this, a lot. Today we are featuring Karen Messick. Karen is an award-winning photographer who has embraced photography as a second career after leaving her life long career in retail. She developed a passion for photography while in her retail position as a Vice President for May Company. She has been capturing images for the last 16 years. Her sense for design, color, composition and placement of subject elements is striking. The patterns in her nature close ups are refreshing and energizing. She has also embraced imaging with High Dynamic Range software, and artistic adaptations of her images with plug-in software. Her latest photographic endeavors include capturing and processing images with the iPhone.
Karen has led photo workshops in Baltimore, Delaware, New Mexico and Virginia. She has lectured on composition and design during Photo Week in Washington, DC and for Nature Vision’s Photo Expo in Virginia.
Karen has written instructional articles and had portfolio pieces published in Nature Photographer Magazine and iPhonelife Magazine. Currently she is a field contributor for Nature Photographer Magazine.
Karen teaches Intro to digital photography, and iPhone Photography at Johns Hopkins University, in the Odyssey Program.
Karen is also a lecturer and field workshop leader for Capital Photography Center and Horizon Photography Workshops.
Her work has been on display at: The Baltimore Gallery; Baltimore, Maryland 2003 Baltimore Museum of Art; Looking Through The Lens; 2008 Valley Frame and Fine Art, Cockeysville, Maryland 2011 Rehoboth Art League, Rehoboth, Delaware 2005-2009 Baas Art Gallery Seattle, Washington 2013
Her images are held in The Photography Collections, of the University of Maryland Baltimore County Campus; Her iPhone images are for sale on line in the stock agency, Aurora.
We previously interviewed Karen in our A Day In The Life Interview, if you missed that, you can read it here and you can read more about Karen in the following interview. You also find all the links to the apps mentioned at the end of this article.
(If you would like to be interviewed for our new “A Day in the Life of…” section, just send an email to Joanne@theappwhisperer.com, and we’ll get it set up.”
Karen – While traveling on vacations I carried a point and shoot Nikon One Touch circa 1985 now considered Vintage, and came home with pictures my friends and co-workers admired; they often asked – What kind of camera are you using?- So I thought maybe I had some talent for composition, because the camera was doing everything else. My first SLR was the Nikon N90s in 1995, and that’s when I became serious about photography.
Karen – Influences bombard me daily when I look at other photographer and artist’s work. I analyze their shot or composition, the composite or the abstract and take away what I like, much like visiting a Museum and walking through the corridors and rooms of artist’s work over the course of art history from renaissance to modern art. I like to study paintings for the way painters handle and represent light in their images. Contemporary photographers that have influenced me by their work are Freeman Patterson and Tony Sweet. iPhone artists that continue to inspire me are Roger Guetta, Karen Divine and Rudy Vogel – just to name a few among others of extreme iPhone art talent who share their work daily on FB sites and the web.
Karen – I prefer to think of it as subjects who seek me;.I tend to put myself in a place and let the subjects speak to me, whether it’s a simple chair in a corner or a plant on a window sill, a beautiful beach scene or a dilapidated building. I like to travel to places and see what I see. Listen to my surroundings, observe and let the pictures come to me.
Joanne – What is it about these subjects that you want to capture/communicate and ultimately convey in your images?
Karen – Often, I try to understand that question myself – I sometimes reflect on the subjects I capture to find a rhythm in my work, a continuity, a direction but my style and subjects are so varied as is life that I have a hard time drilling down to a purpose of communication. I think it is really just a sharing of what I find beautiful, fun or interesting in the world, be it an artfully arranged interior in a museum, an antique light hanging from a stark white kitchen ceiling in an historic building, or people in their environment, but always there is an element of interest, to me in the light; the ultimate medium of the art of photography.
Karen – Well, I appreciate beauty – That is, beauty as my eyes see it, found in all aspects of life in the world; in color, shape, form and light and all the ever changing aspects of light, subjects and people, as I move about the world in my life. Pictures and beauty are everywhere to me!
Joanne – Which photographers (not necessarily mobile photographers) do you most admire and why?
Karen – The traditional photographers that I admire most are:
DeWitt Jones ~ I have admired his work for a very long time. When I started in Nature Photography his articles in Outdoor Photographer Magazine were inspirational. His message today behind his images resonates with me, Celebrate What’s Right With the World; I see his work as a true reflection of beauty in the world.
Tony Sweet is another photographer I admire for his creative vision in his work always pushing new boundaries and trying new processes from his extreme use of panoramas to multiple exposure techniques and his creative iPhone work.
Ian Plant for his absolutely perfect breathtaking images of the earth he discovers. But there are many, many more and the list is long and many lesser-known photographers I admire their work everyday.
Joanne – Henri Cartier-Bresson is in many ways, the Godfather of street photography, even in the 1930’s he enjoyed using a small camera for discretion in order to capture people and tell a story; do you feel this way regarding mobile photography?
Karen – Yes, I do. The mobile phone adds a substantial degree of discretion. I can point my iPhone at a subject and they might just think I am looking at a text or reading an e-mail.
Joanne – Tell us about your photographic technique – do you rely on intuition or do you believe in a more formal/trained approach?
Karen – My work is a blend of technique, learned and intuition, adding in the stuff I am made of over time, my past experiences and influences.
