Meet the organizer and fifth member of the selection committee of eyephoneography #1, Rocío Nogales-Muriel

[Ir a la versión española]

In order to get a better idea of the person behind eyephoneography, the four photographers featured in the first photo-event were asked to pose two questions to her. Here are the questions and the respective answers.

Who are you?
Rocío Nogales Muriel. I consider myself a “creativity connector” and, among other things, I’m the organizer of eyephoneography. My original university education was on advertising and public relations but I always had an interest in aesthetics and the transformation power of the arts, both for the artists and their audiences. My stay in the US for over six years allowed me to combine my training and my interest and pursue university studies in arts management, art history and, later, a professional career in the arts. I worked at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, collaborated with various major museums (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego), taught at the university and run various cultural and arts initiatives. Upon returning to Europe, I lived for over four years in Belgium, where I started working in academic research around the topic of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship while I continued to be involved in artistic initiatives. I have been living in Madrid for over two years now.

What do you think initiatives like eyephoneography can bring to the contemporary arts/culture landscape in Spain?
Firstly, I think that it contributes to updating the Spanish artistic and cultural landscape by bringing in an innovative way of creating images and building communities while putting the mobile photography spotlight on a Spanish city for several days. Secondly, it brings both professional and amateur photographers to the surface and it offers them a chance to meet face-to-face while interacting with an audience blown away by the quality and the beauty of their images.

What was your decision for selecting the four photographers featured in eyephoneography #1?  What attracted you to the four you selected?
At the beginning, I didn’t even think about a long-term project but a rather a personal homage to my companion, Marco La Civita. My idea was to organize a show with his work (both his mobile and traditional photography) in recognition to a trajectory that I have valued and admired for years. However, the presence of an active and prolific mobile photographer in my life opened the door to a virtual community incredibly committed with this new way of making and sharing photographs. After several months of following this community closely and having seen the great turnout of the first brick-and-mortar shows (the shows run by “Pixels At An Exhibition”, the “iPhoneography and the Automobile” show in Milano or the EYE’EM show in Berlin), the eyephoneography project took form in my mind so I decided to do my part to contribute to the mobile photography community: I’d offer a complementary off-line element, which in my view enriches the experience of mobile photography. Therefore, it was crystal clear to me that the community had to be brought in through some leading representatives. The selection of the other three photographers is not based on rational criteria but on the power of their images and the soundness of their vision. Not only I never get tired of looking at their images and continue to discover new things in them but very often I find myself wishing that I didn’t have to turn an electronic device to have access to them.

The members of the selection committee had to rank the images. Which one for every photographer ranked first in your list and why?

MissPixels, All Mine
For me this image summarizes, on the one hand, the photographer’s formal style: vibrant and saturated colors, curious look toward everyday objects and creation of personal atmospheres. On the other hand, it offers an impossible statement of intentions between the photographer and the portrayed object (pastel sticks): the selection of the iPhone as tool for creating art makes it impossible to use that traditional painting material. Such impossibility is emphasized by the titled “All mine”.

Greg Schmigel,
The face of a woman

Street photography has the capacity of transporting me to the places and moments it pictures, even faraway ones. I see in this woman the determination and the strength of a warrior, an everyday warrior, and I saw the city of New York itself represented in that struggle for life. Besides the emotional aspect, the shot causes a physical impact on me due to the exhilarating rhythm created by the composition, the passers-by and the lines on the asphalt.

Marco La Civita, Bumpy ride
Narratively, this image combines for me the impossibility of fulfilling what would have been otherwise an obvious task for a bicycle due to the bumpiness of the ride evoked in the title. Compositionally, I consider it a genial shot in which the use of black and white is critical for revealing the astonishing appeal of a urban element that would have lost its raison d’être hadn’t it been for the curious eye of the photographer. Moreover, the clin d’oeil of a hidden self-portrait on the fender adds a playful dimension to the composition.

Sion Fullana, Waiting for a text message that doesn’t come
I can almost hear the jazz rhythm in the background of this image. The “blues” is there and so is the cinematographic tension. Everything is frozen in time and we wonder how did the photographer manage to capture such a moment without altering it. Simply magnificent.

