Today I bring you a mobile artist, from Oregon and her name is Meri Aaron Walker a.k.a iPhoneArtGirl. I met Meri through Instagram and iPhone Art. I love her Black and Whites flowers and her colour mobile art works. We’ve known each other for awhile and I have a deep respect for Meri because she overcame her stroke. She’s very active in the Mobile Arts Community and the nicest person you’ll ever meet. So sit back and read about Meri…
About Meri Aaron Walker:
I was born at the midpoint of the last century in Washington, DC where I grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood and exposed to great art from a very young age. After my family left DC when I was a young teen, I’ve lived in Florida, Georgia, Texas and now Oregon. Until I moved to Oregon in 2006, I’ve always been a big-city girl and, at heart, I think I still am, although I love the climate in southern Oregon, the low-car traffic, and the fact that it’s quiet enough most of the time in Talent that I can finally hear myself think.
I was educated to be a writer, not a visual artist. So, when I picked up my first 35mm camera, in 1972, and took it with me as my husband and I worked our way around the country, at first, photography was a lark. By the time we returned to Georgia, I’d shot a few thousand slides and lots of black-and-white roll film on the trip and was itching to learn how to process and print what I’d shot.
I was fortunate to study photography formally with Robert Nix, at the University of Georgia, for a year. Dr. Nix was a true master of bromoil and taught me the beauty of alternative photographic processes right from the beginning of my training. Along with some fierce discipline in film and paper printing. After that, I built my first darkroom, bought hundreds of photography books, took workshops from working photographers anytime I had a spare moment, and made a lot of prints. After a while, the family moved to Atlanta, where I built a freelance and stock photography business around my kids’ nap times, and started entering shows. Collectors started buying prints, magazine editors gave me interesting assignments, and the next thing I knew, we picked up the family again and moved to Texas so I could teach photography at the University of Texas and get a Master’s degree. As I taught photojournalism in Austin, I learned serigraphy and other kinds of printmaking and studied anthropology. I had some big shows, published a lot, got a write up in “Art in America,” and then quit shooting and printing to run magazines and business communication campaigns for technology companies so I could support my son when his father and I divorced.
While I was at UT, personal computers and digital cameras entered the world. I moved into the digital darkroom with the first version of Photoshop available for the PC and I continued making digital art when I wasn’t working. But my life got very complicated during the 90s and mostly I put art aside. After I moved up to Oregon in 2006, I started shooting again, for fun, but I really never enjoyed digital cameras or Photoshop the way I had enjoyed film and darkroom work.
When I got my first iPhone in December of 2009, it wasn’t 30 days before I realized that the Apple smartphone was a whole lot more than a small digital camera and I fell head over heels in love with mobile shooting and editing. With a background in film, paper and big cameras, I was a little embarrassed to tell people I was making art with my phone. But I started poking around online, looking for other people doing phone photography, and once I found my old platinum and palladium teacher, Dan Burkholder, and Combo Apps, I got a lot more serious about my “phone play.”
I didn’t comment on blogs or share any of my work for a good 18 months, but during the summer of 2011, I stumbled into EyeEm and iPhoneArt.com and then fell down the rabbit hole into social sharing, too. Since then…well, I’ve become more than a little obsessed with mobile art and with learning and sharing work with other mobile artists in online communities around the globe. Last year, I had a one-woman print show in Ashland and sold a lot of work, so this Spring, I entered some work into shows and was accepted. As the summer comes to a close, I’m deliberately traveling through four states to meet more mobile artists in new locations, including Missouri, to attend the first “Happening” for the New Era Museum and meet my online learning buddy, the incredible Brett Chenoweth.
1. How did you come up with this series of photos?
These days, I mostly shoot without an “assignment,” so I engage with whatever crosses my path that stimulates my curiosity. I know you (Tina) enjoy some of the flower closeups and other botanicals I’ve been making, so I selected these images for you, my friend.
I am so honored that you’ve asked me to share some work here and deeply grateful to you personally. I’ve learned so much reading Combo Apps tutorials and following mobile artists whose work you have shared here. For a long time now, your generosity has nourished many of us, so I wanted to share work here that has some value to you, Tina.
