iPhoneArt.com: An Artist Community
It’s been a few years now that I’ve been at this Mobile Photography game, it started with taking baby steps and cutting my teeth on Instagram, to eventually outgrowing that playground and seeking out a more mature community. After a bit of searching I came across IphoneArt.com. At first I didn’t think much about this low-key site, but after a bit of poking around I noticed something there that I had not seen anywhere else, something that all the other heavily populated apps and “communities” had failed to provide for me – Inspiration. In the way that everyone there is an artist, and all they seem to want to do is create art, not be popular or concern themselves with thousands of “likes”. This is an artist community the way it should be. From the contacts I’ve made on IPA, I have been fortunate enough to have had my work published in magazines, magazine covers, galleries and exhibitions around the world, and I owe all that to the founders, husband and wife Nate and Daria, who genuinely care and have made great sacrifices towards the advancement of the art form. Meet Nate Park, co-founder of Iphoneart.com, The Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival and all around cool guy.
M. So how did iPhoneArt.com come about?
N. We launched IPA in 2010 as a response to the mobile art and photography boom the iPhone inspired. We wanted to create a sandbox where folks could learn, create, share, and inspire one another. We’ve had the fortunate opportunity to touch thousands of lives since then, and we’ve met hundreds of people that have shined a light on ours, too. As we adjust our goals to keep IPA innovative yet thriving and self-sufficient, those 4 pillars still define the character of the community we founded.
M. Last year, in August 2012, you and your wife hosted the Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival in Santa Monica which was a huge step in legitimizing what it is we do. What was that like, and for those unfamiliar can you break it down?
N. That is a huge compliment. Thank you. I would argue people legitimize it each day with the work they create. But I understand what you mean, and quite frankly, that wasn’t our goal at the beginning.
We did want to do something big. Big in concept, big in numbers (artists and works), and literally big prints for the show. We imagined it to be a culmination of mobile artistry to that point.
For those that don’t know, the LA Mobile Arts Festival took place exactly one year ago, and included over 240 artists, from over 30 countries and featured 650 printed works. The response from the media and the general public was huge. And since the show many artists have been getting more national / global notoriety, solo shows, business opportunities, book deals, and I even saw an image from yourself on the cover of a magazine.
We had the perfect venue in our backyard here in LA. We were able to find some great sponsors who shared our vision, so luckily we had a shoestring budget to work with. I feel like the stars really aligned for us, but faith without works is dead. We put everything we had into it, physically, emotionally, financially. This was the first time we were showing anyone our new printing capabilities so it had to be perfect. My friend Bob Weil says if we knew how hard it was going to be we probably wouldn’t have done it. Quite frankly that is why we are being so prudent in regards to producing the next one.
M. Yea I really wish I could’ve made it for that, I hear there was a line of people waiting in room to get it! You’re currently working on putting together a new show with ProCamera, how is this one different from the LAMAF?
N. After we wrapped LAMAF, I had the idea of producing smaller shows at select brick and mortar galleries throughout the year. I met with the ProCamera team at WWDC just to kind of catch up and share some stuff with them we are working on with IPA, and they told me about the exhibition feature they were including in their next release and I thought it would be a perfect partnership for the first IPA Quarterly.
The IPA Quarterly shows are much, much smaller in comparison to the Mobile Arts Festival. We printed 650 pieces for LAMAF. We will print 50 at the very most for any IPA Quarterly exhibit. Our high quality printing and unique presentation methods will still be the centerpiece of the exhibitions. Staring at images on digital screens for so long, people are amazed how incredible it is to have an image printed BIG. Many folks still don’t know it is possible, so I’m trying to tear down those misconceptions and educate people on high quality archival printing.
For the IPA Quarterly there is no set format or venue so we are able to change it up and keep it fresh each time. This one has an open call and an independent judge. Others won’t. We can work with artists we admire and want to work with, and also find and showcase new talent. I think we do a great job promoting each other within our communities. I want to broaden the circle a little more. I see this new exhibition series as an opportunity for me to start reaching outside my normal circle and involve new perspectives from photographers, artists, and innovators not necessarily active in the mobile scene. I’m personally excited about getting Mark Pellington involved for this first one.
M. You mention Mark Pellington as the judge for this event, tell us a little bit about him and how he got involved, his work?
N. I recently introduced the IPA community to Mark Pellington, and he is amazed by the multitude of creative talent here.
For those who don’t know, Mark Pellington is a visionary filmmaker whose prolific, often imitated, body of work spans the entire spectrum in regards to filmed entertainment. He’s directed a handful of features and created a few popular television series here in the US. He is most notably recognized as one of the world’s premiere music video directors. He’s done videos for U2, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Public Enemy, De La Soul, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters and Moby. Google him, his work is easy to find and inspiring.
Mark is a perfect fit with IPA from both a creative and technical standpoint. Mark broke new cinematic ground for both cameras and technology when he directed the U2 3D concert film in 2006. Hearing Mark talk about iPhoneography, “redefining personal art within a new context of technology”– it’s obvious he get’s it. I told him about this new exhibition series I was wanting to start, and he immediately jumped on board.
