My Mother Calls Me Craig
My Mother Calls Me Craig by Mike H.
When I first discovered Craig on Instagram, I noticed a few of the people I highly respect as artists were all at once liking and following this same guy who had some really cool pieces of work in his gallery. I was immediately blown away and bombed his entire feed. Since then I’ve gotten to know Craig a bit and would like to introduce his fantastic art to ya’ll. Meet Craig Corbin – new father, husband, photographer, writer, mixed media artist, collector and all around cool guy.
M: Mike C: Craig
M: So lets start off with you telling us a little about yourself and who you are…
C: My mother called me Craig Corbin and I came out of a small town southeast Georgia called Hazlehurst. Like a lot of small towns things here sorta run on their on time, which is slow. The town is made up of abandoned factories and fields of the season. For me, I use the emptiness and boredom to allow my mind to wander and create.
I have not been formally trained as an artist. I was driven to create at the age of 35 when I experienced one of many years of depression and anxiety, a condition that has haunted my family for decades. I am a self taught artist and learning has come from mistakes and experimentation with my photography. I consider myself a folk artist who carries a mobile phone simply to record my thoughts that I have sketched out in my journal. My journal is the most important tool I possess.
M: So with no previous artistic experience, how did you manage to get into mobile photography?
C: Mobile photography was recommended to me by a friend who knew my previous film work. Especially my images created with the “Holga” film camera that I hold dear to my heart. Also recommended was the camera shooting app the “Hipstamatic” which upon review of some of his images, they reminded me of the Holga. Especially using certain film/lens combinations. Also using the mobile camera I felt like it handled a lot like the Holga. A quick and simple tool that allowed you to forget about technical settings and just let your eye get in sync with your feelings of what was going on around you. So after giving it a go it became my digital Holga and that same freedom that I cherished with my film camera I found in my mobile camera. Especially when using Hipstamatic. I still refer back to my beloved Holga from time to time when I desire to hold a negative but it’s great to finally shoot a digital camera that feels like its a part of me and not a device that I had to try and connect with.
M: Yea man I looove hipstamatic! at times it can get a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what lens/film combination will work best for a shot. One thing I’ve noticed is that you have a pretty distinct look and style to your photos, and I can definitely see the hipstamatic influence. Do you have a particular set of combos you use, and what are some other methods you use to further edit after you’ve save the hipsta shot?
C: I do agree if you look at Hipstamatic as a whole it can be a bit overwhelming. When I first started using it I used the combo lens/film that my friend used. He knew my style and I think he knew it would fit my surrealistic vibe. The combination was the “John S Lens” with the “Black Keys Film”. It had a very surrealistic quality about it that you could have found in my film images using the Holga. Also it had a very subtle color. It was instant love. Even a year later or so it’s still my favorite combination. I usually save 3 combinations as my favs which of course you can do by using the “star” feature at the bottom of the Hipstamatic camera. No matter which others I might switch out and try the John/Black Keys combo stays in that rotation.
As far as editing, if am doing just straight photography and not photo manipulation, I keep it very simple. After taken my images with Hipstamatic I usually run it thru “Crop Suey” and crop the white borders off. I keep the image square 99.9% of the time. It is by far my favorite format. The square image to me leads itself to all directions. It does not force the viewer to see things as horizontals or verticals. The direction is excluded leaving only the image to represent itself and not forcing us into a preconceived format world. It is free to roam.
After I crop I either leave the image as is or tweak it in one or two more apps. Those being “OldPhotoPro” and any app that allows contrast and brightness control like “Filterstorm” or “Snapseed”. A note on “OldPhotoPro” is that my use of it is not for the old paper look but the way it smooths out a image and I normally tweak the color tone or convert it to black & white in the same program.
My favorite apps are my two hands. Being a mixed media artist I prefer to do things outside the camera which you can see on the series of images in this article. If I want texture I prefer to paint it on the print. If I want to add other images to my main image I prefer to cut and paste and alter the print instead of using my iPhone or I will collage elements in front of the camera then photograph it. It brings me closer to my creation and the hands on approach builds a relationship that is very intimate for me compared to using just the iPhone.
In the end I describe my approach with my iPhone/camera as a minimalistic approach and combining it with techniques of a folk and assemblage artist. It just feels right and it enhances my emotions.
M: I like to do a lot of the same type of things with hipstamatic, like further enhancing or editing a shot. Hopefully, they’ll add a feature soon where you can choose to not have the borders added. You mention being a mixed media artist, and I know you use a lot of found objects in your work from exploring old and abandoned places, which I think is really cool. How did that come about as an idea for your art and whats some of the more interesting things you’ve found and used?
C: Using found objects came about completely without planning. I started collecting all sorts of objects one day out of no where. I just felt like I was suppose to pick up objects that I came across. I did not even know why I was doing it. After a few years I started photographing some of these objects and adding them in my photos digitally. Although enjoyable I still felt like I was only doing a portion of what I was meant to be doing with these elements. Which has lead me to my current creation flow.
