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Mobile Photographer Interview – A Day In The Life Of Gina Costa – An Outstanding, Talented and Compassionate Mobile Photographer

Welcome to our very exciting interview column on theappwhisperer.com. This section entitled “A Day in the Life of…” is where we take a look at some hugely influential, interesting and accomplished individuals in the mobile photography and art world… people that we think you will love to learn more about. This is our ninety eighth installment of the series. If you have missed our previous interviews, please go here.

Today we are featuring Gina Costa; Gina began making photographs as a teenager capturing the visual beauty and dramatic landscape of the Italian village where her father was born and lived. It’s also where Gina grew up and where her heart is. She now lives in Chicago and returns home quite regularly. Gina’s interest in capturing the mountains of the Appennino Reggiano (Northern Central Italy) drove her fascination with image making. That location, with the stunning panorama and charming rural life was where her early aesthetic was born. Gina continues to take the same photographs of the same mountains, the same people but always with a new more focused lens.

Gina’s love of the photographic image and her work in teaching Art History and curatorial and museum work, as well as writing about art and photography, enabled her to explore various strategies and approaches to the medium. Gina’s interest in using the iPhone for the past three years has developed from her previous work with Lomography and other low-tech analog practices. She still uses her Nikon analog (film camera and her Nikon DSLR from time to time but now feels that the iPhone best suits her current interest in street photography as well as other genres.

Gina has worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester NY, and has taught Art History at a variety of universities. Consequently, works of art surround her in her daily life.

We couldn’t wait to find out more about Gina and invited her to take part in this interview. We think you will all enjoy this a lot, it’s full of fabulous images and wonderful words.

You can find all the links to the apps used or mentioned at the end of this article. (If you would like to be interviewed for our new ‘A Day in the Life of…’ section, send an email to Joanne@theappwhisperer.com, and we’ll get back to you.)

Gina Costa


Image – ©Gina Costa


‘Anonymous Italian Film Director’ – ©Gina Costa – Apps used – Hipstamatic, Procreate

Let’s start at the beginning of the day, how does your day start?

Espresso pot! In the tradition of a true Italian–I cannot do a thing until I have had my morning espresso. Strong and two cups! Then when my mind is properly caffeinated I begin to think about the visual world. As an art historian and museum curator, my life has always resided in the visual world. I might even say that I see the world either through a picture frame or a viewfinder. I have been like that since a teenager, much to the sometime annoyance of family and friends. By the finish of my second espresso I am roaming Flickr, EyeEm and Facebook’s photo-groups to see what beautiful images, interviews, and tutorials have been shared. I also set an overall guideline or goal for the day for a photo project: something to shoot, learn, improve upon. I carry that project with me in my pocket all day, and it keeps me creative and inspired.


‘Sunday Morning on Damien Avenue’ ©Gina Costa – apps used: Hipstamatic, Snapseed, Procreate

How did the transition from traditional photographer to mobile photographer develop? (Pardon the pun).

It was a most serendipitous move indeed! From traditional photography I became interested in very low-tech image-making. The work of one South African photographer inspired me to explore this. I became involved in Lomography and other low-tech, analog techniques. I still play with my Lomo LCA (I treasure this camera for many reasons) and my Holga. One day, about three years ago, I saw a Hipstamatic image made by a friend in Italy on his Facebook page. The effects the app created haunted me, and when I discovered it was done with the Hipstamatic app, I immediately was a convert to what I could do with apps and mobile technology. The rest is history!


Prospect Park, Brooklyn” ©Gina Costa – apps used: Hipstamatic, Snapseed

Do you like to download new mobile photography apps regularly?

Yes I do. However I am mindful I may be a little bit of an “app hoarder” (confess everyone — are we not all, a bit??) I regularly read the tutorials and interviews on theappwhisperer, this inspires me to purchase the apps mentioned in those pieces and try them out.


I wish I had more time to be able to use all the apps with agility and complete knowledge. I am hoping this year to be more diligent in discovering these wonderful tools at my fingertips!


Whistler: Under the Brooklyn Bridge”© Gina Costa – app used: Hipstamatic

What is your preferred platform, Apple iOS, Android, Windows?

Apple IOS indeed!


MoMA” “© Gina Costa – apps used :Camera +, Snapseed

Would you consider changing platforms and why?

Absolutely not. I am comfortable with the IOS platform and its functionality.


Midwestern Cathedral”© Gina Costa – apps used: Hipstamatic, Scratch Cam, Distressed FX

How often do you update your existing apps?

Whenever the updates are announced. That is to say, I update everything from the app store daily as part of my quotidian cleaning out and updating routine! If not, this all get overwhelming and out of control!


“Stay” – ©Gina Costa – apps used: Hipstamatic, Procreate, Snapseed

What are your favourite photography apps and why, what features do you look for in a new photo app?

As I mentioned. I began with and still am loyal to the Hipstamatic classic app. I do use Oggl sometimes, but my natural reflex is Hipstamatic. I use mostly Snapseed, Blender, Juxtaposer, Procreate, Distress Fx ,and ScratchCam for editing. My new years resolution is to learn a few more apps I purchased months/years ago that just sit there on my devices! I have been spending time reading tutorials or interviews with some of the mobile artists I admire most, to get a sense of what apps they find work for them. I am not one who creates sophisticated images that are highly apped and have a painterly feel to them. So, logically I do not tend to use those apps. I see myself as a more classically oriented image-maker, that is to say, the images I generate are heavily influenced by my career as an art historian. The burden/joy of the weight of photo history clearly informs my images.


