Rob Pearson-Wright: Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop
G What is your name and where do you live?
R My name is Rob Pearson-Wright and I live in London, England. I live in the center of London, and love living there because it means that I’m close to so many iconic places and the streets are teeming with people to photograph.
G How did you get started with mobile photography?
R I got my first iPhone in November 2010 but only really took snapshots with Hipstamatic for a year and a half. By chance I came across a tutor based course intriguingly named ‘iPhoneography’ in April 2012 that was being run at a college half-way between work and home and I enrolled straight away. I didn’t really know what to expect. At 9pm on May 31st last year, after my first class, my eyes were like saucers. I had no idea the device in my pocket was capable of what I had just learnt. I had previously dismissed the native camera as being a bit ‘meh’ and had no clue that there were so many apps out there for photography. I was immediately hooked and was rabid for the next class. For the first time in my life, homework was a pleasure and I threw myself into it like a pig in the proverbial. I was an iPhoneographer and it felt good!
G What device do you use?
R I still use my first iPhone, a 4. I shoot, edit and post from it, and still find it amazing and magical. An all-in-one camera, darkroom and sharing device wrapped up in a handheld computer. I did recently treat myself to an iPad 4 for editing and to give my eyesight a fighting chance of survival.
G Who or what inspires you?
R On the second week of my course, our tutor Richard Gray, who I must thank for lighting the touchpaper beneath me, showed us a video of Richard Koci Hernandez giving tips on street photography. It will always be a clear moment in my life. It flicked a switch on in my head. Koci’s use of light, his shadows, silhouettes and composition was fantastic. I knew I wanted to take shots like this. Our homework for that week was street photography so I googled the term and stayed up into the wee hours immersing myself in the works of well known street photographers. Koci, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Vivian Meier, William Klein, Robert Doisneau and Bruce Gilden became my new heroes. However, I’m almost more inspired by people who post on sites like iPhoneArt, P1xels, Flickr and various Facebook group pages. My mind is blown daily by some of the photography and mobile art that I come across. Also, there is a fantastic sense of community and a willingness to share techniques, workflows and secret app combinations. I think ultimately that we take slices of inspiration from everywhere and everything like artistic magpies. It could be from other artists, books, films, paintings, photos, music, nature, you name it. We absorb, adapt it and apply it to our own experiences.
G Do you have a traditional photography or art background?
R Neither really; I have always been artistic and creative though. I’ve drawn, sketched and doodled for as long as I can remember and have learned to play various musical instruments. I have also produced four albums worth of music of varying quality. At college, many moons ago, I borrowed my half-brother’s Canon A1 film camera and had a lot of fun with that, but he annoyingly wanted it back. Between then and last year I only took well composed holiday snaps.
G Your style varies and includes everything from abstract to street and landscapes to fantasy edits. Is there a style you prefer?
R That’s like naming your favorite child! There are styles I prefer, but quite frankly I love it all. My first love is street photography and I could spend day after day doing it without getting bored. However, I don’t feel the need to get pinned down to one style or another. Like a kid in a sweet shop, I want to try it all! I love the buzz of street, the creativity of collaging, the freedom of abstracts and the challenge of capturing interesting portraits and landscapes. There are so many apps to try out and so much scope for experimentation that it would be rude not to dabble in a bit of everything. Besides, if you find yourself in a creative lull I think it’s great to try different disciplines to give yourself a bit of push out of the rut.
G Do you have an interesting story relating to shooting on the streets that you’d like to share?
R The first day that I ever went out specifically to shoot on the streets, I was incredibly nervous. My first 30 shots were so timid and far away from the subject that I was embarrassed with myself. I reviewed the images and deleted them straight away. They were terrible, told no interesting story and couldn’t be salvaged by any type of editing. I went out again determined to be bold and overcome the self-consciousness I felt at ‘stealing’ stranger’s intimate moments, but something clicked inside. I said ‘To hell with it!’ I just went right up to people and pretended I was making a phone call. I would fire off shots at various angles to make sure I had coverage and review them later. It was working! Then I began framing the subject and anticipating their next move, getting closer and closer still. It got more and more addictive and I was feeling the buzz. The secret to street photography, I think, is not technique or subject at first: It’s about becoming comfortable in yourself and learning to be bolder and bolder. Then you can worry about style, subject and technique. Although, to contradict myself, there are ways of letting the subject come to you and positioning yourself at the right point which lead to fantastic results without resorting to sneaky tactics or being bold. The other day I was shown a video of Bruce Gilden doing his thing on the streets of New York. For those who don’t know his style, it pretty much amounts to shoving a camera and flash right in the subject’s face as they walk towards him and shooting them. You’d imagine he’d be punched or get a stream full of verbal abuse, but strangely enough people seem oblivious to the experience or at least shocked enough not to think too. I tried his technique the next week and loved it. Warning! Don’t try this when first starting out with street photography. Build up to it!
G Do you plan your shoots or just capture what you encounter on a daily basis?
R I don’t often get to plan my shoots. That’s a luxury I rarely get. With a full time job to contend with I only really have lunch breaks, evenings and weekends so my shots tend to be instinctual. I am also at the whim of the English weather, which can be variable to say the least. So mainly, I shoot what I can, when I stumble across it. I’m quite observant and receptive to interesting characters and faces and snap them where and when I find them. Anything else is stored up and used for collages, textures and creative edits.
G What are some of your favorite apps for editing?
R There so many! I’m sure I’m not alone in being a complete app addict. I’ll just mention a few of my go to apps.
* Snapseed for a general tightening up of a image. Great for adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation and white balance. I’m weening myself off that Drama preset, as nice as it is.
* Noir, which I love for turning an image into black and white and playing with the lighting.
* Juxtaposer and Blender for creating collages or blending images.
* BigLens for pulling a subject into deep focus and for some subtle bokeh.
* Retouch for removing unwanted elements from an image.
* ScratchCam for scratches, textures and splodges.
* SlowShutter for crazy trails and skinny legs
* Decim8 for its quirky uniqueness and hard to master charm.
G Please share a bit about your editing workflow process.
R It’s fairly intuitive. Sometimes you get those rare beauties that require little or no editing. I strive for these shots more and more. They might require a simple conversion to black and white in Noir, a slight adjustment of lighting or removing an unwanted artefact or element. Other times I might want to make the image more cinematic or hyper-real and will go through a certain workflow. Usually, I take a picture through Snapseed for slight adjustments to brightness, saturation, contrast and white balance. Then I might throw it in to BigLens for a focus pull. Finally, I might wring the image through ScratchCam to see if it adds anything to it texturally. With the more artistic images, I might mull over them for minutes or weeks. Something either comes immediately or you try everything under the sun on an image and you just don’t feel it, until weeks later you look at it and think, ‘Ahaaa! That’ll be interesting!’ Experimentation is the key here, and it’s a lot of fun sculpting an image through all the apps in the virtual camera bag.
G Have you ever exhibited your work?
R I have been lucky enough, in a short period of time, to have had my work shown in galleries in London, Paris, LA, San Francisco and Lexington, Virginia. I’d love to exhibit more and I would love to attend some of the more far-flung exhibitions too.
G Is there anything you’d like to add?
R I love that a huge part of mobile art and photography is the community aspect. It is so humbling to have feedback and support from fellow artists who are willing to share tips and tricks with you. It wouldn’t be half as rewarding without this social angle, and seeing the great work done by other artists really makes you want to raise your game.
You can find more of Rob’s work these places:
Website / iPhoneArt.com / Flickr / Eye’Em / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram