COLUMNS,  Fly On The Wall,  News

Fly On The Wall Column With MaryJane Sarvis and Jennifer Bracewell

We’re so delighted to publish the first ‘Fly On The Wall’ Column today by our two Columnists MaryJane Sarvis and Jennifer Bracewell. We announced this column last week, if you missed that, go here.

‘Fly On The Wall’ and it is a running dialogue between MaryJane and Jennifer discussing various aspects of living with mobile photography; the impact it has on their lives, the positives, the negatives, the highs, the lows, the blocks and the flows. We hope that you will find this Column incredibly interesting and inspiring and we’d love you to join in their conversations by commenting beneath each article.

We think you’re going to enjoy this very much, over to you MaryJane and Jennifer…(foreword by Joanne Carter).


Image ©MaryJane Sarvis


MaryJane (MJ) – “Jennifer, I know we’ve both mentioned the plight of being uninspired or blocked before, both on FB and between us. No matter how much I remind myself that this is a natural and necessary state I still get frustrated. I have a visualization I have done since college. You have to let the well replenish before you go for more water. If all you do is take the well will run dry.

We’ve discussed a few methods of dealing with blockage.  My ‘let it be’ thing only gets me so far.  What are some of yours?”


Image ©Jennifer Bracewell


Jennifer (J) – “I have been really in a creative funk lately.  I used to have so many ideas I didn’t have enough time in the day to edit. Lately, I think my well has run dry.  I recently posted this question to a group of respected artists on Facebook.  I got a lot of great responses, from take a trip to a gallery, relax and it’ll come, read a book, try journalling, many more.  The one thing I have been doing is shooting with Hipstamatic or Oggl and not editing the images.  I am working on composition, form, and light.  I think this is the basis for a good image anyhow, and with the heavy editing I’m used to doing I could pick almost anything from my camera roll and app it into something I found interesting.  I don’t know how long I’ll do this, because I do love editing, but for now it’s been a good, fun break.  Are there any places you like to go to gather inspiration?”


Image ©MaryJane Sarvis


MJ – “Sometimes I take a walk in the woods or a drive at the golden hour through some pretty back roads.  This often helps, although I sometimes think I’ve gotten tons of great shots only to come back and be disappointed.  I have to remind myself that 1 or 2 special shots from a shoot is a good haul. 

I’ve been doing the same since just before beta testing Oggl.  I felt  that I had not been thinking as a photographer, just as a painter or designer.  I always composed in the same ways and nothing felt fresh or interesting. Oggl happened at the perfect moment to hone those skills and discover new ways of seeing. The plan was really working well for a few months but I returned to the old uninspired rut yet again. I really think it’s often ebb and flow, yin yang, etc. 

I do think working in monotones really helped me.  It helps in seeing light and composition.  I know you prefer mostly monotones or black and white most of the time. 

Does it help to do the opposite of what you’re most comfortable with?  For example setting self limitations so that one can’t fall into comfort zones, therefore forcing a stretch and ultimately becoming inspired again?”


Image ©Jennifer Bracewell


J – “I felt the same about Oggl. It really did come at a good time. I loved the ability to play with different Hipstamatic combos since I wasn’t very good at Hipsta-mixing. I’ve learned so much, about what works and maybe more what doesn’t.  

I agree with switching styles as a way to shake it up and get out of a rut. A couple of years ago I was really into bright colors.  I recently fell in love with black and white, even using it in images of flowers and landscapes..  I have tried some color recently, with the idea of getting out of my rut. It’s working. I also took the advice of a terrific artist friend of mine, Craig Corbin, and started journaling.  I realized, from his advice, that I have a lot of ideas but my memory sucks, honestly.  Writing them down as they come, maybe doing a little sketch, has been a huge help.  I still feel like this is the plague of an artist, creative blockage.  It’s really helpful to have this great community to bounce ideas around with.  Do you think a critique is helpful in getting out of a funk?”


Image ©MaryJane Sarvis


MJ – “Journaling is a great plan!  I have several notebooks started. I tend to start and not follow through. I found an iPad app – Noteshelf – that has really helped this process. I still prefer pen to paper but this app doesn’t get lost and it keeps me organized. 

It may have been that it was a huge part of my college education which I retain to this day, but yes, critique is an essential part of being an artist. Both self and to be able to give constructive criticism. I don’t think it’s done often enough within this art form. It takes experience to give and receive. Yes, I do think it can help shake one out of a creative funk. Or make it worse!  But I think the best way to conclude this discussion, for now at least, is to note that it the blockage can’t last. Otherwise we wouldn’t be discussing it. We’d just stop. It’s the old Yin/Yang, light/dark, ebb and flow. Beyond that I believe every time we muddle through we learn something new. Apply it to the next phase.  It just always feels like it couldn’t be here again!   Support from our peers, be it chat or critique, contemplation, exercises which function to expand our boundaries, journaling and just plain waiting until its over all function to add to our lives as artists. I’m still thrilled to be in the swim and I’m sure you are too!”


