I had a chance to catch up with Susan Tuttle recently, and with the release of her new iPhoneography course, and upcoming new book, it seemed like a great time to “sit down” with her virtually and talk about how she came to where she is today and where she’s going.
Bob Weil: You are an experienced digital SLR photographer as well as an iPhoneographer. So, tell us what has made you so passionate about the iPhone as a photographic tool?
Susan Tuttle: I’m in love with both of these photographic tools equally, for different reasons. My DSLR yields higher-quality images and I am able to make creative shots immediately by choosing just the right lens for the scene and manipulating aperture, shutter speed and ISO to achieve the creative result I’m after. Although the iPhone cannot produce the same quality of image as my conventional camera, it is less cumbersome than a DSLR and lends itself well to spontaneous photography. I can pull that slim phone from my back pocket at any time and make a photograph. I can then manipulate these photos wherever, whenever — whether I’m in line at the grocery store or lounging under my favorite tree. With a few taps I can then share a finished piece with the world via IG! — pretty amazing if you think about it. The iPhone makes for a seamless workflow, where everything one needs to make photographic magic is all right there in that little phone. A DSLR requires a more complex workflow, where I must load the images onto my immobile iMac and bring them into Photoshop to make manipulations.
One of the things that has made me so passionate about the iPhone is the plethora of interesting, fun photography apps I get to draw from as I app-stack to manipulate an image. I have a strong Photoshop background, so right from the get-go apps have been easy for me to figure out, making for some instant gratification, which we all love now and then. Plus, I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to app shopping — they’re so reasonably priced, which is enticing at first, but if you add up your totals down the road it can be surprising how much you actually spent.
Bob: What made you decide to create an iPhone course on self-portraiture?
Susan: Simply put, I like to share what I know. At this point in time, creating self-portraits is a huge part of my creativity and naturally something I want to share with others. I’m a teacher at heart. Prior to becoming a photographer and author, I taught K-12 public school music and adult music workshops for 10 years. I feel fortunate to be able to continue to teach in the form of online photography and digital art workshops as well as teaching art classes to kids in my community. Sometimes people ask me why I want to give away all my photography secrets. I say, “Why shouldn’t I? I can give away all my “secrets,” and even then no one can copy my creativity. We each have our own unique, creative thumbprint if you will.” That being said, you should never be afraid to share what you know.
If you look at my IG feed @susantuttle you’ll see that the content is primarily self-portraiture, peppered with some landscape and still life shots. Although I do take ‘selfies’ I don’t tend to define them as such. What I’m really doing is using my body as the model, bringing a character to life. I have a closet-full of costumes from the thrift store, as well as a collection of masks and props. The process of making these pieces is pure fun — it’s dress-up play followed by photo-manipulation, both of which make me very happy! The more I have delved into this process of using my body as the subject for my work, the more I began to see that I was celebrating the human form in all its perfection and flaws. That was so beautiful to me. Serendipitously this leads to my answer for your next question…
Bob: What value do you think self-portraiture has to the whole person as an approach to self-understanding and (dare I say it), self-love?
Susan: Having a body is such a gift! Through our bodily form and our senses we are able to experience the beauty of the world and give of ourselves to others. We can share and receive love through the power of a simple touch, take in the breathtaking colors of the sky at sunset, inhale deeply the heavenly scent of a peony, be enraptured by the mellifluous tones of a symphony, and taste layers and bursts of delicious flavor in a dish so carefully and lovingly prepared. Self-portraiture celebrates this gift of the human body, which when you boil it down, is really a celebration of life. And, when you set aside all notions of what society says is physically beautiful (which is unattainable anyway) and focus instead on what it means to experience life through a form, a shift in thinking takes place. I’d like to think this comes through in my “self-portraits” and I’d like to invite others to open themselves to this type of thinking and explore the art of self-portraiture as a celebration of their life on this earth.
Bob: You’ve written a number of books – tell us a little about them, and what prompted you to write them? How have readers reacted, and has that changed the focus of later books?
