iPhone Photography Interview – Extension Of The I With – Bob Sprankle
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 and 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.
We think you’re going to enjoy this, a lot. Today, we are featuring Bob Sprankle, we recently interviewed Bob in our A Day In The Life Series, if you missed that you can read it here. Bob Sprankle is an educator, presenter, writer, and very talented mobile photographer based in Wells, Maine USA. When he’s not implementing technology training for teachers in schools, Bob is an serious photography enthusiast. He started with film at college; printing and developing in darkrooms then later moving to and embracing the freedom of digital and photoshop and more recently, mobile photography.
Check out the full interview below. Bob doesn’t usually keep a note of his workflow and the apps used therein, but he regularly uses Snapseed and more recently iPhoto (the app, as opposed to the desktop program) for post production.
(If you would like to be interviewed for our new ‘Extension Of The I’ section, just send an email to Joanne@theappwhisperer.com, and we’ll get it set up).
First Things First…
© Bob Sprankle ‘Monday’
JC – How did you get started in photography?
BS – I had toy cameras as a kid, but really didn’t get into photography until after college when I took a black and white photo course. I had to travel about half an hour on a bus to get to the campus that gave unlimited access to darkrooms, so I would usually spend an entire day in the dark room developing, breathing in the chemicals. The bus ride home was always rough due to feeling “car sick” from the chemicals that had poisoned my body all day. Then I’d get home, take out all the photos that I had developed that day photos that I thought were brilliant while influenced from the developing chemicals and realize that they were all crap, once I was breathing good clean oxygen again. I was never so happy when I moved to using Photoshop to work on photos. I could stay home. I didn’t have to breathe chemicals. And my work improved with a clearer head.
© Bob Sprankle – ‘Navigator’
JC – Who and what are your influences?
BS – I would say one of the first photographers that really inspired me was Robert Frank’s work. I still think he’s one of the greatest. These days, I am inspired by multitudes of images from all over the world on a daily basis (thanks to being able to connect to other photographers through the Internet). Two of my favorite photographers who have greatly influenced me are a husband and wife team from Hungary: HeyDyna (http://www.flickr.com/photos/51979691@N05/) and _HerRo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/_herro/). I spend hours trying to figure out how they’re getting the results that they’ve achieved.
© Bob Sprankle – ‘Noam and sol’
JC – What draws you to the subjects you seek?
BS – Sometimes I just shoot blind… walking down the street with the iPhone held at my chest and shooting and hoping I get something. I love old buildings, things that are decaying. People. Different perspectives from where I usually see things (I embarrass my daughter often lying down in a crowd to get a shot).
Honestly, though, when I take a picture, it really always feels “blind.” Even if I see something interesting, the photo never comes out as I saw it in my “mind’s eye.” The original never captures the feeling or mood I wanted. Ever since Photoshop and now the iPhone/iPad apps I’ve been working like a baker, kneading and folding in layers and effects, messing with white balances, edges, and putting in things that weren’t even in the original shot. Sometimes I know ahead what I’m trying to achieve in the process, but mostly I discover the story along the way. When I see it, it’s as if I recognize it like an old friend, and I know it’s time to stop.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Out on the ice’
JC – What is it about these subjects that you want to capture/communicate and ultimately convey in your images?
BS – Most of the time, I’m trying to tell a story, or take people into what I consider “dream images.”
© Bob Sprankle ‘Outside the gate’
JC – How did you ‘settle’ on this subject?
BS – I think they ‘settle’ on me. Sometimes I’ll see a scene in the streets that I’m in awe of and finally it dawns on me: “I should shoot this!”
© Bob Sprankle ‘Piano’
JC – Is there another are/subject that you would like to explore, if so, what and why?
BS – I’d like to capture more portraits… perhaps people at work, or doing things they normally do. Follow them around until they forget that I’m there with a camera.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Port’
JC – Which photographers (not necessarily mobile photographers) do you most admire and why?
BS – I’ll focus on some of the mobile photographers that I’m obsessed with: Clay Butch Benskin (I can’t believe how he’s able to capture what he does on the streets of NY without being discovered that he’s shooting it).
HeDyna (http://www.flickr.com/people/51979691@N05/) and her husband, _HerRo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/_herro/). I love how they capture dreamlike, surrealistic stories.
As far as traditional photographers, Ronald Gehrmann (http://www.ronaldgehrmann.com/) is a huge inspiration and influence on me. He’s helped me find the beauty in the inanimate.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Red door’
JC – 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?
BS – Yes. Definitely. That little iPhone can really be a great “spy” tool. I’m still working up the guts to be “sneaky” and capture street people scenes. I do it some but it’s rushed as I worry I’ll get “caught.”
© Bob Sprankle ‘red door’
JC – Tell us about your photographic technique – do you rely on intuition or do you believe in a more formal/trained approach?
BS – I believe in a more formal/trained approach, I just don’t follow one. I guess for me, I just like following my gut, but I’m sure I’d get better with some proper training. My learning in Photoshop has definitely shaped my iPhoneography.
All For One…
© Bob Sprankle ‘Sprite’
JC – 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?
BS – Hmmm… to a degree, I guess we all do that. But what’s exciting with tools like Instagram.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Street’
JC – How has your photography evolved?
BS – I think I’m getting closer to my intended results. The evolution of the apps have really helped. Basically, everything that I used to do in Photoshop can be carried out on my iPhone/iPad. I’m shooting everyday because of my iPhone and because of this, I see the world differently and pay more attention to what it has to offer visually.
© Bob Sprankle ‘The dance’
JC – Do you take risks with photographs, push boundaries? If yes, please give examples, if no, why not, would you like to?
BS – I try to. Making collages is where I’m really at when I have the time to work on a piece that may take days. Other days, I play it safe and just let the app do most of the magic.
© Bob Sprankle ‘The Search’
JC – What is your favorite picture, of your own and why?
BS – I guess “The Dance.” This was one of those magical moments where the textures I used lined up perfectly with the image. The dancer’s left arm isn’t really there… but the texture tricks the eye in thinking that the texture is an extension of her. I also like that it has a “painted” quality. Plus, it’s my wife’s favorite.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Time Slowly’
JC – Do you get emotionally involved with your photography?
BS – Yes. I love working on a piece for hours. It’s meditative and always takes me on a journey. I definitely feel emotions emoting from the subjects in the photo.
© Bob Sprankle ‘Tir na nog’
JC – Does your life become entwined with your subjects?
BS – Yes. Poor friends and family are always being shot by me.
© Bob Sprankle ‘We can be alone’
JC – Do you have a digital workflow system to sort your images, if so what is it?
BS – Just with tags and albums in iPhoto.
Post Production (Processing)…
© Bob Sprankle ‘Where do we go from here’
JC – Do you have a special processing style?
BS – I usually accomplish finishing touches in SnapSeed. Then transfer back to the Mac (iPhoto). I hardly print. I need to start making prints.
Tips For Processing…
© Bob Sprankle ‘Window’
JC – Do you have any tips for processing?
BS – Print them out.
© Bob Sprankle ‘You’ve been on this road before’
JC – How do you think photography has changed over the years?
BS – More people are shooting more photos than anytime before in history because of phones. There’s definitely a return to “retro look”. Photos are hardly ever printed. We all have probably more photos on our computers than we will ever have time to appreciate.
35 mm Film Days….
© Bob Sprankle ‘Zombie perspective’
JC – As a mobile photographer you’re at the cutting edge of technology, do you ever hanker for the 35mm film days?
BS – No. I love digital.