When I purchased a book titled, Exhibition 36: Mixed Media Demonstrations + Explorations several years ago, little did I realize that I would one day be interviewing the author, Susan Tuttle. Susan is a woman of many talents and I am thrilled to have had a conversation with her about her work, the inspiration behind it and her tips for aspiring mobile photographers. Keep reading to learn more about the very gifted Susan Tuttle!
Geri: What is your name and where do you live?
Susan: Susan Tuttle. I live in Maine with my husband and our two young children. Our home is nestled in the woods, within walking distance of a couple of rivers, and surrounded by beautiful wildlife. I like to lull myself to sleep to the song of the barred owl and singing coyotes.
Throat as White as the Throat of a Swan (above)
Geri: I know you have a traditional photography and art background because I have read two of your books. When did your love of all things creative begin?
Susan: I have a soul that is passionate about creativity, so my guess is that I have always been seeking out creative outlets to fulfill it. I began playing flute at age nine. This eventually blossomed into becoming a professionally trained musician and music educator. I taught K-12 music in the greater Boston area and then in Maine, where I have lived for almost 15 years. I began exploring the visual arts after a serious car accident in 1996, through sketching with charcoals and creating abstract intuitive paintings and collage. When we had our son in 2003, I stopped teaching music and began to venture into the world of digital photography (a baby is such an inspiring subject to photograph). Pretty soon I was bit by the Photoshop bug and introduced to the digital art of Maggie Taylor (www.maggietaylor.com). Her work inspired me to create digital art of a surreal nature -- that is when I really dug my heels in and taught myself how to use Photoshop CS. I established a blog that I post to regularly, wrote and continue to write articles for various magazines and books, and eventually authored three of my own books ranging in subject matter from mixed-media art to digital SLR photography and digital art with Photoshop Elements and the iPhone. It has been very fulfilling to stretch my creative voice into the realm of iPhoneography, where I explore mostly portraiture.
My books to date (I've got a fourth one in the works):
Exhibition 36: Mixed-Media Demonstrations and Explorations
Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art with Adobe Photoshop Elements
Photo Craft: Creative Mixed-Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs (co-authored with Christy Hydeck who is @Chrysti on IG)
A Perfectly Poised Ballerina Balances En Pointe When You Open the Charming Jewelry Box (above)
Brittle White Slivers of Ice (above)
Geri: How did you get started with mobile photography?
Susan: My husband came home with an iPhone (given to him through his place of work) back in 2010. One night, when we were out at our favorite Thai restaurant, I began to take mobile photos with it. My good friend Christy (@Chrysti on IG, and my co-author for Photo Craft) introduced me to some of her favorite iPhone photography apps. I didn't have a style at first, as I mostly used the smartphone to document things in my day that I found to be beautiful -- so, a digital journal of sorts. I joined IG and quickly began to notice that there were mobile photographers using their mobile devices as tools to create serious art and photography. I decided mobile photography/sharing on IG would be a great outlet for me to explore something very specific. From this idea developed the style you now see on my IG feed. I do mostly mobile portrait work that utilizes creative blurring techniques, monochromatic tones, worn and weathered textures, and minimalism. I am the model in the photos, but I don't tend to think of them as selfies. It's more like I am becoming a character in the photos, dressing up in costumes, interacting with props, striking poses, moving and dancing in front of my device, creating visual stories, and perhaps pushing the envelope a bit with sensual and semi-nude shots and photos with a darker nature. You'll notice my mobile photography tends to be a bit edgier than the digital SLR photos you find on my blog/website.
A Feather (above)
Geri: What device do you use?
Susan: When creating mobile art I use my iPhone 4S (soon to be upgraded) 99.999% of the time. I like the challenge of creating mobile art solely with the little phone in my back pocket. Astounding that this can be done, don't you think? There are times I may bring a mobile piece into Photoshop CS if I can't find what I need in my apps. I try to avoid this though, as calls for mobile photography/art and contests usually require pieces to be rendered 100% with an iPhone device.
Darling Shoulders Softly Pale (above)
Geri: Who or what inspires your work?
Susan: My natural surroundings provide countless photo opportunities. I created a Wood Land series that I shot solely in the woods outside my door. Also, I am fueled by a wide variety of music. These days you can find me listening to Lester Young's and Dexter Gordon's amazing saxophone licks, Patrick Watson, Nils Frahm, Toni Childs, Apocalyptica, trance cuts by Gaia and Armin Van Buuren, Polish composer Henryk Gorecki, and even some harder stuff like Three Days Grace and Papa Roach. Photographers that inspire me include, but are not limited to Sarah Moon, Alison Scarpulla, Sally Mann, and Dave Prifti.
Elle S'envole (above)
Geri: Your work has an otherworldly quality. How did your style evolve?
Susan: I have heard this statement many times before. It is interesting to hear how one's work is perceived. I think I can attribute this quality you speak of both to my sometimes wild imagination and the connection I feel to the spiritual world. For me, creating art is a weaving together of my life experience on earth, my mind, soul, and body, and my connection to what lies beyond (right next to us really). I can feel it all inside my heart. It comes out in my art.