Image ©Jennifer Bracewell


Image ©MaryJane Sarvis


Image ©Jennifer Bracewell


Image ©MaryJane Sarvis

Always enjoying photography for both business and pleasure, MaryJane Sarvis discovered the IOS system of editing and shooting with an iPhone in 2010. Thus began a whole new investigation into color imagery. Documenting the beauty of nature and Vermont, then editing to achieve the look of old oil paintings and textural color studies became a whole new fascination. She's now investigating more abstract and collage work which blend photos of her silk paintings with photographs and much more. She's also been guest lecturing and teaching in both the photography and fiber arts fields. She has recently begun a new exploration into printing IPhoneography imagery on silks and bamboo fabrics for multiple uses. She plans on opening this possibility up to the mobile art community very soon. MaryJane has exhibited at the LAMAF show in Los Angeles, Soho Digital Art Gallery, NYC., MOBILPIXATION - Unit 24 Gallery, Central London, UK Group show, Green Mountain College - Digital Regional, and several other upcoming shows and galleries As well as an interview and published tutorials on The App Whisperer. 'Snow Crab Mist' was included in the article 'The Rise of Mobile Phone Photography' by Richard Gray in The Guardian, London. Jennifer Bracewell is a mother and working artist living in the San Francisco Area. She is especially interested in portraiture and collaging, image transfers and multimedia experimentation. Her images have been featured in all major mobile photography publications as well as in galleries worldwide.


  • Gerry Coe

    Photographers block is something we all share at some point, what we do about it is the problem. Do we put the camera/phone away and wait or as you have suggested read books, visit museums etc. My personal thing is to keep on taking, doesn’t matter if it is rubbish but somewhere along the line something will happen and you will see a potentially new path to tread, or maybe a path others have tread before you but you are able to put a new interpretation to it. There is nothing new but there are new ways of seeing. We all work through the thousands of apps available until we find the ones we like, and then we can experiment more and create more interesting images with our own vision. It takes time to find your own way, some people have already done it and are instantly recognizable, for the rest of us we are still working on it. Personally I am not looking for a “style” but sometimes it just comes. Well that’s my Tuppence worth… Enjoyed the dialogue.

  • Cara Gallardo Weil

    Thank you for sharing MaryJane and Jennifer! I know I’ve had discussions with both of you about being in a creative dip. It is good to know that others go through the same thing and your suggestions about constructive ways to get through the creative dip are really helpful. xoxo

  • David

    Great dialogue! Fantastic images! What more could one want…or need!! Thanks Jennifer and MaryJane!!!!

  • Craig Corbin

    Thanks Jen for the nod and I can honestly say I have never had a creative block. I’m not sure if it is a result of me keeping a Journal or mental illness. I have two journals full of conceptual ideas and it just keeps coming but one must and I say must be willing to revive the good and the bad our mind offers us.

    Craig Corbin

  • Tracy Mitchell Griggs

    Thanks for posting this diverse group of images – I would LOVE it if you talented ladies would post the apps/processing beneath each image. Thanks!

  • Tracy Mitchell Griggs

    Also, it would be nice to also see the devices used – like whether photos are processed on iPads or use Olloclips etc etc

    • Maryjane Sarvis

      Tracy these images were all shot on iPhones using Hipstamatic and Oggl. There was no post processing or other apps used by either of us. And Thank you!

  • Stef LP

    Beautiful photos here. I want to fave them all.
    I agree with Gerry about shooting even if not inspired.
    It sort of keeps us alert.
    I am sure each day we see something that gets our attention.
    Sometimes it’s in hindsight that we realize we have something there
    that really speaks for how we see.
    I think the challenge for those of us who are geared towards composites/montages is to be stuck in a particular expected profile. Thereafter perhaps we establish appreciative eyes towards one genre of expression. There after we are assumed random if we venture away from what folks are used to seeing from us.
    Not sure if this makes sense…
    As a person with attention deficits I am rarely blocked for inspiration. There are so many interesting areas of photography to explore and consider.
    I don’t feel the limitations of expectations because …I simply cannot uphold to them. 🙂
    I do suffer a lack of motivation because of a sense of futility about it all. That is easily dealt with with an unavoidable need for distraction.
    And when too tired to actually take photos…all those old photos that I had to seize…become wonderful little gifts by which I can rediscover and play with.
    I know of groups from dA which required folks approaching areas they usually do not find an interest in,
    Say a person who digs streets is required to shoot only landscapes or macros.
    A person use to portraits to take abstract shots.
    Those lessons were really productive in getting outta a creative block.
    It wasnt about following an inclination but about discovering – learning and seeing differently. It becomes fun and sometimes introduces us to unexpected muses.

  • Maryjane Sarvis

    Thanks to all for leaving all of these interesting and supportive comments. I’m embarrassed that I haven’t been here for so long and haven’t replied as yet. I’ll speak for Jennifer and say that we are both in the early phase of empty nest syndrome as we each just had a kid head to college. I know it threw me off kilter more than I had expected. We’re working on another topic and this time we’ll follow up on the post discussion sooner and more thoroughly.

  • Maryjane Sarvis

    @Tracy Mitchell Griggs – These images were all from Oggl/Hipstamatic – from both of us, fitting in with the discussion.