“Virgina” – © Gina Costa – apps used: Camera +, Procreate, Snapseed

Where’s your favourite place to shoot and why?

Big city streets! I love the energy and the vibe of the city street. I love the multiple and simultaneously told stories captured on the city streets! If anything, I am a street-mobile artist. Is that a term? Also, I love the seductive still-life-like stillness of the American Midwestern landscape. My images straddle these two very differently felt terrains.


“Her Way” – ©Gina Costa – apps used: Camera +, Procreate

What are your favorite photographic subjects and why?

I love to capture the people on the streets, to illicit the stories and narratives of their lives and that of the human condition. I have been working on a series about women lately, and the condition of the modern Western woman. I have leaked a few of these images to the public…but am hesitant to show the full series, as I want the context of the narratives to be clear.


“Fighting the Chicago Cold” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic, Procreate, Snapseed

Where do you like to upload your photographs to – Flickr, Instagram etc?

Flickr, EyeEm, Facebook mostly. I never use instagram . I have a blogspot that is woefully out of date. I am planning on recasting and updating this to be more aligned with how I feel my work is moving forward.






“Il Signore Di Bologna” – “©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic, Procreate

Do you use your mobile phone everyday to take images?

Absolutely. Every morning, as I carefully plan out my wretchedly busy day, I also plan what where I will be that might be good content for taking pictures. I try to work in a series as much as possible these days, and plan which camera (Tadaa, Camera +, Oggl, Hipstamatic, etc) I should use most that day. I also think about the newest apps, or lenses/film combos if using Hipstamatic or Oggl. I tentatively outline projects for the day, to inter-splice between curating, teaching, and everything else!


“The Three Graces” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic

Do you like to use external hardware products with your mobile device for image and video capturing, such as lenses, tripods, external storage and battery packs? Please elaborate as much as possible.

The only external device I use is for backup storage of images.


“Swallow Cafe, Brooklyn, NY” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic

Do you edit images on your mobile devices or do you prefer to use a desktop or laptop computer?

I do all my editing on my mobile devices. I keep it all very simple. I do not see myself as an “artist” (in the sophisticated, formally trained way).


“Chelsea, NYC” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic

Where do you envisage your mobile photography passion will take you? Have you been involved with exhibitions etc? Please elaborate if you can.

This is an excellent question, which I thank many of us are quietly (or perhaps not so quietly) talking about. Where is this medium taking us? Recently I recently read a critic’s opinion that essentially stated that generating images with mobile phones is akin to what one does with a point and shoot camera, and light as less of a critical element of the image making process (not necessarily true! What is “auto” on an SLR??) it is not “photography”. Really, so, what is it? How do you define what is a photograph? I believe that mobile phones have redefined image-making for the 21st century. Critics who do not acknowledge this are short-sighted. I teach my students in my history of photography classes that mobile photography IS photography, and part of the history of that discourse.

I see the image generated with any mobile device to be a “photograph”. (I hope everyone reading this interview also agrees, if not, please join me for an espresso/aperitvo, so I may convince you!)


Yes, my images have been in several (brick and mortar) gallery exhibitions in the past few years. (Chicago, Charleston, Portland, Vermont) I am currently working on a project for a collaborative installation in Brooklyn later this year. My images, and the work of a musician and short story writer’s works will be presented in a gallery showing. I am very honored to be a part of this project. I am also working on a body of work that I prefer not to say much about here, about the perceived domestic lives of women.


“Walking with JQ in NYC” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic, Snapseed

Do you also enjoy shooting videos with your mobile phone? If so, what do you do with them? Have you considered uploading them to our Mobile Movies Flickr group?

I have yet to throw myself into that pond yet.


“Tarun’s Stairs” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Hipstamatic, Snapseed

Where do you see the future of mobile photography?

I have noted a bifurcation in the community, which I find very interesting and aligns with their professional lives in many way. Some photographers are apping their images, while retaining the essence of the subject matter. Another group is apping their content to create works which are more “paintings” than they are photographs. I would define these two camps as the “painterly group” and the “photographer group”. This is not setting up to be a conflict of any sorts, but rather a natural evolution based on the motivations of the individual artist. I do not see myself in the painterly group. I see this bifurcation as a natural development of the medium and a great thing!


“Lonely Indeed” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Oggl

What do you think is the most popular area of mobile photography?

See my comment above: I see two divergent tendencies forming. In one camp I observe”street photography” to be a bit more prevalent recently. Where as “landscapes” and “fantasy” seem to be also very popular.


In the other camp I see wonderful painterly abstractions and some very dark, brooding heavily masked/apped images being created. All very talented artists.


“Mexican Chair” – “©Gina Costa -apps used: Oggl

Do you think it’s country specific, are some nations more clued up?

I do. No comment 🙂


“In Today’s WSJ” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Oggl

If you could select a specification for a mobile smartphone, what features would you select, photographically speaking?

A lens that has the functionality of a long lens, without having to purchase one you attach onto your iPhone.


“Injured” – ©Gina Costa -apps used: Tadaa

What do you think of Joanne and theappwhisperer.com?

I want to thank Joanne and theappwhisperer.com for giving me the opportunity to share some of my modest views on mobile photography and this movement. I also want to note that without all the indispensable tutorials, news updates, interviews, and showcases, I cannot imagine where this community would be. It is because of all these, I believe the movement is evolving in a robust, meaningful direction. Thank you Joanne!

Links To All Apps Mentioned


“Injured no. 2” – © Gina Costa -apps used Oggl, Snapseed









Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website— TheAppWhisperer.com— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - TheAppWhispererPrintSales.com has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: joanne@theappwhisperer.com