Geri: What are your go-to apps for editing?
Her Barefeet Made an Endless Chain of Prints (above)
Geri: Do you do all of your editing on your phone, or do you prefer a tablet?
Susan: When it comes to my iPhoneography, I do my edits on my phone. For the most part, this works fine with the portraiture work I've been doing these days. I do have plans to once again create more surrealist-style digital art -- the kind of digital art I've created in the past with Photoshop CS and my Wacom tablet. Since this type of art requires lots of layering, blending, and close-up fine detail work, I don't think it would be very satisfying for me to realize it on my tiny phone, so I do have an iPad and stylus on my Christmas list. Plus, if I want to submit to mobile art/photography contests and calls for art, I cannot use a fusion of iPhone and Photoshop CS, as these venues require purely mobile device work. It doesn't really make sense not to use the tools I already have at my fingertips (meaning a combination of iPhone and Photoshop CS), but that's the way it is. The intrigue lies in the fact that this kind of work can be created solely with a mobile device. I'll admit, I'm fully intrigued by it, so you won't hear me complaining.
My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (title inspired by Fall Out Boy song, above)
Geri: Please share a little bit about your editing process.
Susan: I have a simple, makeshift photo studio in our bedroom which consists of a moveable white backdrop, homemade reflectors, and a tripod with a mount for my iPhone. I also have the benefit of the forest outside my door, which makes for the most perfect photo studio. I have a closet full of costumes and props that I use for the shoots. I try to take a lot of photos at once, so I have a bunch of shots to choose from for weeks/even months to come. I usually edit over a cup of morning coffee, on the couch with my husband watching Castle, or in bed before I drift off to sleep. I generally do at least five separate edits of a piece before I feel satisfied with one of them. I app stack for each creation, usually using 5+ apps per photo. My typical workflow goes something like this: Apply filters and tweak exposure in Camera+ , make corrections in Filterstorm, blur in Focal Lab, convert to a sepia tone in an app like VintageFX, add textures with an app like ScratchCam FX, tweak tones in SkipBleach, voila! Some pieces evolve quickly. Others can take months. That's the fun of it -- you never know what you're going to get. I love surprises!
Geri: One of your many talents includes teaching. Any plans to develop an iPhoneography course that would be similar to your upcoming Light Creative Light-Filled Photoshop Techniques Uncovered?
Susan: Thank you Geri. I certainly do have plans to give an iPhoneography online workshop at some point in the future. My Photoshop online workshop LIGHT began on May 6th and I have just begun working on my fourth book with North Light Books/ F+W Media on the subjects of Digital SLR photography and iPhoneography. That will keep me very busy until the Fall, at which point I will focus my attention on planning an iPhoneography workshop. And, speaking of the book I am working on, I will be putting out a call for mobile art/photography very soon via my IG feed which is susantuttle. My publisher and I will be choosing from this pool of entries to create a full spread 'photo wall' of mobile art in my book.
The Dancer (above)
They Surround Me With Their Light (above)
Geri: As an artist who has received numerous awards and exhibited in several shows, what advice would you give to those who are just getting started in this field?
Susan: That's a great question. A few words come to mind: perseverance, authenticity, patience, and evolution. Finding your unique creative voice and putting yourself out there takes a lot, I mean a lot, of hard work! And, this work takes time, and thus patience. But, it is a thrilling adventure! It's about living your passions, and that feels so right, and so good. If you're living your passion, you'll be on the right path. If you're on the right path, the opportunities will come with time. In addition to making your art, it is important to promote your work, have an online presence, and build and connect with an audience via social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Sometimes it is hard to find that balance between making art, promoting your work, and engaging fully in all parts of your life that are important to you. I think the key to finding that balance is in prioritizing and recognizing when priorities need to change. In terms of mobile art, you can find some great online sharing forums like We Are Juxt, AMPt Community, and iPhoneArt. Flickr hosts several mobile art groups where you can share your work, like iPhoneogenic, iphoneographyCentral, 1000 Words by We Are Juxt, Amazing iPhoneography, and Through the Lens of an iPhone. There are also some fabulous websites including your site Geri :), iPhone0genic, Life in LoFi, and iPhoneography Central. Aim high and don't be afraid to fall. Enter your work in contests on IG. Submit to international competitions like The Mobile Photo Awards and IPPA Awards. If it doesn't happen for you right away, keep working, keep trying. Everyone gets rejected along the way. It doesn't matter. Keep moving forward. Also, I think it is important to remember that creativity is never static. Keep growing. Keep stretching, experimenting, and evolving. Don't get too comfortable with your art at any given time. That's how you'll keep it fresh and alive!
Geri: Anything else you'd like to add?
Susan: Sure. I invite you to visit my website, where you will find not only DSLR photography and iPhoneography, but DIY projects and thrifty fashion ideas. I just can't stop making things!:)
All images in this feature are copyrighted property of Susan Tuttle published on iART CHRONiCLES with the consent of the artist.