The Shadow Photographers #5: ASI/Olive Random

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A person of many aliases, ASI, or Olive Random, is a full-on iPhoneographer and aspiring TV writer. Adhering strictly to the iPhone, and the Hipstamatic app, Olive presents her quirky visions and “frame” of the world through the medium of the 3″ screen. Although many people these days are obsessed with the sharpness and the color calibration of every photo, Olive uses the high saturation of the app’s filters to her advantage. I had a chance to sit down (online, of course) with her for a chat about her identity as an iPhoneographer.

Q. What got you started in photography? What is your relationship to it?

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with photography. My father loved taking pictures of his only daughter, but I hated having my pictures taken. Many father-daughter arguments have aroused from my refusing to stand next to some famous monument! I didn’t go near a camera for the longest time. Long story short, I grew up, went away to college, started writing, and truly began to appreciate and be inspired by the visual medium around me, including photography.

I also moved around a lot when I was little, and traveled quite a bit when I grew older, and there is just something about photography that is intrinsically tied to travelling. The desire to document the new, the strange, and the familiar burns when you’re exploring a city. Now that we’re so easily able to share our experiences online via social media, I think we’re even more motivated to go off and wander around with our cameras— or in my case, an iPhone.

Q. As an almost-exclusive iPhoneographer, what are the advantages and limits of shooting with an iPhone?

Finding the “good” or the “right” camera can be an incredibly stressful and a daunting process for amateur photographers. Also, cameras and lenses ain’t cheap! Despite the naysayers, I think iPhones (especially with the advent of 4S) can be the perfect substitute camera for the casual photographer, and more than enough to satisfy your photographing needs if you are yet unable to find or afford the perfect camera.

For me, it’s also all about accessibility and convenience. An iPhone fits in my pocket or hand, and it takes very little effort to turn it on, fire up an app, and take a picture. Because owning a smartphone has become so prevalent, very few react to it when you whip one out, making it easier to take pictures without drawing attention… as opposed to a “proper” camera, which is a little more conspicuous out on the streets, and many tend to shy away from one. (Of course, a professional photographer knows how to work around that!)

Q. What subjects do you like to take? Why?

I like primary colors. I like discovering geometrical shapes in what is otherwise commonplace or mundane. Seoul, where I currently live, is an incredibly dynamic and colorful city, always filled with people and cars and neon lights and loud music.  Yet from time to time, you come across a space that invokes utter loneliness. I often try and see if I can capture this. Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.

Q. How do you identify with the phrase “street photography”?

I think many, if not most iPhoneographers, are “street photographers.” It’s only natural when you’re taking pictures with a device that is built to be ultra-mobile, and allows us to do things on the spur of the moment. If anything, using smartphones to take pictures truly embraces the “candid” and the “documentary” elements of street photography.

Q. What is your shooting philosophy?

Hmm. I don’t think I have one. I’m a pretty casual photographer. In fact, I’m really just a writer who likes taking pictures.

Q. Fantastic colors. What colors do you like to blend? Your colors have a very unique personality.

Thanks! I want to say the colors are all my doing, but much of the credit goes to the iPhone apps I use and the filters that come with them. I love to use filters that mimic lomography cameras, which results in intense, vibrant colors with vignettes. I’m all about grainy, moody, dream-like pictures that invoke a sense of nostalgia.

Q. What inspires you (in general, or related to photography)?

MONEY! Just kidding. As someone who makes a living (or trying to) by making up stories, I’m always on the lookout for inspiration. I follow lots of photography and illustration blogs, as well as consume ridiculous amounts of television and film. Stories are my drug, and a good photograph always tells a story.

Q. What gear, what apps do you use?

I own a now-ancient iPhone 3G, which has a pretty crappy camera and an outdated firmware, so I haven’t been able to explore too many new photography apps. I’ve tried Instagram, Camera+, and Photoshop Express, but I’ve stuck with Hipstamatic the longest. I love the unexpectedness that comes with being able to choose/customize from many types of film, lenses and flashes, to create a unique combination – much like a real lomography camera. Hipstamatic feels more “real” in that sense, while most of the apps like Instagram have you taking a picture first and then applying a filter. Then again, Instagram is free!

Q. Say some words of encouragement to beginning iPhoneographers around the world!

The iPhone can be anything you want it to be. Including a camera! Practice taking pictures with the iPhone without letting its slick surface slip out of your fingers during an important shot. Show off your best photographs on your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or the social networking site of your choice. Repeat, repeat, repeat. We’re now more connected to the rest of the world than ever before. Take advantage of it. But most importantly, surround yourself with those who inspire you. Keep your camera close, and your enemies clos— uh, nevermind.


Find me on Twitter at @thetissuetalk, where you can follow the glamorous life of an aspiring TV writer sitting at her desk all day long! I also have a Tumblr page where I upload my photographs.

Thanks for having me!

&&Phil: Comment | Like | Follow

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