A Day In The Life Of ...,  Interviews,  INTERVIEWS,  News

Mobile Photography Interview – A Day In The Life Of Sheldon Serkin – An Incredibly Talented New York Street 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 103rd installment of the series. If you have missed our previous interviews, please go here.

Today we are featuring Sheldon Serkin, Sheldon has been shooting street photography in New York City with an iPhone since 2010. His work has been featured on a number of popular websites, including theappwhisperer.com, eyeem.com, gothamist.com and more, as well as on shortlists in the Mobile Photo Awards in both 2012 and 2013. He recently contributed a tutorial to “The Art Of iPhone Photography” book by Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald.

He is currently preparing Awful Bliss, his first book of street photographs, and posts daily on instagram, eyeem, and flickr as @shelserkin, and on his blog, awfulbliss.tumblr.com.

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

Under each image you will find the title and a list of all the apps used, links to these apps are at the end of the article.

(If you would like to be interviewed for our new ‘A Day in the Life of…’ section, send an email to [email protected], and we’ll get back to you.)

Sheldon Serkin


©Sheldon Serkin


‘Lois’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Filterstorm Camera+


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

Hi Joanne and thanks so much for the opportunity to be featured on “Day In The Life”! Virtually every one of my days starts with very strong coffee and an upload to flickr and my blog, awfulbliss.tumblr.com. I also take some time to check out what my flickr contacts have been up to.


‘Esteban’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Filterstorm


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

I had never considered myself a traditional photographer before mobile photography. While I loved taking photos, it wasn’t until I got my first iPhone that it really caught a hold of me for two reasons: Firstly, I’ve always loved street photography, but lacked the nerve to shoot with a conspicuous camera. The iPhone allows me to shoot on the sly to a degree with which I am comfortable. Secondly, I’m not the most technical of shooters, so the iPhone’s ease of use also really appealed to me.


‘Celeste’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Snapseed


Do you like to download new mobile photography apps regularly?

My new app acquisitions have slowed considerably this past year as I’ve started to process my photos less and less. I find that my current go-to apps — hipstamatic, oggl, snapseed, filterstorm, touch retouch and camera + fulfill my processing needs.


‘Anthony’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Filterstorm, Juxtaposer


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

Apple iOS, though I’ve not experienced using the others.


‘Shabbat’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Filterstorm


Would you consider changing platforms and why?

No, no, irrationally no!


‘Magdalena’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Snapseed

How often do you update your existing apps?

I usually update my apps right away. I’m always excited about new features. I’ve regretted this a few times, as I should really wait for all the bugs to be fixed before updating (for example, I couldn’t access my camera roll on oggl for a couple of months because of an update), but I’m too impatient!


‘Fett’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Filterstorm, TouchRetouch


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

I love Hipstamatic and have been shooting almost exclusively with it (and Oggl) since I started shooting. I really think the looks you can achieve with the films and lenses is beyond compare in the mobile world and, with the First Friday concept in place since Oggl was launched, there are new combos to learn and experiment with each month. For all my apps, though, I really appreciate an intuitive interface.


‘Passengers XVII – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Snapseed


Where’s your favourite place to shoot and why?

My favorite place to shoot is on the New York subway system. People are never more themselves than in public, when faced with an unavoidable, sometimes crowded commute, where their personal space is limited and eye contact it hard to avoid. New Yorkers are masters of being alone in public.


‘NYC Santa’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Snapseed


What are your favorite photographic subjects and why?

This is difficult to pinpoint, so I’d have to say the subjects I’m drawn to instinctively. The subjects that intuitively speak to me are directly influenced by how I personally feel at that moment. When entering a subway car, for example, I don’t necessarily look for a type, or a certain interaction or situation, or someone that stands out in a crowd. It’s much more intuitive than deliberate. What I’m looking for is potential. Sometimes the most average, inconspicuous, unremarkable subjects yield the greatest insight, the most powerful emotions


‘Shmuel’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Filterstorm, Camera+


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

I upload at least once a day to instagram, flickr and my blog (awfulbliss.tumblr.com). I am also active on eyeem and oggl and, to a lesser extent, on iphoneart.com and 500px. The challenge for me is the social aspect of social media responding to comments, commenting on others’ work, etc. is rarer than I’d like it to be, but the challenge of posting one image a day is exhausting enough!


‘Dante’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Camera+

Do you use your mobile phone everyday to take images?

I shoot everyday: on my way to and from work, when I’m out for a quick errand, when I’m out with my family. My phone is always in my hand, at the ready.


‘Yossi’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl
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.

I love the freedom the mophie juice packs affords me in terms of battery life. It allows me to leave the phone on and ready to capture that image that lasts a split second.


‘Fanny’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Snapseed, TouchRetouch

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

I edit on my mobile devices.


‘Felix’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Snapseed


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

I’ve had the really great fortune of being part of a few events since I started shooting: a Hipstamatic show in London, the Mobile Photo Awards show in New York City last year, and the 1st Tehran Mobile Film & Photo Festival. The biggest thrill, however, was being invited by Bob Weil and Nicki Fitz-Gerald to contribute a tutorial to their great book The Art of iPhone Photography (Rocky Nook, 2013). In the coming year, I hope to have more opportunities such as these. Another goal I have this year is to publish my own book of my photos. I’ve always lamented the seeming impermanence of sharing photos through social media.


‘Trip The Light Fantastic’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – 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 rarely shoot videos, having been conditioned to conserve memory by owning a 16 GB phone for a period of time.


‘Tango & Cash’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Camera+

Where do you see the future of mobile photography?

For most people, mobile photography will be synonymous with everyday photography, if it isn’t already, documenting events, friends, family, etc. and shared immediately. As a new and evolving art form, my hope is that it does NOT fall into cliché, the overwhelming majority of images starting to bleed into one another without distinction, and that innovative photographers and artists, such as the ones you feature on your website, continually find new and interesting means of visual expression using their mobile phone.


‘The Brood’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Snapseed, Filterstorm, TouchRetouch


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

Selfies, which in my mind are distinct from self-portraits.


‘Four Titans’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Snapseed, Camera+


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

Not so much country-specific as economically-specific: those with access we see, those without, we don’t.


‘Passengers XIII’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Hipstamatic, Filterstorm


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

I would love a feature that enables my device to take exactly the picture I see in my head. Also, more pixels!


‘Johns’ – ©Sheldon Serkin – Apps Used – Oggl, Filterstorm

What do you think of Joanne and theappwhisperer.com?

Joanne is an incredible supporter and advocate for the amazing work being done right now in mobile photography. Her website is invaluable, as is the weekly showcase, which has helped me discover so many great mobile artists. Thanks, Joanne, for the opportunity to participate in this series!

Links to all apps used and mentioned in this interview

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: [email protected]


  • maktub77

    Fantastic Interview Shel and Joanne. Always a pleasure to see your work my friend. Can´t hardly wait your book!!!!

  • Mark Rigney

    It’s great to see Sheldon’s work getting wider exposure (pardon the pun). I tend to be underwhelmed by “street life” shots, but Sheldon’s hold my attention. On-the-fly composition is so difficult, and he does so well at it, in part by finding contrasts (in ever sense) that others seem to miss.

    Can’t wait for the book to come out!