It has been a long time since I’ve done any feature/interview for the ‘About Someone’ section and when I decided to invite someone to participate in this next one … I immediately thought of this photographer I got to know through Lensbaby some years back.
Some of you might remember reading about her works in one of my blog entry about her photo book, Portland Vignettes.
I’m a big fan of her works!
A brief intro taken from her website …
“Keri Friedman is a photographer living in Portland, OR. By day she works for Lensbaby, one of the coolest photographic companies around. All other times she is constantly seeing and shooting, whether with her DSLR, old film cameras, or camera phone. You’ll often find her exploring and photographing abandoned places and capturing small moments while wandering her city.“
Check out her website for more of her awesome work!
What made you decide to work on the Portland Vignettes series of photos?
I bought my first smart phone, the original Droid, in 2009 and immediately began to see what apps were available for creative picture taking. At the time, there weren’t many. Vignette easily stood out as the best of the bunch. So I just started experimenting, and since your phone is the camera you always have on you, and I do a lot of walking and biking, I just started taking photos daily on my travels. What I was doing – taking little snaps of the city – combined with the name of the app – couldn’t have been more perfect. So I just started a photo-a-day project without having a specific intention to do so, and then it just took off as Portland Vignettes.
What phone & application do you use for making these wonderful photos (if that ain’t no trade secret … hahaha!)?
I am tied to the Android OS since I am tied to the Vignette app, which is only available for Android. Currently I have a Droid Bionic. I am super curious about the Polaroid camera that’s coming out that will use the Android OS. I know a lot of tricky development work would need to happen on Vignette’s end to make it work and be able to take advantage of the larger sensor and more sophisticated capabilities, but…I’d love to be able to print, on occasion, much larger without having to use software like Perfect Resize (which is a great tool but I can’t go larger than 20×20 inches with it).
I’ve tried taking photos with my phone camera but failed miserably. I see that your photos are consistently very cool and awesome. Now tell us your secret! 😀
No secret, just a lot of trial and error to figure out what filters and settings fit the vision I had in my head. Once I stumbled upon it, I knew pretty quickly – the warm, orange/yellow tones just fit with the way I see my surroundings in my head. Portland is a weird, creative, wacky, pretty place and I like telling my story of it this way. I use the Summer filter, and I do make a few tweaks in Lightroom after the fact (they often come out of the camera a little too yellow and desaturated for my tastes).
It’s also helpful to live in a city like Portland where there is something visually interesting around every corner. And – I guess as a camera phone shooter (and a Lensbaby shooter!) how can I not feel this way, but an amazing photo can be taken with ANY camera, no matter how sophisticated or simplistic.
Has anyone ever ask you why are you using your phone camera instead of some bad ass DSLR? If yes, what do you tell them?
I don’t get asked that very often, actually. When I show these photos, I don’t volunteer (on the printed bio I hang with them) the details of how they’re shot. Though when anyone asks, I tell them, and I’m open about the fact that I use my camera phone on Facebook, flickr, etc. On the rare occasion that someone asks, no one has said, point blank, why don’t you use a real camera? I’m sure it will happen, but then again, camera phone photography as “real” photography and art is gaining more ground every day.
Share with us 5 of your favourite photos from your Portland Vignettes series and perhaps a little description about why you pick them.
I probably have close to 1000 from this series edited and posted online as my Photo-A-Day series, and about 4-5000 on my computer. 5 favorites is a tough call, but here are my five favorites at this particular moment. (see images attached).
Magic Hour: This is one of those shots that no other photo-capturing device I own would have worked. We were on a hike at our favorite hiking spot, and had found a new path that day. The sun had been fighting the clouds all afternoon. We came around a corner, and the sunlight suddenly exploded into this little glen of amazing-ness…it was absolutely magical. I took a number of photos, confident in knowing that with the way the app and filter treat bright light sources and flare, I’d be able to capture the right look and feel that we experienced in that moment.
A Slippery Slope: I love how much texture is captured in this shot, and how the reds/oranges and water drops on the metalic slide just absolutely pop. I think this photo also captures a moment of anticipation – to slide or not – and I like that tension.
