by Bob Weil
I have been a fan of Cedric Blanchon’s surreal iPhone art (and world) since he first began to show his work on Flickr and iPhoneArt.com (and in our own Flickr group). His work – often consisting of a laboriously planned and highly post-processed selfie – contains a humorous element, but often includes a darker view of the world, and a reflection on the human condition – and sometimes, a bit of a takeaway moral. The vision impresses the viewer, even if you’re not always in total agreement with the position taken. Of course, as you look at Cedric’s Flickr stream, you’ll see that this is not his only mode of expression. He has some truly remarkable street photography and fine portraiture, not to mention a lot of pictures of his little boy. It’s with great pleasure that I bring the words of that ineluctable Frenchman, Cedric Blanchon, to our English-speaking audience.
(With the exception of the lead image and the home page page, I invited Cedric to select which pieces he would like to include in the interview. Apps used are noted to the right of the title of most images.)
To begin with, tell me a bit about yourself. Where do you live, what do you do for a living, are you a professional or amateur photographer?
I live in Troyes, France, I work at a company that rents apartments and houses, and I’m an amateur photographer or “creator iphoneographe,” depending on how you look at it.
I won the 2013 Mobile Photography Awards and Dan Marcolina’s MobileMasters 2014 (iTunes app). My work was selected as one of the top 100 (in the Illusionist category) in the EyeEm awards, and I finished in the third spot in the AMPt Mobiography Challenge (best of 2013). In 2012, I exhibited work at the Los Angeles Mobile Arts Festival in Santa Monica, California.
I had the pleasure of being the Mobile Paris festival jury and had the opportunity to be present (sharing my work with real people 🙂 I published an ebook with tribegram (French blog iphoneography) Macadam Chroniques (eBook in French on iTunes) on street photography and many other categories. My work was also included in MobileMastera 2014, and I was invited to exhibit at Paul Toussaint’s “Empty Space Project” in Putnam, Connecticut (which I attended). One of my photos will be on display in Berlin for the EyeEm festival.
I am hopeful that my work will be travelling with BIIAM Brussels (Belgium iPhoneography International Art Movement) and in my own city in 2015. Readers can see my work and many more to my website www.cedricblanchon.com, or my Flickr account, EyeEm and Instagram by searching on my name.
What do you think makes mobile photography distinctive as a category of artistic creation?
I think artistic creation on mobile devices opens the door to some people (like me, for example), and facilitates the creation of work that might not otherwise be within our reach. Mobile photography has democratized art and photography. Many people are impressed with the results possible from mobile phones and tablets, and for me this one has its own artistic category indeed these are new digital tools. But after all, these are just tools to help us create, to share in a new way, in the form of what I would call “artistic consumption.” Without social networks like Flickr, blogs, Instagram, EyeEm, iPhoneArt.com, etc., I would not have met so many people and exhibited around the world or won awards. At the end of the day, I be careful about this and not think any more of this than is warranted. If, like me, you like to create and make pictures, post them, submit to exhibitions, etc., it’s easy to lose your head (like me)!
How were you first introduced to iphone photography?
It was quite by accident, I must say! I have always loved photography, film and everything that has to do with images, and I never thought that one day, just with an iPhone, I could let my imagination run free. When I got my first iPhone (iPhone4) in 2011, at first I was most interested in doing video editing (with the Splice app for example). I soon discovered the incredible potential of this device and all these applications. Once I had my son, I started to photograph him. At that point, I wanted to see if other people like me were taking photos with their iPhone, so I did a search on Google and I stumbled on the iPhoneArt.com site [Editor’s note – launched and managed by Daria and Nate Park], and there I discovered some absolutely incredible work, and “the doors of my brain” were opened. Then I began posting on the site and on EyeEm, and my style evolved from there.
How did you discover your personal mode(s) of expression, and what are you trying to convey with it?
When I made my first Poladream, I placed two fake Polaroids (made with ShakeltPhoto) in my hands and so that both “Polas” interact. [Ed.: You can see an example video tutorial from Cedric here, on how he created one of his Poladreams: https://vimeo.com/42189986.]. There is a lot of humor in my pictures, I think, and often a moral. I try to say things through my photos (not all the time), and I realized that I seemed to be unique in my approach. I may have missed someone else’s work I didn’t know, but I think my photos brought a fresh perspective when they began to appear. First, they were light and funny things, and later I began to make darker pieces – the particular approach depending on my mood.
What apps do you use and is there a process or methodology that you apply to your post production editing?
My favorite applications are Snapseed, Noir, Afterlight, Superimpose, VFX Studio, Cameramatic, Spacepaint, oggl and Hipstamatic. I try to visualize the image I want to create and then I look think about the apps that can help me get there. My goal is accomplish the full effect with the least editing. If the editing can be kept as simple and as effective as possible, the idea remains the only thing that people see – that is my objective.
As a new / emerging creative, what should iPhoneographers keep in mind as they build their portfolio? What would be your top tips or words of wisdom be to them?
I would recommend the following:
- Take the simplest possible approach, always trying to go deeper into the concepts and ideas you are trying to bring forward.
- Always try new things (sometimes the best ideas come from experimentation).
- Do what you love and don’t seek to appeal to everyone in the world
- If you admire someone’s, do not try to imitate them, but try to go further than they have in their approach
You recently served as a juror in the Mira Mobile competition. Have you been a juror before? What, in your mind, constituents a great submission? What are judges looking for?
Yes, I was juror for Mobile Paris Festival and Shadow Story for the Mobile Photo Awards. It is always an honor. It is not easy to judge images – it requires that the piece seem to be in line with the theme. Sometimes an image will be eliminated from competition because the technique or subject is not true to the theme – even if the image itself is of very good quality. At that point, it’s a question of the humor, the idea or otherwise that is being evoked. Sometimes submissions are made to the wrong category – so my first recommendation is to take the time to determine the best category for submission, and take a close look at what images have won in past years.
Do you print your work? If so, to what specifications?
Yes, for the exhibition at Putnam with Paul Toussaint, I printed 10 photos on metal sheets. I found the results beautiful, but the images must be of good quality quality. When I print images on paper, I use matte paper. I do not like brilliant paper, but I’m not a specialist in paper selection – you have to find what works best for your photos.
How do you see mobile photography evolving? Do you think it will become more mainstream and accepted as a valid form of photography? Do you think experienced iPhoneographers will emphasize the work itself (rather than how it was created) as they become more successful?
We are in the 21st Century, so I hope that in the future the boundaries between photos taken with a smartphone or other device disappear. An image is an image, regardless of the device with which it was made. What’s most important is whether or not the image is good. The democratization of the photo can cause some fear on the part of some – now everyone can take pictures. But how many can make good pictures? Still, we must continue to do exhibitions and show our work to the world. At the end of the day, only the result is important, no matter whether you use Photoshop, a Polaroid camera, a DSLR, an Olga or a smartphone. The vision of the artist and the resulting creation decides the greatness of the work.