This interview first appeared on Pixels—The Art of the iPhone on December 30, 2011.
It was one year and one day ago that Max T. Frame submitted his first picture to Pixels. Entitled “My Wife”— a lovely Warholian quadtych in flesh tones and vibrant spot color. It shared many of the inviting characteristics common of the work that would follow: warmth, color, sensuality, beauty.
It was the fifth picture he submitted that began to define his oeuvre: the female nude. He submitted four or five in a row, each more striking than the last. His work was at once bold, playful, sexy and all of his pictures conveyed an intelligence behind the “lens” of the iphone. Flesh tones and textures beautifully rendered, overlaid with geometric forms, a play of light and shadow in a celebration of pure feminine beauty and power. This was a man who respected and loved women and the timeless mystery they embody: that was obvious to me from the first.
He interspersed his nudes with some wonderful street photography, often humorous, sometimes strangely tragic, still informed with his characteristic intelligence and warmth.
I’ve shared a correspondence with Max and it has been a joy getting to know him. He is one of the artists who make Pixels what it is and I am grateful for his sharing of his works and, now, his thoughts and story.
A lawyer (who would have thought?!), Max was one of the first Pixels’ artists to enter into a formal agreement for representation and we are very happy that his beautiful works are now available in exquisite archival editions at P1xels—The Fine Art of the iPhone.
Before we get to Max’s great interview, I’d like to thank Kimberly Post Rowe for her interview as featured artist and her ongoing contributions to Pixels.
KB: Please tell us a little about yourself – where you live, if you hail from Earth, anything like that. Whatever you feel like sharing that isn’t covered in the questions below.
MTF: I am a forty year old Juris Doctor, whose parents wanted to become a brilliant lawyer, and has instead decided to dedicate his own life only to what he loves and to the people he loves. That’s how I took care of my parents until the end and now I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my beautiful wife and my wonderful eight year old daughter.
With my wife we met at law school, but the art was a necessity for us and our lives have undergone a small revolution. Today she is a painter inspired and volcanic, I think I’m a very lucky man!
We live on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia, we are a little on the edge of the western world and all in all we like it. I am not one who shares his images easily and have habits rather discreet but the enthusiasm of Knox dragged me into this adventure making me to leave for a while my hermitage. I try to keep up even if it is not always simple for me use so many words, whereas I speak little, and preferably with the images.
In photography as in life I try to keep everything as simple as possible.
KB: How long have you been shooting pictures with your iPhone?
MTF: It’s almost two years now, since I’ve bought my first iPhone.
KB: How often do you work on your art?
MTF: Always, everyday, anytime of the day.This is what I love of the iPhone, you can work on the image right away without waiting to come back home. I’ve always been a polaroid addict and I am used to working immediately after taking the picture.
KB: How did you discover apps?
MTF: From the beginning, I bought the iPhone becouse of the apps. Like I said, I come from the Polaroids, I loved to manipulate those little squared frames with my fingers or with any rounded wooden stick, and I discovered that the apps could give me the same feelings and even more freedom.
KB: When did you get serious about it, and what was the turning point for you?
MTF: Again, from the very beginning. I mean, when I bought the iphone, I had no need of a phone, but I’ve bought it only for its photographic potential. I needed a device that would allow me to photograph and execute a process of abstraction from the image photographed and I needed it to do so without turning on my imac.The ability to work without a computer was the key factor that made me fall in love with the iPhone.
KB: What do you like to shoot? When? How does your whole creative process work? And how has it evolved?
MTF: Anyone who looks at my gallery of images immediately understand what is my favorite subject to photograph … I mean, I love different things, but I have a weakness for the human figure. My archive is full of portraits and nudes, but unfortunately I photograph common people, often friends and then my work is intimate, private.
Each photo session is preceded by a long conversations with the person that I wish to photograph. I start with an idea, but I’m never confident that it can be done because every concession to my camera is a secret confidence. As for the other images they are often the transpositions of daily notes or moods and nothing else.
About the style, well I really don’t know what to say, it’s just the way I see it, my attempt to keep everything slow during the shoot and from the technical point of view I try when I can to have an original image already treated using extra lenses, mirrors and colored glass in front of the lens.
