The Art of Capturing Grunge and The Derelict
Frankensinatra: The Art of Capturing Grunge and The Derelict
Mike Hill (@frankensinatra) has blown me away time after time with his view of the world. His grungy style and architects eye for detail always deliver a strong photo. Mike explores not only his everyday environment but seeks out abandoned sites to shoot also. He captures these derelict places like only someone who is moved by them can. His edits add color and whimsy back into a place that is lifeless. I have really enjoyed getting to know Mr. Sinatra over the past few weeks. I hope you enjoy meeting him as much as I have.
Carousel: I took this in an area called Old Town in Orlando, Florida. Just a random saturday out with my chick. There’s a full version of the whole carousel, but I liked this one for the details. This was a patient edit, going around each one of those light bulbs with color splash on a iphone can get tedious, the horse itself wasn’t so bad. But I’m glad I did, I love how it came out. Taken with camera+, cropped to square then I used color splash. Hit it up with dynamic light “overcooked hdr” filter and then over to pic grunger. Finished off with tilt shift gen to blur the grunge and adjust saturation to give the bulbs that glow.
A: Anna M: Mike
A: Hey Mike, why don’t you give us a quick intro into who you are and where you got started with mobile photography.
M: I live in Orlando, Florida. I moved here about two and a half years ago, originally I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. I came here because I met a girl who was home visiting family and friends in New Orleans and after about 7 months we decided that we needed to be closer. And because she still had to finish doing her licensing from her job, she needed to stay in Florida for another year. My type of work would allow it so long as I was at the dock when it was my shift every couple weeks, I worked offshore in the oilfield industry at the time in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida is not really my kinda place… let me rephrase that, Orlando is not really my kind of place. I’m a Louisiana boy. The culture here, what little bit there is, doesn’t suit me. Being from a place like New Orleans, that’s bursting with rich culture and cool people is more my style. So most of my work is of places I’ve photographed there. When i go back to visit, I try and spend as much time as possible collecting photos of any and everything I can so that I’ll have stuff to edit until my next visit. Last time I was home I think I got close to about 700 photos, most were of the abandoned six flags theme park that has been rotting since Hurricane Katrina flooded it in 2005. So much more to see there then in Orlando, unless you’re into giant talking mice and busy touristy theme parks, but I prefer my parks derelict and abandoned. We do however have giant rats in New Orleans, haha, but they don’t talk… yet. I’ve lived in Hawaii, Colorado, New York, other areas of Louisiana and states in America. Backpacked through Western Samoa for a few months sleeping on beaches and in fales (grass huts), visited Japan and other places, but there is still nowhere else I’d rather be then back in New Orleans. HOWEVER, haha, it’s because of my boredom with being in Orlando that led me to find instagram. I was so bored, and it was hot as hell outside, so i started looking around in the app store and saw it, I figured, since i hate and don’t have facebook or any other social network, i would try it out. I never edited a photo before that in my life, I had like thousands saved in my external hard drive from the past few years, but could never be bothered to learn photoshop or any of that stuff. Now I’d rather stay home on a Friday night and edit a photo then go out to like a bar or something like I was doing back home. So I guess, in a way I’m glad I did end up here, because it’s like a sleeping beast has woken up inside me. A hobby I can be proud of.
Mans Best Friend: This photo I took while at the vet with my dog Voodoo. She had a mild ear infection, and had to get a few shots. She gets nervous at the vet so like any good dad I held her paw. I love this one just for obvious reasons, I mean, who doesn’t love their dog? She’s a miniature bullterrier, and if you ask anyone who has ever owned one, they’re just like having a three year old in a dog suit. I took it with camera+, then blur fx to blur out the background, over to dynamic light and used the “over cooked hdr” filter (there’s a color version). Next pic fx to add the “black grunge” effect and finally over to old photo pro to add the golden tone. I almost always finish up a photo with tilt shift gen to adjust saturation, brightness and contrast, vignette and a tilt shift effect, so i probably used that one too. but it’s been a while so I forgot, haha.
A: I love the way you edit your photos, it is so far removed from my own style. Will you explain your style to us?
M: The grunge thing, for me, is kind of like a bridge between editing and minimal processing of a photo. I’ll never do anything that actually changes the structure in a photo, cause then in my opinion it becomes digital art and not photography anymore. Which is fine for some people, that’s cool, just not my thing. Adding texture, changing color and making a photo look aged just fits my interest more, like it was found in one of the abandoned places I shoot in, under some debris and kind of scratched or molded. I’ve kinda slacked off on using it as much lately, though. My evolution of editing is backwards then most people. When I started they were heavier, now I’m starting to take a more subtle approach as my “style” matures. I’ve been doing this for less than a year now, so I figure I’ve still got some more evolving to do. You’re not likely to see anything in full color from me, it’s pretty rare, if at all. Either black and white, or black and white with a spot of color. That’s just how I roll. Color photos bore me, it’s like I can always look at something and see it in color, to view it from another person’s perspective is much, much more interesting to me. As for my process, I usually edit at night, when the house is quiet. Most of the time while editing, I listen to music, usually Pandora Radio or Last.fm. Something down-tempo, trip hop-ish, like Nightmares on Wax, Portishead or Dj Krush. One of the first things I always do with a photo is camera+ clarity then black and white, or color splash, then either camera+ clarity or dynamic light. Then I just experiment till it looks right.
