Photographer uses smartphone to capture haunting images for new exhibit
“It takes an eye and a vision. Anyone can snap a photo, but if the composition and subject aren’t interesting, all the apps in the world won’t help.”
Susan Parini, the Development Manager at Peralta Colleges Foundation, is also a master of visionary, often-haunting iPhone photographs. Using apps such as “Color Splash” and “Extreme Black and White,” Parini angles, blurs and colorizes her artistic path, transforming simple iPhone photos into extraordinary fine art.
Her bewitching work, entitled, “Repeated Footsteps: curious iPhone images,” is on display at the Laney College’s William High gallery until Feb. 17. The exhibit’s opening on Jan. 26 drew a steady stream of photo enthusiasts and other budding iPhone photographers such as photography student William Holder.
“I find her photos magical,” he said. “I’ve always used my iPhone for things like boring vacation pictures but now I’m inspired to play with my phone’s technology.”
Parini shared some of her simple visual secrets with guests at her showing.
I like to walk…and my phone is usually with me,” she said. “Maybe it’s a color or a shape that catches my eye or an ordinary object that I can visualize as mysterious or menacing. I especially seem drawn to things that are reminiscent of life but are not actually living creatures.”
A stroll down Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco brought to life a spooky iPhone photo that appears to be a roomful of partying skeletons splashed with blood.
“I think the skeletons were part of an anatomy class that I shot through a window, but I have no idea why they’re splashed with blood,” Parini said.
She transformed the image by reducing the skeletons to stark black and white and intensifying the scarlet red blood.
The unlikely background of the photo is royal blue with a silhouette of a blooming tree. Parini purposefully captured this vivid reflection and then colorized it to contrast the barren forefront of skeletons. The final effect is life flourishing behind the symbols of death.
Another piece features a gaunt, rabbit-faced human figure with blonde curls dressed in an old-fashioned pink dress—Parini’s colorful vision of The Easter Bunny.
The busy photo is also sprinkled with green and blue crosses and other religious icons. The surprising contrast of The Easter Bunny with the more serious symbols of the holiday is almost disturbing.
Parini said the iPhone has advantages over ordinary cameras; it has a unique app called “Snapseed” that does high quality editing.
“It is like Adobe Photoshop that gives you the ability to crop, rotate, filter and change the focus of the picture—all on your phone,” she said.
Parini, who has worked at the Peralta Colleges Foundation for just over a year, spends most of her time organizing events such as the Peralta Foundation Golf Tournament scheduled for May.
A graduate San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Fine Arts, she has been captivated by photography for decades, but her employment history is colorfully eclectic.
Parini’s work experiences range from The American Lung Association to Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) to The Japan Society of Northern California, where she was a program officer.
Her favorite iPhone photo is her doctored shot of a line of bald, naked mannequins in various poses. The life-like mannequins perch precariously above a row of patch quilt red-and-brown curtains.
“For me it was the context of the photo. I shot it last Christmas Eve as I wandered the streets of San Francisco alone. The picture sums up the lonely day,” she said.
Parini invites others to comment or share their favorite photo app by emailing her at sparini(at)peralta.edu.
Susan Parini’s exhibit of “curious iPhone images” on display at Laney College’s William High
Gallery (A-170) through Feb. 17