KB: Do you work in any other creative mediums, i.e., painting, music, writing, etc.?
MTF: More and more rarely because of the iPhone, but I continue to use the Polaroids, the Zink’s thermal paper that I love to paint up with my pyrograph; I create small notebooks with old typefaces and photos and I really love to print photo collages on sheets of paper made with the envelopes that here in Italy are still used for bagging the bread: is a very porous paper, a nightmare to work with, but wonderful to see and to touch.
KB: Do you spend time online looking at the work of other iphoneographic artists?
MTF: Yeah, absolutely. I love watching the work of other artists is always pleasant and often very instructive for what I do.
KB: Do you study other art forms?
MTF: Study is not the right word, let’s say I enjoy all the forms of figurative arts, and I try to learn as much I can from my wife’s talent.
KB: Have you done a lot of traditional photography? If so, are you still using your camera as well as your iPhone?
MTF: Yes I got my first camera when I was eleven, a Yashica fxd-quartz with a 50mm f1.4, and since then I never stopped to photograph, but as it may sound hilarious, now I use my reflex just for snapshots and use the iPhone for the real works.
KB: Can you tell us how you began shooting your nudes and how your style developed? Can you tell us anything about your models and how you find them?
MTF: As I said before, my models are girls and women who would never have thought to pose nude but photographing nudes for me has always been a necessity, is a different way to portray a human being, it is ancient, direct, unique.
So I started to try to dispel the taboo and I’ve convinced my first model, and then the second and third. After a while my photos have become most convincing than my words. Sometimes everything turns out simply because the person is fully at ease with her body, but other times the best shots come only at the end. However, everything remains in the book of private memories and what I can publish is only the tip of the iceberg.
About the style, well I really don’t know what to say, it’s just the way I see it, my attempt to keep everything slow during the shoot and nothing else.
KB: Where do you stand on the “Is iPhoneography photography or a whole new medium” debate?
MTF: I think that iphoneography it’s a whole new medium. I mean it relates to photography as a starting point but in a deconstructive way, trying to going back to the expressionism of the daguerreotype or even of the paintings. Contamination in the art have always existed, but I think iphoneography is not closer to photography than it is to all the other figurative arts.
KB: Who are some artists – in any medium – you admire or have influenced you?
MTF: I admire too many to list, but wanting to remain in the field of photography and especially among those who I believe have influenced in some way my works, I can quote Paolo Roversi, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Jean-François Jonvelle, and I stop here to not to bore you with a long list.
KB: What is your basic app kit, or Camera Bag, as Marty Yawnick calls it. How has your use of apps evolved over time?
MTF: My Camera Bag is so full of apps that I dont know where to start.. let’s say Iris, Photogene, PerfectlyClr, PS Express for the basic things, then is a orgy of pic Grunger, PictureShow, Montage, Blender, Plastic bullet, Snapseed, Decim8, ToonPAINT, Halftone, AutoStitch, Big Lens, Retouch, Labeler and so on. I still love some classic piece like CameraBag and ShakeltPhoto but my most loved and frustrating app is “addLibb”: I can’t say how many time i’ve spent trying to find a remedy to its super low resolution.
KB: Are there any apps you don’t like?
MTF: Yes, the app store is full of trivial and unnecessary applications, which produce always the same pictures, but I do not even remember their names.
KB: Are there any specific improvements you would like to see made to existing apps?
MTF: One above all: more resolution for addLibb!
KB: Are there any apps you would like to see developed/invented?
MTF: I would like to have an app that like Camstructr, lets me divide the screen into section and shoot each individually but with a full resoution picture for each section.
KB: When you feel you have reached a creative stalemate, and believe your work is not cutting it anymore, do you have any tricks for breaking out of artist’s block?
MTF: I am not a constant person and I’m used to alternate very productive periods and others rather sterile but I think that the most beautiful words, needs sometimes the silence, to express their sense.
KB: What features would you like to see implemented at the Pixels website?
MTF: Hey, it’s your job not mine :-), for me it is just great as it is.
KB: A last word perhaps?
KB: Thank you, Max!