My photographic technique has its roots in the love of art painting; especially the Impressionists, but I love all types of paintings. In my early childhood years I would draw and loved art classes of all kinds from pottery to paint. My parents loved gardening and were always exclaiming the beauty of a rose and it’s delicate scent, or pointing out to me the details of subtle color and shape in the ruffle of the trumpet in a daffodil. When bloom time was peak they were always cutting beautiful bouquets of fresh garden flowers for the house. They were truly nature’s art. This is where my appreciation for things beautiful came to be.
My technique’s have been learned, I believe you need to learn how to use the tool from a technical aspect, before you can create with it, so understanding light, exposure, depth of field, shutter speed is essential to my work. Studying the guidelines of composition has also enhanced my work.
Karen – When I first started shooting, my images were small 4 x 6 paper prints from my point and shoot Nikon from vacations. Then I decided I enjoyed the act of photographing and bought an SLR camera where I then began shooting straight nature images on slide film: learning techniques, depth of field exposure, shutter speed, metering etc. The final image was the SLIDE.
When digital photography arrived on the scene with all the potential of software image processing it opened up a whole new world of image creation. The image capture then became the medium for what was to come, in processing. At that point I had a good solid foundation of technique, now it was all about vision. I often find myself saying now: here’s an image, now what can be done to enhance it?; Now creativity is unwrapped! The apps on the iPhone are incredible and offer the creative artist, the innovative photographer and some blend of both to flourish with a new medium of digital art files.
Joanne – Many of the great photographers, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Robert Frank , Henri Cartier-Bresson described only shooting images for themselves; do you see this attitude with mobile photographers?
Karen – Like most artists, I think artists make art to make art! They do it because it is what they do, the same reason a sailor sails! A writer writes: They love it!
Not necessarily because of any external motive of fame or fortune, we all know that would be misguided.
Joanne – Do you take risks with photographs, push boundaries? If yes, please give examples, if no, why not, would you like to?
Karen – I will try almost anything with a photograph..textures, distortion, layers whatever my minds eye has an idea might work with an image. I am not so much a digital collage artist but I do blend different images together to arrive at a final image. I will even create complete abstracts out of mobile images, spurred on and inspired by the many creative abstract works I have seen by mobile artists.
Joanne – What is your favorite picture, of your own and why?
Karen – I don’t have an absolute favorite, but I have a few that surprised me with their result. I was intending to photograph a field of wild poppies and lupines, the type you see along some highways here in the US, and that are never accessible. One day while on a photo outing and on the way to my lodging, in Virginia I saw a field of wild flowers that was accessible. It was located just below the highway in the center of an off ramp loop. The next morning, I headed back and intended to make some macro shots, but when I got into the field, I realized that the wind created by the traffic moving at 60+ miles on the Highway overhead was just not going to allow me the vision I had in mind. So, I played with the wind, instead of walking away from this beautiful field of flowers I had always wanted to capture I said, OK lets see what the wind will do, and I set an appropriate exposure for the scene found a composition I thought would work and cracked off several shots on my tripod. One of those shots is still a favorite of mine today and I use it in my presentation on composition to motivate students to work with the wind! It is also a great life lesson, when we find ourselves with not exactly what we had hoped for! Work with what we have.
Joanne – Do you get emotionally involved with your photography?
Karen – I think it is hard to separate human emotion from art. I think it is an extension and outward expression of our emotion. I do not consciously say I am going to create a happy shot or a moody shot, it just happens, based on where I am my mood and my environment.
Joanne – Does your life become entwined with your subjects?
Karen – I would say life is my subject, and my images are part of me, so yes there is entwinement.
Entwinement to me is connectedness, woven together, so how can you separate it? It is entwined, and connected in ways we cannot verbally communicate. For example: There is an iPhone shot I made while in a Museum in Washington where I had a group of students learning mobile photography. The window and the furniture around the window was somewhat fanciful to me, the funny shapes of the stools juxtaposed with the traditional architecture of the Museum window and the buildings outside made me smile inside, and when I thought of the distortion I could create in addition, by making a handheld HDR Panoramic of the scene it made me smile even more. That little moment will always be with me. It was a happy entwinement.
Joanne – Do you have a special post-processing style?
Karen – I like to explore many post processing styles and do but I often like to add a painterly effect from Glaze, AutoPainter or Artista Oil, just to see what will happen to the image when I do. In both my mobile photography and my Big Girl Camera photography I am evermore blending different images and layering effects from software programs like AlienSkin SnapArt3 or Nik Effects as well as using textures. But, sometimes as with any image straight works too!
Joanne – Do you have a digital workflow system to sort your images, if so what is it?
Karen – Yes I use Image Capture on my Mac when connecting my iPhone. I like to sort periodically when I have worked through a collection of shots from a specific location shoot. I create desktop folders my shoot name and date and download off the iPhone selective images into that file. Then I can import that folder into a library catalog.
Joanne – How do you think photography has changed over the years?
Karen – I think photography’s medium has always been light. I think that is still what’s at the core of every image, light, without it there is no image; we still need to be students of light. What has changed is how we use the light, the way we record the light with a digital medium. Using images today has become a way to create something other than a photograph in its absolute form. It has become a way to create an image and express a vision.
Joanne – As a mobile photographer you’re at the cutting edge of technology, do you ever hanker for the 35mm film days?
Karen – A resounding NO! I love what is happening today with photography. The tools we have available today for image creation and enhancement are fabulous. I love seeing all the amazing work that this new technology has unleashed. It is photography with the technology of our time!
Links to All Apps Used and Mentioned in This Interview