Old Mausoleum: I took this one on my last trip back home to New Orleans. It’s in uptown nola in one of the many above ground cemeteries, the place was so unkept that this mausoleum actually had a tree growing out the top of it. Made for a perfect pic, only it ended up getting messed up from the sun rays. So, since I really dont know what I’m doing, I enlisted the help of my friend Tracy (@80s_girl on instagram) to fix it up so i could edit it. It went from completely unusable to one of my favorites thanks to her. I took it with pro camera then used camera+ clarity, black and white and cropped it. tilt shift gen to add the vignette and adjust brightness and contrast and saved it. Then I used the image I had saved after camera+ and put it through pic grunger, and added the same vignette and brightness and contrast settings from the other in tilt shift gen again so i had the two photos with the same vignetting. Next i blended the two together with masking in blender.
A: We both love to shoot abandoned sites. Can you tell me about your love for them?
M: I don’t really know why I like shooting abandoned places. Maybe because it’s just one of those things you don’t really see a lot of and the possibility that it’ll be gone soon. They have history. Everybody can walk outside and see clouds or trees, I prefer to sneak into an abandoned theme park or building and risk falling through a floor or getting busted by the cops to get that unique shot. Sadly where I live now, there’s not a lot of abandoned spots, plus I haven’t lived here long enough to know the area so I look online a lot for places, but it’s pretty weak here haha. Disney shut down a few parks when they came and staked their claim on the area, and I’m just starting to get a list together of some spots to hit up. They are hard to get in and are heavily watched by guards though, but I’m vigilant! So look for those soon.
Gypsy: A lot of times I ask people to send me portraits to edit when I’m in the mood to do one, so a friend took this one and emailed it to me. I really love doing portraits, but it’s one of those types of edits I have to feel like doing. This one pretty much represents exactly what I look for in a portrait. I hate when people look at the camera, it bothers me so much that i usually wont even edit it. I prefer for it to look more candid and deep, like they have something going on, it shows more emotion i think. This girl nails it every time so I’ve done a few with her, I think this is my favorite, so far. I edited it completely in photo wizard. cropped, masked and added a vertical motion blur around her body and hair (this took a long time, haha) then applied the silver filter under gray presets, soften and vignette.
A: Who do you look to for inspiration with the photography world?
M:One of my favorites has always been Thomas Barbey. I saw one of his prints in a store one time called “O Duomo Mio” and bought it. Although I don’t really do stuff like that, it’s still one of my favorites. It’s of a dude in Venice on a gondola, inside a church, with pews on each side of him. Look it up and you’ll see what I mean. Scott Mutter is another and has a similar image that I use as the background on my phone. It’s of a old church, but the isle is of a street with cars and people. I don’t read or look through photography magazines so besides those two, I don’t know of any other photographers other than the people I’ve met through instagram or IPA. Mi hermano Jose (@jr_el_nota )aka “The Dude”, has some of the best work I’ve ever seen and is just an all around good dude. Craig Corbin, (heavycoat on IG and IPA), has beautifully dark mixed media combined with photography, definitely a favorite. Marie Matthews, kaphinga on IG and IPA, who I’ve just recently met but has quickly become a favorite. Her photos are perfectly edited, I love her New Orleans work. My boy Tony (tonydetroit on IG and Eye’Em), If you don’t know who he is… What are you doing here? haha. Great, great work. Those are just a few, but anyone I follow you can pretty much throw on that list.
Ghost Playground: I took this in a looney tunes playground area of the abandoned six flags theme park in New Orleans. Kind of a surreal experience being in that place, it was like when you see those models of a nuclear town. It was so quiet, but when the wind would blow you could hear things like rusty sheet metal moving from the breeze. Everything was rotten and contaminated from flood waters. I used pro camera for the shot, then color splash and camera+ clarity. I ran it through old photo pro for the golden tone, then used blender to merge the two photos together so that the flags would still be nice and bright. Finally I finished it off with pic grunger to add the grunge vignette. A: In yourself portraits, I am always struck by the amount of ink you have. As I have tats myself I am always curious about the meaning behind them.
M: Growing up, I was always around people who had tattoos. My dad was mostly covered, my mom had a lot, her back, upper arms and some on her legs. Most of their friends had them also so for me being 5 years old I never saw it as a big deal, and this was back in the 80′s when it wasn’t as accepted and mainstream. Now there’s a tattoo shop on every corner and reality shows about it… ridiculous. So for me it came as natural as someone getting their hair dyed or piercing their ear, I just thought that’s how people were supposed to look. I started getting them when I was 15, and have continued consistently, I’m 33 now. Some of them have meaning, most don’t. Some are just meant to be a joke, I don’t care, you’re only young once right? People used to ask me how all that’s going look when I’m older, my answer was nothings going look right when I’m old anyway! Haha. Maybe I won’t look like all the other old boring dudes.
A: Where do you see your mobile photography going in the next five years?
M: All the way to the top! haha no, I’m kidding… That would be cool though. I don’t really know, I guess we’ll just have to see where mobile photography goes as a whole. Right now I’m having fun with it, but who wouldn’t want to be successful doing something they love? I’ve seen mobile photography, even in the short time I’ve been involved, make a few big moves. Things like the MPA (Mobile Photography Awards) and last years IPA (iphoneart.com) grant, books being put out from all kinds of different places and more blogs and websites popping up all the time. All are a big help to promote it as a legitimate art form. I still consider myself a novice, but I’ve had a few things in galleries, exhibitions, etc. and would love to get more involved with stuff like that. I don’t see myself getting tired of it anytime soon, I mean, when I look at things now, I start to think what apps I could use to do this or that. Its consuming. So I’ll be around in the game for while, and we will just see what happens. Short answer: Still around.
Michael Hill email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ig handle, flickr, eye’em, iphoneart.com: @frankensinatra
Juxt thanks you for your words and your art.