Strand Ephemera

The Bi-annual Strand Ephemera is almost over for its 2013 outing. Some amazing and quirky sculptures have been on display for the public to view along The Strand beachfront in Townsville. The conditions have been a major challenge to Gallery Services and the exhibiting artists as almost gale force winds have persisted for most of the week.These images were taken on iPhone and my DSLR with some "free lens" experiments. This is an amazing trick that one of my Norwegian students taught me. You disconnect the camera lens, hold it in front of the camera body and angle it to skew the focal plane. It works just like a tilt shift lens and gives you another optical look without the expense of a new lens. My contribution to the event is to hold an iPhone workshop to encourage people to shoot some mobile phone images and upload them to instagram with the tag #strandephemera as part of a photographic competition.

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QPPA Results

Very pleased to have been awarded a "Silver Distinction" for illustrative photography at the Queensland Professional Photography Awards. My entries over the past few years have been a little haphazard to say the least and this recent award has given me a nice shot of confidence to have a crack at the APPA's later in the year. The awarded image is a collage of two iPhone images with some texture applied with "scratchcam". The background was a wall in Garbut that I shot while picking up some wedding albums from my courier and the frosted window with silhouette figure was at MONA in Tasmania. All image processing was done on my iPhone with "blender" plus a little bit of sharpening and colour grading to finish off in Photoshop. The print is on Hahnemuhle rag paper.

The Tip Shop

I'm not sure what it is about the local tip that fascinates me. Today it was the thought that one day I may just go "off grid" and there's enough stuff here to build a fine little shack in the woods. You could even furnish it quite nicely, rig up some fishing gear to catch dinner and decorate it with a couple of crossed wooden skis over the fireplace - you get the picture. I've been daydreaming about these sort of things a lot recently. I also entertained the thought today of heading off to China and documenting the amazing changes that are going on in that country - who knows what tomorrow will bring. There are changes afoot in my life thats for sure - watch this space is about the best I can offer for now. Meanwhile now that my recent "Townscapes" exhibition has been and gone its time to get back to my "Expired" project featuring the forgotten buildings that are scattered through our urban environment. A few of these images from the dump today will fit in quite nicely.

Townscapes Exhibition

My iPhone exhibition opened last week in The Galleria at the Riverway Arts Centre in Townsville. I also held an iPhone workshop in the afternoon which was attended by about 30 people interested in learning some techniques when using their mobile phone as a camera.

The workshop notes for those that are interested can be downloaded here iPhone Workshop Presentation

Earlier this year I was approached by louise from Pinnacles Gallery to hold this exhibition in their new public access space at Riverway. The timing was perfect as I was close to finishing this collection of images which focus on the Townsville urban environment. At first I was somewhat daunted by the prospect of hanging my work in front of large glass windows and it took several attempts to work out a system of printing and hanging that would be suitable in the space provided. Its amazing how many of life problems can be sorted out by searching the products on offer at Bunnings. Curtain rails, timber and a staple gun provided the perfect hanging solution for my 24" x 60" canvas prints. I also needed to hang 100% block out material behind the prints to stop the sunlight from shinning through. The prints were provided by Image Science in Melbourne who did a fantastic job matching what I saw on my monitor to the finished prints.

Budding mobile phone photographers attending my workshop following the opening.

Some sample images from the exhibition.

Didactic for the exhibition

Mobile Phone Photography of our Urban Environment

I confess - guilty as charged - I'm a phone fiddler and by the looks of it so is most of the world. My study of this phenomenon I call the "Subway Ratio" - the percentage of customers in the queue at my local Subway Restaurant who are fiddling with their phone. 50% is about normal and sometimes it's closer to 100%. Is this a good thing? Well frankly who cares? At dinner with the family or friends it’s definitely not a good thing along with driving the car, at a concert or looking at this exhibition. No go on its OK to pull it out here - snap off a few - and please tag them "#townscapes" :-).

So why do we do it? Well for me I like to stay connected with friends, pick up random bits of information, run my business while doing other things and of course take and share photographs. It would seem the same goes for millions of people around the world.

The following figures are at best educated guesses:

3.8 trillion photographs have been taken since 1826. Of those 10% were taken last year. 300 million images are uploaded to facebook every day. The vast majority of those images are now taken on smartphones.

So does the world really need so many images - again who cares? I recently went through my 35+ year archive of photographs taken from student days through to a full blown professional career. More specifically I went through the pre digital years 1980 - 2003. I decided that unless an image in my collection had significant meaning to me, historical significance or some other merit then it had to go. The local tip is now groaning under the weight of over 100,000 of my images on slide film, black and white negatives and a few dozen prints. Years of corporate headshots, product shots, overs from more exciting ventures and hundreds of clip tests from slide film demanding an exact exposure all now buried in the ground. I must confess also that I don't have a clue about the environmental impact of my recent spring clean. I had no idea what else to do with it all. On the way home from the tip I stopped by my Post Office and collected the prints you are now looking at - that felt good. Out with the old and into the new and unexplored future. The files from this exhibition are stored on disk consuming next to no space or cost. Soon my entire life's work will fit on one hard drive that hopefully will survive the ravages of corruption and redundancy.

I was once a master of alchemy. Able to disappear into the dark with an exposed roll of film and emerge with a collection of gorgeous prints and now you can do that WITH A PHONE!!!! A digital native would respond - "yeah so what, big deal gramps". Well it is a big deal and the deal is that some of the greatest images ever are being created right now. When there was Leica and Tri-X film there was only one Cartier-Bresson. Now with iPhone and Instagram there are thousands of Cartier-Bresson’s out roaming the streets. Shock horror - shoot me down I say lots of them are producing better, more engaging images than any of the past masters of "street" (I don't include myself in this).

For me the act of finding the images for this exhibition was a form of “Psychogeography” – bushwalking in the urban environment. Rather than travelling from A to B you wander from A to A exploring new places and pathways. Urban dross becomes a place of wonder to be celebrated with a tap on the touch screen. The raking light and looming storm clouds over corrugated iron can hold just as much beauty as our wonderful wilderness areas.

This is my second iPhone exhibition and possibly the last time I will tag a show as iPhone or otherwise. It really is just another camera now with all the advantages of small size and connectivity that we all now accept.

Andrew Rankin 2013