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Adjacent Meanings: On iPhoneography

The Mill Centre opened its industrial iron doors this weekend to welcome any and all guests to check out its Open Studio Tour. The space houses the studios of more than 70 writers, architects, craftsmen, and artists of any sort. One of those artists, Karen Klinedinst, creates works that demand that the “of any sort” be added. Her chosen medium is iPhone photography with archival pigment print on bamboo-fiber paper. She has cheekily termed it “iPhoneography,” creating a real distinction between the smartphone camera she uses and other more standard methods of photography. Or maybe it’s just to get people asking questions.

Either way, I wanted to check out the exhibit to see this relatively new photography technique in person. Once at the picturesque Mill Centre and inside Klinedinst’s gallery, I heard others echoing my original surprise. I’m pretty sure my favorite question asked during the event was: “Every single one of these is from your phone?” to which Karen laughed and nodded her head. She’s been doing this since 2011, prior to which she worked on Polaroid transfers. She seems to have heard all the obvious questions before.

Klinedinst questions what exactly constitutes art with her iPhone. Where other artists have used paints, brushes, pencils, and other traditional methods, she utilizes a smartphone, editing apps, and her camera replacement app, ProCamera 8. Sometimes her pictures are stitched together to create a larger landscape, but the standard iPhone picture is often enough for one piece. She uses multiple different types of editing apps to create her own version of whatever landscape is her subject.

She draws her subject matter from all over Maryland, also reaching into Pennsylvania and Virginia. Some landscapes were pulled from the Eastern Shore, Gunpowder Falls, and even in Wyman Park. The subjects of her photography are always landscapes, and there’s something ironic in the divide between the natural image and the latest technology out there used to capture it. Could the iPhone do these landscapes justice? Is eight megapixels really enough?

You can see my predetermined skepticism here. I was concerned whether a medium used mostly for Instagram and crummy Facebook photos could really create “art.” But Klinedinst turns the iPhone into a real tool to create art. The pictures have a depth that should have been lost with the iPhone camera. Her eye for landscapes and an admitted influence of the late romantic landscapers and pictorialists of the mid-twentieth century gives this seemingly ordinary medium a new spin that keeps her landscapes enthralling and nearly mystical. The subtle texture of the bamboo paper makes you forget that these iPhone pictures are usually glossy and flawless.

Karen isn’t the only one enthralled with smartphones or tablets as a medium. There is a whole movement today dedicated to using these new devices to create art. In fact, Karen is part of an international show in Brooklyn called “Imagine This: Art by Smart Devices at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. The show features 200 works from all sorts of prominent smart device artists.

Karen Klinedinst’s art is often displayed at Hamilton Gallery in Baltimore, where she is also holding a four hour workshop on iPhone Photography on November 9. More information can be found on her Facebook page.


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Adjacent Meanings: On iPhoneography