Where do you see iPhone or cellular photography – as an accepted art form – in the near future?
In my view, the best is still to come regarding mobile photography. Nevertheless, it would not be advisable to preset a path or establish a formal objective but to continue experimenting and accepting that technical limitations are a part of the medium and not a limit to creativity. Moreover, there is an enormous growth potential for the mobile photographers community. Although the most commonly term used is “iPhoneographers”, other smartphone users are joining that community. Besides, some facts are quite surprising when you think about them: there are literally billions of people using phones with a camera and the type of camera they incorporate is already the most used photographic device. At the same time, it is exciting to see how amateur and professional photographers co-exist together in this space with no prejudices simply for the sake of experimenting, sharing and learning from each other. My experience with this community is that those photographers who take good pictures and master social networking can attract a loyal audience, most of them also creators, from whom they can sometimes receive constructive criticism. No matter who has exhibited or sold the most, what matters is the power of their pictures. In this “leveling effect” of mobile photography lies much of its innovation and it represents a refreshing alternative to institutionalized artistic creation. In this context, I would encourage to start involving non-virtual audiences in this community via the growing number of off-line initiatives. My hope is that the latter seize the opportunity for promoting real exchange, deepening and learning both for the community of mobile photographers and the audiences interested in their creations.

What is your view on the importance of social networks and web visibility for the emergence and the recognition of mobile photography/iPhoneography as a new art form?
Social networks have been instrumental for the emergence of mobile photography and for its recognition via a vibrant and growing virtual community. However, the consolidation of mobile photography as a “new art form” is a completely different issue and here I fear that social networks may not be as well regarded by the art world as “validation” agents for artistic production. Besides, although this may seem paradoxical, there are issues of accessibility that arise from the language dominating the discourse (English) and the means of communication required to participate in this discourse (smartphones, computers and an Internet connection). In this sense, I think that instead of focusing on selecting ephemeral “mobile photographers of the day”, it’d be interesting to spread the amazing work backed by sound visions currently being produced together with the contribution that they make to the photographic artistic language.

As a curator giving a chance to this new field, what -in your opinion- will it take for other galleries / art centers to start taking mobile photography/iPhoneography more seriously as a new art form? What would you tell them to encourage them giving us all a chance?
I am not even sure of whether it is desirable for other galleries and art centers to take mobile photography more seriously as a new art form. In fact, I think that they are almost two antagonistic worlds with diverging logics (in terms of exhibition, creativity, interaction, etc.) at play. The strength of mobile photography lies mostly in its on-line aspect, so I think that only those institutions that support the role of the Internet as a valid tool for artistic creation and sharing among certain communities will begin to incorporate it into their programs. In any case, mobile photography counts with an important ace up its sleeve: the surprise effect on its audience when confronted with the end result of the printed image. And this audience includes both the general public as well as professionals of the arts.

Name one piece of art (any form, painting, photos, sculpture, installation…) you love/like/admire. Where can we see it and why did this piece touched you?
I won’t try making a selection of the art works that have touched me for it’d be too long. Let me try to reply by focusing on the artwork that has moved me to tears (literally) most recently. It was photographer Emilio Morenatti’s series on gender violence in Pakistan in the Fotopress “la Caixa 09” show at CaixaForum Madrid. Although it closed on Sunday, August 22nd, you can still watch a video of a presentation of the pictures. Although shot in 2008, it is heartbreaking to see that not only the situation hasn’t improved but that it is like that in other countries such as Afghanistan, as captured by Jodi Bieber’s shot of Aisha, the Afghan woman featured on TIME’s August 2010 cover. Beyond the powerful social condemn articulated by Morenatti’s series, I was touched by the beauty, the richness of color and detail present in these close ups of women (most of them very young). The stories of personal resistance of these women distill an amazing energy and sense of pride. Despite the fact that the violence they suffer covered it at first for me -almost like a punch in my stomach- by standing in front of the camera they were finally able to show who they really were to me. To us.

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