Creating strange and beautiful images with a smartphone

Photographer Buckner Sutter has gone from taking images with toy cameras and old Polaroids to using software on his smartphone to create a similar, otherworldly feel.


"Dream Museum" by Buckner Sutter

Image courtesy of the artist

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Sutter, a photographer with thirty years experience, is currently showing some of his recent work at VidTiger Studio and Gallery in the Solar Arts building in Northeast Minneapolis.

The show is titled "Between Worlds," a reference to the space Sutter is attempting to create with his images.

"I'm always going for this borderline place that looks familiar, yet has this dreamy aspect," says Sutter, sitting in the gallery surrounded by his work. "I'm striving to capture that childlike naive connection with the strange and the beautiful... that feeling you have the moment before you recognize something as a dream."


"The Aftermath" by Buckner Sutter

Image courtesy of the artist

Sutter says while he used to work with more expensive cameras, he found smartphones much more portable and easy to work with - albeit relatively crude when they first came out.

"The more I had my point-and-shoot with me, the more pictures I took," explains Sutter, "so I abandoned the more expensive cameras, and opted for a Blackberry, then the iPhone. Nowadays it comes with a nice camera - 5-8 megapixels - which is equivalent to some of my early digital cameras."

Now with multiple photo editing applications like Hipstamatic, Filterstorm and Photowizard, Sutter finds he's able to create layered images that evoke the primitive feel of the old film-based toy cameras - Dianas, Holgas - that he used to experiment with. But now he doesn't have to deal with the unpredictability of film.

"With the digital apps the learning curve is really fast compared to working with negatives," says Sutter. "You can change as you go to get different results.

I do it because I can get the work done; it's always with me. I'm immersed in the visual world and capturing it. I can do this on my break at work - I can walk and edit images at the same time!"


"Under a Silver Moon" by Buckner Sutter

Image courtesy of the artist

Sutter is known on Instagram and other image sites by his handle "Intao" - he says he currently has 1800 images up on Instagram, all created within the last two years. That level of productivity simply wouldn't have been possible for him using film.

Ironically, says VidTiger owner Chuck Olsen, images taken on smartphones never look better than when they're on the phone because of the high resolution it now offers. A 'retina display" - also known as liquid crystal display - means there's no visible pixelation; the images are actually finer than the eye can discern. That means the images don't often hold up to being transferred to another medium. But Olsen says in the case of Sutter's images, which are printed on porous aluminum to mimic the affect of seeing an image on an illuminated screen, the transfer works.


"Shaman Lake" by Buckner Sutter

Image courtesy of the artist

Sutter says that while he knows photography "purists" who swear off digital cameras, he increasingly sees them switching over, enchanted by what technology has to offer.

"Between Worlds" closes tomorrow night with a reception from 5-9 pm at the Solar Arts building, featuring live soundscapes by Chris Strouth and Paris 1919.