Biker Babe: I took this photo of my friend’s daughter while we were hanging out in the backyard one afternoon last spring. Malia is a beautiful little girl who loves to wear pink dresses and pop wheelies. I think this shot captures her personality well.
Hindsight: I particularly enjoy the way Vignette captures reflections – it does really well in picking up the subtle layers and merging them together into something new. In this photo, I’m shooting into the window of an empty retail space – inside are sheets of textured, shiny metallic insulation (or something) hanging down in curtains – across the street is a house, yard, sky with puffy clouds (with a hint of me in there too). I like the surreal, dream-like feel of this photo.
Nevermore: The app and filter here render everything in the same consistent tones thanks to a very flat-lit day. We’d come across this piece of driftwood the week before, just sitting on the ground. I thought it looked skull-like but I couldn’t get an interesting photo of it. Someone, over the following week, stuck it in this tree and the second we encountered it, I realized immediately that it was a magical skull of both a raven and a sheep…and I was very happy with how this image shows that.
Any new photo book coming soon? Portland Vignettes II?
We’ll see – right now I’m concentrating on producing and showing new photos, and on my Lensbaby Edge 80 dinosaur series. The book was fun and I’m happy with the results but no one’s really buying. I need to do more to promote it though, too. So – we’ll see what’s in store on the book front.
Apart from being a great photographer, you are also the Marketing Manager in the Lensbaby company. How long have you been there? It seems to be a real fun place to work with. Any vacancy there for me? 😀
I’ve been at Lensbaby for just over 6.5 years – the longest I’ve been at any job. I moved to Portland from New York City in 2005, where I worked in book publishing. One of my goals upon moving to Portland was to find some sort of job in the photo industry. Lensbaby was just a wee, 12 person company back then without a full-on marketing department. I had a background in marketing (I did PR for the publishing companies I worked for), and they were looking for more people with marketing experience. It’s been a really interesting ride to be on the inside of a small, creative photographic business coming into its own. It’s a great company doing very smart, paradigm-shifting things in photography, and I am very lucky to work with a bunch of incredibly smart, fun people. As far as vacancies we are full up for the moment, but you never know! 😉
Let’s talk a bit about the Lensbaby. Which Lensbaby lens/optic combo would you recommend for someone who wants to pick up his/her first Lensbaby?
I’d recommend the Composer Pro with Sweet 35 to start. It’s by far, for most people, the easiest lens to learn on. It’s got the built in 12-blade aperture system so changing aperture is easy and its 35mm focal length is a crowd pleaser that works for everything from street photography to portraits to food (you can get about 7” away from your subject without even adding any macro attachment).
It’s a great introduction to the Optic Swap System…and once you’re in, there are so many fun options available to ad on, from the Edge 80 (which gives you a slice of focus through your image, vs the sweet spot you’ll get with the Sweet 35 and others) to the Fisheye Optic to the Pinhole/Zone plate. There is a learning curve as our lenses are different than anything else out there, but it can be a very fun journey with incredibly rewarding results. Between my camera phone and arsenal of Lensbaby lenses, optics, and accessories, it’s rare that I shoot with a “straight” lens these days.
You are the first in the ‘About Someone’ series whose question ain’t about film/Lomo photography. Do you shoot only in digital?
I will admit that I haven’t shot film in a while, but I have several film cameras (a Canon A-1, a few Lomo and Holga cameras, and several old cameras I’ve picked up at yard sales and antique shops over the years). I learned on film in high school and college (I used to hate developing my own film because I would always manage to scratch it – but I LOVED printing in a wet darkroom. I still miss that). I also have a pile of expired 120 and Polaroid film that I should bust out and play with, that might produce some fun results.
Last question. Any advise/tips/tricks for those of us who wants to make great photos using our phone cameras?
Do lots of experimenting until you find the right combination of app and filters that work to express your unique vision. As I mentioned above it took me some time before I found the app and process that worked for what I wanted to convey with my photos. But that’s part of the fun and the journey. There are so many amazing photographic tools at our disposal these days – just dive in and see what you can find.