Instead of adding these items digitally I now actually place them within the composition before taking the photograph. Whether its a still life concept or using objects on people or building props I add them before hand now for the most part. It takes a lot more effort and planning but is so worth it in the outcome and the physical connection you get with your concept and materials you use brings you into the storytelling process.
The oddest found objects that I have used? Hmm I don’t consider any of them odd, although my wife might disagree with me. I can how ever list what I used on my current series. A found Bible that was being thrown away. A lot of natural objects that me and my 22 month old daughter have collected over the past couple months like bones, skulls, wood, ground moss like cover, rusty nails, dead bird, magnifying glass, window pane, and am sure other things that I forgot.
I basically collect more then I photograph and it’s like magic how these items come into play with my concepts. It’s like they found each other. Yea I always walk looking down, you just never know what you might find.
M: I think it’s cool you bring your daughter along with you on these excursions, and I’ve noticed her popping up more in your photos. Has having her in your life now changed you much artistically?
C: It’s been a blessing to have her. I have kept her since she was 6 weeks old while my wife works full-time. Being a photographer most of my work is on the weekends so its been a great fit and no daycare bill. So the weekends I usually have my art time and during the week she takes walks with me as we search. Of course I save the dangerous adventures to the weekends where I go alone or with a buddy. No asylums for her. Not yet anyway.
Am sure as she gets older she will have even a bigger impact on my art but for the most part my approach to my art is the same as before she entered my world, it’s just the walks are a little sweeter when your daughter is holding your finger .
M: You recently had some of your work featured in the Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival, which was a big step for what we do and the art form in general. Where do you see all this going, will it last or burn out?
C: Yea it was a honor to be apart of that. I wish I would have had time to have done a installment piece but either way I knew I wanted to be involved and it appeared it went over really well.
As far as the future of mobile photography I think it is actually stronger then your 35 mm and medium format digital photography. One reason being is that the more people can relate to it since chances are they themselves are carrying around the same tools that we use. Although they might or might not create the same creative images they still hold a connection to it and I think it could inspire others to try to push themselves to get better, even if it’s just capturing everyday images, which all of us do to a certain degree. Only time will tell I guess but I think as long as digital photography exist it will keep on growing and developing into its own history leaving traces of unique images just because it is so, should I say it “Mobile”.
M: This series of images that you’ve decided to use for this interview, what else can you tell us about it? And what was the process you used?
C: My last series “The Dying Word” started out as a assemblage idea in my journal. Using a abandoned Bible that was being thrown away after a older lady friend had passed away and someone I guess family, came in and cleaned here stuff out. There was no way I was letting that Bible be thrown away.
The concept was to combine a open Bible and incorporate discarded objects and dead organic material growing out if it. It turned into a photographic series by chance. My mother-in-law who knows I collect all sorts of objects gave me this deceased bird and thought I could use it. So without much thought I placed it on the Bible and photographed it. I loved the look of that and decided before doing a assemblage I would do a series of images of the Bible with elements that could show the progression of the dying of different material and incorporating it with the scripture. I loved the outcome and most important it felt right. It has to feel right and it has to speak to me.
Now that the images are completed I will build a container to hold the Bible which will be altered into a 3-dimensional sculpture and mount it into a tall wooden handmade grandfather style clock object out of found scrap wood or metal and below it, behind a rusty tin door will be the series of images that shows the inner workings. So it will become a mixed media piece using photography and assemblage sculpture. This is my preferred method of creation. The true meaning of the piece like all my other concept pieces is very personal and private. I think that this also makes the viewer interrupt the final piece through there own visual interpretation. It might mean something totally different to them then why I made it but I feel it should stand on its own without me forcing its meaning into one direction. Maybe when I finish the assemblage piece we can show that to others here if there is a interest. It is the final destination of the concept and just completes its journey.
The process of creation here is simple. The concept which just pops in my head, it seems, is recorded and story boarded in my journal. Then I just record the images using just my iPhone shooting with the Hipstamatic, I then edited it with OldOhotoPro and Snapseed. Simple workflow allows me to be more hands on with my creation and using my favorite apps “My Hands”.
M: Very cool. I think you for your time and insight on your works. Last question, I know you write as well, What are your plans with that?
C: I am currently writing my first book. Although its more of a photographic book it will include some journal style writings and poetry. Writing is something new to me but it sets up the visuals for a lot of my imagery so it only makes since to maybe combine those together, so will see how that develops and plays off one another.
“It is within the spaces of the letters that I paused, and for a split second I could see, it is then that it exposed itself to me and we continue together”.
Thanks Mike for taking up your time to talk to me and my little world of self discovery and imperfections. May they continue
Craig Corbin Website \ IPA \ Mobile Gypsies \ Instagram – @heavycoat \ firstname.lastname@example.org