A Mobiographer’s Journey From Analog to iPhone
A couple of years ago, mobiographer Erica “Spin” Simas moved…
Feel like you don’t have any creative ideas left? Don’t stress. Robert Jahns, acclaimed artist and phenomenally popular Instagram creator (we’re convinced he’s part man, part art machine), is here to help. Robert was kind enough to take a few minutes to share some of his own tips, tricks and motivations: from not doing the right thing to dreaming while awake. Read on for more valuable advice any artistic iPhoneographer is sure to love.
Robert Jahns is at the forefront of a new generation of artists whose works are created and consumed largely on mobile devices. Just how popular is he? His most recent Instagram post has garnered 30,000 likes in two days, and he’s currently a nominee for the Shorty Awards Instagrammer of the Year. A native of Germany, he is a sort of renaissance man of the digital age; he has been an art director at an advertising firm, a photographer who uses an iPhone and SLR, and a digital artist who leverages Instagram to premiere his work and gauge audience response.
A relatively early user of the platform, Jahns quickly found success in an artistic style that blends the real and the dreamlike, thanks in large part to the power of the digital tools he uses. “It’s important to be original. As long as you can control the rules of photography you can make something special,” Jahns says. He adds that one should be unafraid to break the rules of traditional photography. “Doing the right thing is so boring,” he notes.
For many iPhoneographers, Enlight can be the tool that enables them to control – and break – the rules of photography. Jahns encourages mobiographers to embrace their creativity by experimenting with new tools, locations, and techniques. “Try new things, every day,” he says. “You can experiment in every situation.”
Jahns certainly takes his own advice; A typical Jahns image places an everyday detail within a phantasmagorical or elevated context: a woman swings on a car tire above the Hollywood Sign; an aerialist practices contortions in front of the Eiffel Tower; a perplexed pug floats above Central Park, thanks to a colorful cluster of balloons. Jahns explains that he’s not afraid to embrace the unreal. “Dream big,” he says simply. He observes that he draws upon refractions of reality to “create some surreal-looking images, which might have popped up in your dream.”
Nearly every Jahns photo is accompanied by a brief, and often inspirational, quote that relates to the picture at hand. “Don’t be afraid to be different. That’s what makes you beautiful” is the description of The Butterphrant, an elephant whose ears have been replaced by giant, golden butterfly wings.
In another, a vibrant pink sash trails behind a woman who stands just before a snowy mountain range. “The best dreams happen when you’re awake,” the caption reads. “Mostly I have a story in mind while editing,” Jahns explains. “In the end it often takes me hours to find the right words or the right quote to go with the image.”
These quotes resonate strongly with Jahns’s Instagram audience of 800,000 enthusiastic fans. A typical image might garner 25,000 likes, and invite hundreds of comments. Jahns says that interacting with an audience is an intrinsic part of the creative process. “For me, feedback is the most important thing, ever,” he offers. “It’s one of the reasons I started on Instagram.”
Enlight users can create similarly dreamy, Jahns-esque photos, thanks to the powerful Mixer feature, which enables mobiographers to combine and reimagine images. Jahns encourages mobiographers to expand their horizons by traveling, both near and far. “Go to a new place,” he says, “you never know what’s around the corner.” If there is a Jahns signature that embodies this idea, it’s his Legs Above the City series, a sort of abstract self-portrait reimagined for the Instagram age, wherein Jahns digitally – and in some cases, actually – rests his own legs precariously atop, say, the Golden Gate Bridge or above Times Square.
Since not everyone has the luxury of easy travel – or the opportunity to climb to the top of tall landmarks – iPhoneographers can, like Jahns, mix actual photos they’ve taken with stock images, to create innovative, surreal, and avant-garde masterworks.
Consider the image below, where I used a snapshot I took from atop the George Washington Bridge, between New York and New Jersey.
1. I’m going to increase the Contrast and Exposure slightly, in order to give it that slightly otherworldly feel that many of Jahns’s images have. I then took a picture of legs, which are very much on the ground.
For further inspiration, check out Jahns’s video here. How do you stay creative? Do you experiment with images? Have a story in mind when you shoot and edit? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by: David Leshaw.
Contributing photographer: Robert Jahns, a photographer and digital artist. He lives in Germany, but travels across the world, crafting incredible images. Find him on Instagram here.