2. Where do you get your subjects?
When I shoot these days, it’s most often late- afternoon. Sometimes early morning. But mostly, Blaze (my dog) and I go walk in the “golden hour” light. These walks are no-mind times. Time when I give myself permission not to think and not to label – not to talk in my head – just to look. And Blaze is the best photographic assistant ever: patient as a saint!
One of the reasons I started calling myself the “iPhoneArtGirl” is that working with my simple little “glass-faced companion” opened me up to a kind of childlike seeing. Without having to carry and manage big bags of gear, my mind is freed to look at things in ways that make almost any subject “magical.”
So, the short answer to your question is I get my subjects by walking along and looking at whatever is right in front of me. I would say that close to 80% of my work has been shot within 1 mile of my home in Talent. Quite a lot of it right in my small neighborhood.
3. What are your plans with this series of photos?
I don’t have a lot of plans for the work yet. I do notice that some “groups” of images have been forming this year. The images appeared one-by-one, so they weren’t consciously intended to be a “series.” But I notice that I have been following the seasons and collecting images linked by time and/or by theme.
Most of the images here with this interview are part of what I’ve started calling “The Newborn” series. I think I’m going to make them into an ebook this winter when the days grow shorter. I’ve been exhibiting some of these in shows around the country, but there’s a book calling to be made, too. I’ve generated quite a lot of work in the last three years of this love-affair with my iPhone. Making some books could be the perfect way to share them outside the phone/tablet/computer interface. So much of my early training in photography came from books and I have a special love for artist books. Maybe it’s time I make some books of my own before my fingers aren’t no longer nimble enough to do it.
4. What are your top 10 apps?
Wow, this is such a hard thing to say because I’m a shameless “app whore.” I have hundreds of photo and art apps and I use dozens of them regularly. (Actually, it’s your fault, Tina, that I became an app whore. Without your blogging, I might never have learned about so many choices I could make, much less developed such an obsession to see the next new tool.)
If I have to narrow it down, though, I would say that I cannot live without Snapseed, iColorama, Afterlight, Touch-Retouch, Monokrom, Oggl, Long Expo, ProCamera, PhotoSynch, and Lab. I have a recent obsession with Contrast by Hornbrook and Cameramatic, too little toy-camera high-contrast apps that remind me of using a Diana camera years ago.
5. Who is your inspiration?
Because I started out as a film photographer with a deep love of fine art silver prints, my inspirations are Cartier-Bresson, Imogene Cunningham, Nicholas Nixon, Duane Michaels, Arthur Tress, Clarence John Laughlin, Bea Nettles, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Richard Avedon and Annie Liebowitz. Eugene Richards was (and still is) the bravest photographer I’ve ever met and I count myself one lucky duck to have been able to study with him. There have been so many others, though. The way I learned both photography and printmaking was primarily looking at a lot of work, finding people whose work inspired me and offering to help them so I could watch them work and ask them questions. I have a deep love and reverence for many photographers and printmakers who have shared themselves with me generously.
In the mobile world, early in my online exploration, I found enormous inspiration in Karen Divine’s work and then Nettie Edwards’ and now I feel so fortunate to be in an ongoing learning conversation with both of them and also with Kaaren Malcom, Mike Hill, Gina Costa, Lee Atwell, Brett Chenoweth, Andrea Bigiarini and two dozen other mobile artists using mobile devices to experiment and explore passionately every day.
6. What are your future plans with your mobile imagery and photography?
I started out holding my mobile artwork very “close to the chest,” so to speak. I’m not a shy person, but I am becoming more and more private as I age. That said, it’s getting clear that it’s time for me to show more work – in all kinds of venues, not just mobile art venues – and stand up as a mature artist working in this field. So, I’m going to be entering prints into shows and teaching more.
I offer traditional face-to-face workshops (1-2 days) and I also have a one-on-one tutorial program for mobile artists that I deliver through Hangout. Some of my students are relative beginners who need and want to build up their “camera eyes” and photography skills – good mobile art demands both. Some people who come to me are skilled artists in their own right – either photographers or painters – who want to better understand app stacking and printmaking so they can take maximum advantage of their phones and tablets.
So, in the months ahead, I’m planning to show more often and teach more, too. I experience such a profound sense of joy using the iPhone and iPad to connect to my creative intelligence and I want everyone who wants to do so to be able to – anytime and anywhere they have a few minutes to play.
You can follow Meri and/or check out more of her mobile art work at these websites and social media.