Tiny Collective - Interview with mobile photographer Manuel Voss // Posted May 26, 2012
The following interview with mobile photographer Manuel Voss, (@emanueljayv on Instagram) was conducted over email in May 2012 by Tiny Collective member Aaron Cohen.
When I did this interview with Manuel Voss I hadn't I followed him for long on IG, but I was struck by his strong sense of experimentalism and shocking portraits, his black and whites were unique and rhythmic... he drew me closer to his work through the humility i found in his photographs.
- Tiny Collective member Aaron Choen (@Instatone)
“ I believe photography is the most revealing thing I do in my life. The pictures I take are reflections of what I think and feel. When taking a picture I cannot escape who I am and where I’ve been.”
- Manuel Voss
Tiny Collective - So, you mentioned to me that taking pictures with an iPhone has reignited your interest in photography because it’s simply so mobile and lightweight. Can you talk about your attraction to the iPhone? Also, because I’m interested, can you talk a little about your evolution as an artist?
Manuel Voss - For a person who has been around since black-and-white television, the iPhone is an incredible tool and representation of what can emerge when great design and technology meet. The ease with which I can now access information on the go still amazes me. Top it off with a camera that is easy to use, and is always with me, only adds to what I would describe as one of the ultimate game changers of the last decade.
As one who likes to create, the iPhone becomes one more tool to use in the process. My interest has always been very broad when it comes to the arts and I have tried just about everything: Painting, Graphic Design, Video editing and more. My work in photography reflects my journey into all these disciplines, as well as the successes and failures I have experienced.
I have been using a camera since the early 1980s and for the most part was self-taught through the process of discovery. I have never considered myself a technical photographer even though I have a good understanding of the workings of a camera. Here is where the iPhone really attracts me. When shooting, the iPhone’s ease and portability allow “the camera” to get out of the way, enabling me to concentrate on what is in front of me and not what is in my hand.
"I feel a great photograph is any image that connects with the viewer." - MV
TC- I understand you are a designer, and based on your feed, you have a strong design sensibility throuhgout. How do you think that sensibility has contributed to your mobile photography? Are there parallels between your design work and your photography and if so can you elaborate?
MV - I have always been attracted to bold and simple designs in all the visual arts. I think this shows in my work when viewed as a whole. When I’m shooting, I’m always looking for ways to simplify my composition. For me the process of photography is not much different than the way a graphic designer works: remove everything from your composition that does not contribute to the desired objective. This means occasionally cropping more than I would like to admit. I have alway admired photographers who say they never crop or crop minimally. This would never work for me. I sometimes find an image in an image and if I have to crop it to one inch within it’s life, then so be it.
TC - In the spirit of geeking out a little, I’m very interested in the mobile photographer’s process, since process can vary greatly from photographer to photographer. Can you talk about some of the camera / post-processing apps you typically use and what your general process is for finishing a photo?
MV - Over the past year I’ve seen my work evolve in content and in post-production. Currently almost all my images are taken with ProCamera. I like that I can choose different parts of an image for focus and exposure. I also like the Rapid Fire Mode for those times when most camera apps could not keep up. For post-production I find my self using Snapseed for cropping, dodging & burning and PhotoForge2 when I need to work with layers. For Black and White conversion I prefer Noir. I would define the following apps as utilities with one purpose, however I do find them useful: SquareReady, Frontview, Pro HDR.
"I sometimes find an image in an image and if I have to crop it to one inch within it’s life, then so be it." - MV
TC - You mentioned that one of your passions is modernism. How does the modern aesthetic play into your work as an artist? What is it about modernism that draws you to it, and how do you think this may have influenced your work as a mobile artist?
MV - The early part of the Twentieth Century was a time for discovery and experimentation in the arts. I have always admired “the one who did it first”. Now, we think nothing of the intentional use of blur or pictures of abstraction. In the early days it must have been extremely difficult to explore and defend work that up to that point had never been seen before. One aspect of the modernist movement was the simplification of an object, reducing an object’s shape to its basic element. This also works for photography whether it is DSLR or an iPhone camera.
"The way I define a great image is a dance of elements which work in concert with each other in a way which evokes a response in a viewer." - MV
TC - Can you talk about some of the collaborations you have done as an artist, or what some of your plans are in the future, particularly related to mobile? I’m interested in the direction you think you’ll be taking your work.
MV - Up to this point I have not worked on any collaborations. I am open to any ideas if approached. For the future, I will continually work at exploring and refining my street photography, and hope to meet people with similar interests. It would be a dream to possibly play a part in the development of the iPhone as an accepted art medium.
TC - Who are some of your biggest influences in the art world and also in the mobile photography community and why?
MV - In art I would say I’m drawn more by a period than to just one artist. I particularly like the artistic community of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) which lead me to Abstract Expressionism. When it comes to photographers you're not going to find any suprises here. My taste and influences include many of the early giants including Stieglitz, Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alexander Rodchenko, Steichen, Edward Weston, the list goes on.
" When I’m shooting, I’m always looking for ways to simplify my composition. For me the process of photography is not much different than the way a graphic designer works: remove everything from your composition that does not contribute to the desired objective.." - MV
At the moment as a mobile photographer I am using Instagram as a means to post my work. I say this because I have not ventured outside of the app much to discover other mobile photographers. Within the IG community Richard Koci Hernandez (@koci) was the first Photographer that made me stop and take notice. His identifiable style and consistency still amazes me.
I am also intrigued by the work of Buckner (@intao). His work pushes the definition of photography and he is also one of the most prolific photographers I follow. How he consistently comes up with his surreal worlds is a wonder to me.
TC - What do you think makes a great photo?
MV - The million dollar question… Simply stated; I feel a great photograph is any image that connects with the viewer. When a parent views a photograph of their newborn child, the emotional connection alone qualifies the photo as a great image for them. The way I define a great image is a dance of elements which work in concert with each other in a way which evokes a response in a viewer. When I say elements, I do not mean an object, but rather combinations of variables like composition, lighting, texture, expression, subject, and so on. The image can have a combination of elements, or as few as just one.
"When the photo works, a bit of magic happens and it is usually identifiable in an instant." - MV
I personally do not feel a great image is as subjective as some would like you to believe. When the photo works, a bit of magic happens and it is usually identifiable in an instant. When reviewing images I constantly ask myself, “Is this really good, or is it a snapshot?” Sometimes we have to walk away from a photograph because the initial response you have is the best indicator of whether it works or not.