Susan: My books have mirrored my own creative journey in a sense, in that each one has shared aspects of my creativity that I was passionate about and most immersed in at the time. I was fortunate enough to have my book proposals accepted by my publisher (I have to go through the same rigorous proposal process as anyone else), and I feel blessed to have an editor (Tonia Jenny) in the publishing house who believes in my work and what I wish to share with and teach readers. She’s always given me the freedom to craft my own content based on my accepted proposals and for that I am most grateful.
My first book, Exhibition 36: Mixed-Media Demonstrations and Explorations (North Light Books, 2008) is a virtual gallery of sorts, containing the work of 36 mixed-media arists (including myself). Artists not only share their work, but their techniques as well as the personal stories behind their artwork. When I wrote my first book, my creativity was expressed in the form of mixed-media paintings and collage. I was just beginning to create surrealist style digital art with Photoshop at that point in time.
My second book, Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art with Adobe Photoshop Elements (North Light Books, 2010) gives stepped-out digital projects for Photoshop Elements (the instructions also work for Photoshop CS). This book was birthed at a time when I began to discover that my true artistic niche was in photography and digital art.
My third book, Photo Craft: Creative Mixed-Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs (North Light Books, 2012), co-authored with Christy Hydeck, is a combination of both mixed-media and Photoshop projects — my projects are Photoshop-based, while Christy’s are mixed-media manipulations of actual printed photos.
My fourth book, which will be released by North Light books this summer, 2014, called Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos, is all about learning how to control the features of your digital SLR camera in order to make more creative photographs. Mobile art/photography is woven into the content throughout.
Do I have a fifth book in me? Yes, absolutely! I love to write and I know I still have lots more creativity evolving in me that I will wish to share in the form of another book at some point in the future.
Bob: What is next on your personal journey of self-discovery?
Susan: For now I am thoroughly enjoying exploring both DSLR photography and iPhoneography and photo-manipulation of both types of images. Honestly, I don’t think I will ever tire of these mediums and I look forward to experimenting with future technological developments that will shape these mediums over time. I’ve been wanting to get my paintbrushes wet again as well — I want to get back into doing abstract acrylic paintings. In terms of the future, I’m not entirely sure how my creativity will evolve, and that’s one of the best parts about it. Adventure! Surprise! I live for those things. What I do know for sure is that I will always be making things in some way, shape or form. My creativity is an integral part of who I am and I cannot function properly or live a full life without it.
Watch the video below to get a sense of what you can accomplish using the techniques that Susan shares in her iPhone photography course:
To learn more about the course, and to sign up at an amazing (and limited-time) 50% off of the full price, visit this page. I’ve seen the entire course, and can vouch for the high quality of the material and amount of knowledge you’ll accumulate about conceptualizing, capturing and producing portraits and self-portraits that will amaze you, and help elevate your own art.
Susan Tuttle is a Maine-based digital SLR photographer and iPhoneographer, author, and an online photography, Photoshop and mobile art instructor. She has written three books published by North Light Books – Photo Craft: Creative Mixed-Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs (2012, co-authored with Christy Hydeck), Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art with Adobe Photoshop Elements (2010), and Exhibition 36: Mixed-Media Demonstrations and Explorations (2008). Her fourth book, Art of Everyday Photography: Move Toward Manual and Make Creative Photos will be published by North Light Books in August 2014.
Susan’s iPhoneography has won many awards and recognitions from venues like the prestigious American Aperture Awards (AX3) where her work took first place in the Nudes category (2013), the Mobile Photography Awards where she received several honorable mentions (2012 – 2013), and the Paris Mobile Photography Awards where her iPhoneography won first place in the Self-Portrait category (2013). Her mobile photography has been exhibited internationally in London, New York City, Prague and Paris. In addition to authoring her own books, Susan is a frequent contributor to Stampington & Company publications and other North Light books. She was recently named Technical Advisor for Somerset Digital Studio magazine. Susan’s blog/website was featured on the Huffington Post and iVillage. Visit her website and blog, SusanTuttlePhotography.com, to learn more about Susan and her art, to get great free tips and advice on photography and iPhoneography, and explore lifestyle topics like gardening, recipes, DIY/craft projects, thrifty fashion and living the simple life with family. Susan can be found on Instagram @susantuttle, Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/ilkasattic, Facebook www.facebook.com/susan.tuttle.144 and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/susant/.