Editorial: Bob Poe’s Happy Accident - Publication: LA Weekly - Date: July 2010

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Bob Poe’s Happy Accident

Cell phone photographer Bob Poe is a distinct anomaly in today’s art community. After purchasing a first generation Apple Iphone two years ago, Poe, a self made autodidact and business entrepreneur made the daring leap to embrace a full time career as a fine arts photographer, exclusively using his  Iphone.

Defying his inexperience and a lethargic economy Poe subsequently  opened his own gallery (Bob Poe Photography ) at Santa Monica’s salubrious Bergamot Station after strolling in one afternoon on a whim  to find a vacant space.

Now a recognizable figure in the increasingly legitimate genre of cellphone art photography, Poe’s entry to the world of fine art is as miraculous  as his near overnight realization. The process began after he accidentally shot several photographs on his new Iphone. While he says he was initially inclined to delete them, he later  decided they were of artistic value. This  in turn inspired him to devote full time to his new craft and seek out a suitable venue to display his blossoming portfolio.

Poe, a successful business develop manager, with a thriving telecommunications business was so inspired by the photographic process,  and a certainty he could  nurture a successful art career, he  decided opening his own gallery wasn’t such a premature thing, more  something that would ensure he pursued his new creative outlet.

“ My entry into fine art photography was entirely happenstance. A couple of years ago I purchased an IPhone the very day it came on the market and just started snapping away. I simply started playing and came up with some interesting images. I took a picture with very blurry types of images and  rather than delete them I decided they were very artistic.

 At first I was going to delete them because they really weren’t up to scratch, then I decided to keep them and tinker with them, I ended up with several abstract works and from there I decided this could be a really great thing to do as an artist overall.”
Bob says his happy accident then became increasingly sophisticated.  “Initially I started printing on paper then I opted for  canvas. I like the way printing on canvas offers a real painterly quality. I tried a number of surfaces including plexi glass, though nothing offered the warmth and organic quality of canvas, Im settled on it now  I like the way the colors are, and the way the images reproduce.”

 Asked about his work’s evolution, and his stylistic and thematic  progression, he reveals “My work reflects a painterly vision of everyday subjects that exceed the original intention of the photograph.  I currently employ the use of an IPhone camera, both for its accessibility and ease of use.  What was initially viewed as a benign collection of subjects and locations has become an instrument that allows me to discover, and allows an audience to discover, the complexities that lie just beneath their surface.”

“The spontaneous nature of the iPhone lets me capture images that, when viewed at length, display curious juxtapositions, symbolism and humor. As each photograph unfolds, it offers viewers an opportunity to apply their own personal, artistic and philosophical interpretation. Unintentional visual distortions resulting from the iPhone’s inherent limitations provide a playful temperament to much of my work, and add ambiguity to otherwise straightforward images.”

 Poe says his subject matter includes anything that strikes him as unusual, quirky, or that can evoke multiple interpretations. “I haven’t actually had any formal arts training  apart from some assignments with black and white photography during high school.The majority of my work is improvisational, as the iPhone allows me to take quick and impulsive photographs. The absence of a heavy camera and equipment is liberating, and permits me to capture a moment in its authentic form.”

“I work in large-scale reproductions of my photographs because I believe this format displays each piece’s subtleties, richness and depth. The canvas also provides a dramatic backdrop for an image that is usually viewed on a very small device.”

“My most recent work explores the role of discovery in the artistic process. Specifically, how the iPhone’s lack of shutter speed and aperture control - which frustrates many of its users - or an accidental finger over its lens, can create powerful and beautiful images. In terms of his  broader creative vision Bob claims he ultimately wants to encourage his audience to pursue their own artistic endeavors,  “for pure enjoyment or for further discovery of the artist within themselves.”

This a stark contrast to his former high ranking corporate careering -- Poe spent over 20 years in the broadcast industry, developing pioneering media initiatives for a variety of clients. He was the Director of Broadcasting for the Orlando Magic, and cultivated a strong fan base for the team when it was founded in 1989.

Most notably, he was General Manager of WMMO, a breakthrough radio station in Florida that provided quality, uninterrupted music programming for adult listeners. His efforts earned him the prestigious Radio Wayne Award for General Manager of the Year and earned WMMO the Radio Station of the Year award from Billboard.

Poe’s recent show Titled “Eye Photo,” presents the photography he creates exclusively through his iPhone, and explores the human eye in a series of intimate portraits. Using the eyes of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers, “Eye Photo” explores the ambiguous nature of the human eye, when isolated in a single photograph.

Poe confides, “While many consider the eye to be the most expressive part of the human body, the lack of context in the solitary eye offers anonymity and intrigue. The work also displays large-scale reproductions of the eye, which provides additional richness and depth.”

Written by Craig Stephens

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