When Lisa Sparks purchased an iPhone, she gained more than a simple upgrade in technology. The smartphone’s 5-megapixel camera allowed her to freeze-frame life as it unfolded.
With the aid of photo-enhancing applications, she soon was creating art out of digital images. She embarked on an extended project that captured Wichita. Those images are on display at the Murillo Studios in Old Town, where the self-descried “iPhoneographer” will host a closing reception for her iPhone-only image show, “88 Days,” this Final Friday.
“When I see the world around me, specifically my hometown of Wichita, I see so much more than what’s in front of me. I see distant lands, influences of other cultures, and I see history,” Sparks said.
The 33-year-old never was much of a technology buff before her iPhone. She wanted access to certain smartphone functions. Though she began her college career studying ceramics at Wichita State University, she ultimately earned a degree in communications and never really has considered herself a visual artist. Her job at the Wichita Scottish Rite Masonic Center and her involvement with downtown revitalization efforts introduced Sparks to several local photographers, including Darrin Hackney, Johnny Sutton and Jaclyn Turner, who encouraged and inspired her own creative pursuits.
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“I wanted to do what they were doing, but I didn’t have the tools to do it,” she said. “When I got my iPhone, I decided that was my chance.”
That was in the waning days of 2010. When the new year dawned, Sparks committed herself to a project that would require her to take one photo each day with her new phone. Her decision to do this was rash, literally decided moments before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. The first image, taken seconds after, is a fitting yuletide tribute of pink, green and orange streamers taped to a wall beaming out above a holiday-wreathed banister welcoming 2011.
“What followed is very much my love letter to Wichita,” Sparks said of the project. “It’s me capturing a pleasurable moment I have each day in this city that I care about. I feel strongly that there are moments of beauty to be had everywhere, and I want people to see those moments here.”
The project lasted for 88 days, producing images from Jan. 1, 2011 to March 29, 2011. Architecture emerged as a prominent theme, with stained glass windows, long hallways, iconic buildings and unique vantage-points of the downtown cityscape examined through distinctive camera angles and augmented by altered colorization. People mostly take a back seat in the works. One photo features a shadowy image of a friend flipping through TV channels but focuses on a train rustling by outside a large window. All were shot and edited on her iPhone 4, using the applications Camera+ and Blender for manipulation.
After the 88th day, Sparks said she shifted her creative focus to her writing and is now working to complete a novel. The photos managed to catch the eye of Wichita artist Steve Murillo, though.
“She never intended to print the photographs as a physical exhibition,” he said. “However, I encouraged her to revisit the series and mount an exhibition here in these galleries. Developing her eye and discipline to the task of seeking out emotive opportunities, a social experiment was created.”
“These are not commercial prints, nor documentary,” Murillo said. “These are strong attempts by an artist seeking a new medium to express her inner-self.”