M. Back then in 2010 it was mostly just iPhones in the Mobile Photography world, but now there are other smartphone developers stepping up to the plate. Have you considered opening up the site to other brands?
N. The first iPhone came out in 2007. Like many others, Daria and I noticed the digital photography renaissance that followed soon after. We started designing and developing IPA in 2009 before the iPad was even announced. At the time, our domain name and brand was perfect, some might argue it still is. The name made it easy for us to find each other and connect with each other on another level.
Now dozens of manufacturers are making excellent, if not better, mobile devices than Apple’s original game-changer. We say pretty clearly on our site we are a hub for mobile art made with any device, but with a name like iPhoneArt it’s pretty hard to see past that. In our first year we even added some kind of “iPhoneography challenge” check box when uploading so people who didn’t have iPhones could still submit work to the site. The idea was to try and spin it like Apple’s iPhone does a better job enabling creatives (or something like that), and if you disagree, by all means prove it!
We founded IPA as a laissez-faire, egalitarian artist co-op more than anything else, so I feel bad that some people are alienated by our brand. Everything with IPA has been self-funded since day one and we’re fueled by volunteers, which basically means we have the freedom to do whatever we want, but have to work at a snail’s pace. We’ve got some ideas on how to make IPA less exclusive, I just hope we can finish and launch before too long!
Matter of fact, we are going to the “mobile community well” pretty soon, to ask folks to help us over this last production hurdle. Over the years people have asked to help bear the burden with us. Soon they’ll be able to. Give and be given, It’s a great family to be part of.
M. IPA has a great printing store that produces beautiful prints on quality papers, I’ve ordered a few myself and can honestly say they are the nicest I’ve ever had. How has that been going?
N. Printing art is challenging because the expectations are so high. You are manifesting the work in physical form and essentially taking the digital existence of the work and creating something real.
There is a technical expertise and visual skill set that takes years to develop, and the technology is always changing. Daria has spent a career shooting and printing for many high profile clients so offering a printing service that caters specifically to high end artists is the next logical step for us.
Being part of the community for so many years, I see the pain points people have in regards to printing:
- People can’t afford the kinds printers needed to do the quality of printing their work merits.
- People that have the printers would rather spend their valuable time shooting and creating art.
- Printing technology changes so fast it is hard for people to keep up and stay current.
- Most online printing vendors are cheap and poor quality.
- Artists want a marketplace they control that has their best interests in mind.
- People are looking for new ways to present a distinctive body of work.
iPrints doesn’t solve all these problems, but it’s a big step in the right direction. The response from people who see the work, and experience it first hand, like they will at the IPA Quarterly, is a good indicator for us that we’re doing it right. Doing well by doing good.
M. Thank you for your time, Nate. In closing, is there anything you’d like to say?
N. It’s interesting to see the technology, the creative trends within the community, and the communities themselves evolve as we all navigate the uncharted waters of mobile photography and digital art. At times I can be ambitious to a fault, where my own aspirations hold back the potential of what IPA can be. We spread our limited resources too thin, and at times try to do too much and serve too many.
Being a mainstay in the mobile community for several years now, I see what our value is. As we move forward on all aspects of IPA– the artist community, The Mobile Arts Festival, iPrints, and now the IPA Quarterly– the focus is only on what we’re good at. Everything else is for others to conqueror.
Thanks a lot, Mike, for taking the time to do this interview with me. Daria and I aren’t on Facebook and we don’t have a company blog so I relish the moments I get to talk a little bit about what we do. It maybe a bit long winded and boring, but I swear I have a sense of humor. I’m a big fan of Juxt. I follow lots of things many of the ‘Juxters’ do in various places online. What you are doing here is something special, and I know how much work goes into it. Keep it up!
Which reminds me – one last quick anecdote, one that may transcend our topic if we have time.
Dan Marcolina invited me to the Mobile Masters sessions at Macworld this year – an incredible experience. Having some beers with a few gents the last night I was there, the conversation veered to the topic of the unspoken competition amongst the mobile community. I always laugh when people ask me what I think about that. It’s not Packers, Vikings Sunday Night Football. We all live in the same neighborhood, and I want my neighbor’s house to look good because that increases the value of mine. I want Bob’s book to sell, I want Bryson to get his kickstarter funding for the Bird Photo Booth, I want to help boost sales for app startups, I want your gallery show to pack the house opening night and sell out. Whatever time I can invest to help promote what you are doing, I want to do it, because when you win, we win. And when mobile photography succeeds, IPA succeeds because we are part of it.
I understand personality differences, egos, and the fact that some people have a different way of doing business than others. But I can’t stress enough the importance of real community, and what that really means. Helping each other the best ways we can. Sticking together is the only way we’ll make it. And more importantly it’s the best way to make it a worthwhile journey.
Thanks again, Nate.
You can go to the IphoneArt.com site by clicking on this link, or download the free app for iOS here