When I first came across Aik Beng Chia’s photo tribute to Banksy, I knew I had to get in touch with him. As an illustrator and graphic designer, Chia (aka pixelmunky on Flickr) takes iPhone photos that don’t quite look like anyone else’s. In fact, they have an artistic quality to them that makes you see the world in a wonderfully surreal or cinematic way.
I got in touch with Chia to ask him about his photos. Particularly, I wanted to know why and how he created that Banksy-inspired one. “I’m a big fan of Banksy’s art,” he tells us. “I was inspired by him after I watched the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. I traced the original source of the image from someone who took a shot of his art at the Lebanon wall. Then, I used SketchBookMobile to trace the silhouette, and using layers in the app, I placed my shot. Finally, I scaled his art to the wall of my photo.”
What’s most impressive about Chia’s photos is that they were all edited using only iPhone apps. There was no post processing work done in Photoshop.
Read our interview with Chia after enjoying his beautiful and artistic photos.
I’ve read that you started in iPhoneography when the iPhone first came out in 2007 and that you were influenced by Greg Schmigel. What was it about his work that drew you in?
I remembered back in 2007 when i just got my 1st generation iPhone, Out of the blue, i decided to google “iPhone photography.” What caught my eye was the title of Greg’s iPhone photography site “Just What I See.” The title was so simple and straightforward. It led me to click on his site.
The first reaction I had was “No way! All these shot were from an iPhone?” This was followed by “Wow!” after “Wow!” I started sharing his work with my colleagues and friends. It drew me into iPhone photography immediately because Greg captured the souls of people on the streets. (I’m not saying Greg’s the Devil. No offense, Greg.) Ever since, it got me on a shooting spree and I started to shoot anything and everything I could see.
Looking back, I’m glad I stumbled upon his site and it was an honor to be interview by him back in July at his blog “Just What I See.” The feeling was great because it was Greg who introduced me into iPhone photography and now we are friends.
Being an illustrator and a designer, how does that play into your photos?
Being a self-taught illustrator and designer has definitely helped me look at details and composition in my mobile photography.
I love to look and observe what surrounds me; people, architecture, nature and still life. Having the best of both worlds, I’ve decided to conduct an experiment, to see how I can fuse them (illustration and graphic design) together with mobile photography.
With the experiment I had in mind, i recently collaborated with the finest iPhone photographers from all over the world, many of whom I have come to know personally in the community. These include Misho Baranovic, Sherry Chen, Dixon Hamby, Daniel Berman aka Reservoir Dan and most recently Robert Paul. I want to see how the results will turn out when I remix their photos. The results are promising, but on a mobile platform, knowing its limitations, it’s a challenge for me to continually push how far I can go in order to create a beautiful piece of work that I’m happy with.
I noticed a cinematic feel to your photos – where does that influence come from?
It comes from the movie The Mood For Love directed by Wong Kar-wai. I love cinematography and subconsciously I tend to inject it into my photography.
How have you seen iPhoneography evolve?
iPhoneography is spreading like a virus and it will continue to spread even further with the growth of more mobile communities and photographers. However, in the future, I do hope to see it evolve into a united community that shoots, edits, collaborates and shares their work with others all over the world, instead of trying to define what is and what’s not iphoneography or mobile photography. Through the process it creates fractions and we forget the main reason why and how this movement started in the first place. Mobile photography has created a new generation of photographers and whether you like it or not, it’s here to stay.
Who are some other iPhoneographers that you admire?
There’s so many of them whom I admire out there (and you know who you are). However, there is one whom for the longest time I admired apart from Greg Schmigel. She is from Paris and her name is Benedicte Guillon. I just can’t take my eyes off her shots be it in black-and-white or color. If you love Paris like I do, you will love Paris through the eyes of Benedicte Guillion. Her photos are just beautiful.
Is there any advice you’d like to give other people interested in taking photos with their iPhone?
Be it iPhone or other cameras, if you are interested in photography or mobile photography, just shoot! I did not come from a photography background and believe it or not, i don’t even know how to shoot with a DSLR camera. The iPhone is the only camera i have with me at all times. Don’t get too caught up with how many megapixels your camera must have. At the end of the day, it’s just a tool and what really matters most is your eye. How you capture your shot depends on your eye.
I’d like to share this quote from Sion Fullana: "Look around you and fall in love with tiny details." I always live by this when I'm shooting. There will always be good and bad shots captured by you, so don’t fret over it. We still live in an imperfect world. Having said this, remember this quote from EYE’EM: “Let’s create something beautiful.. together.” And, finally from my mentor and friend, Knox Bronson who encouraged me to explore various apps to create art, “Aim well, shoot fast, and app that bitch until it sings.”
Thanks for the interview, Aik Beng. Your photos and story truly inspire us.