A Los Altan's App-titude For iPhone Art

Mansi Bhatia didn't know the first thing about photography a little more than a year ago, but starting with just her iPhone and Instagram she stumbled onto an emerging art form.


By Kellie Miller

Sitting at a dimly lit table, Mansi Bhatia waits to be interviewed at one of her favorite restaurants, Opa! on Main St. in Los Altos. She wears a black and white argyle sweater and pinstripe pants; hair pulled back showing off her beautiful, dark features—that you may recognize, if you've seen some of her self portraits.

Her iPhone, iPad, and photo books are neatly stacked beside her, ready to show off her art. 

For a little over a year now, Bhatia has been a part of an emerging art form called iPhoneography: the act of creating art with the photos taken on an Apple iPhone, and applying any of the multitude of apps available to digitally alter, or "paint" those photos. 

Never having studied or even having much interest in photography, Bhatia first caught on in December 2011, after creating an Instagram profile on the social media. Instagram is a social photo sharing site that allow one to edit photos with a variety of filters, and quickly share the photos with others. Within four months, Bhatia was introduced to Instagram iPhone art, and has since posted 2,676 photos on Instagram. 

She started off with trying to mimic others art that she saw, using apps such as "Hipstamatic" ("digital photography never looked so analog") and "Scratchcam." She got hooked on experimenting with all the filters to the point of having downloaded over 250 apps—126 of which she regularly uses. About 13 of them are her "go-to's," she said. She said that she has spent so much money on apps that she now waits for an app to release and go free for a day. "My husband says it was getting a bit ridiculous."

Many artists don't want to divulge “their secret recipe,” Bhatia said. But she likes to list the apps she's used under her work.

"That's how you learn! That's how I learned," she said. Despite never studying photography, after experimenting and looking to other artists who do post their processes, along with websites such as iphoneart.com, Bhatia was invited to an OpenShow talk at Apple’s flagship store in San Francisco, where she shared her process with iPhone enthusiasts at a class there.

Bhatia calls her "first success" as being one of the first five artists to sell her donated piece, "Time to Go Home." It was one sold at the #BeMobile for Food Frenzy 2012 – an event where artists donated their work, raising more than $2,000 to provide thousands of meals to hungry children. 

Bhatia's favorite photo is "The Grazer."

"The reason why I really like it is because it's the only image that sold before the gallery started."

“The Grazer” was sitting on a table one day prior to the Mobile Phone Images Show in Denver when a customer walked in and purchased the piece, Bhatia said.

"This woman walked by and said, 'How much for that one?' And to think that I was actually going to trash it. I struggled for a long time … I didn't know what to make of it. It's a cow! But it feels good to think about that hanging in someone’s living room.  

Bhatia's most recent success comes from her piece "Choo-choo Train," which was one of 59 selected to show at the Garden Gate Creativity Center in Berkeley from November 2012 through the end of January 2013. "Choo-choo Train" was then presented at the Galerie OutofMyMind in Bremen, Germany, which opened December 21, 2012.  

"The train was moving. The picture came out blurry and I was going to trash it. But I found a way to make the train vibrant." She then blended three “apped” versions of the train images together and painted a chicken on top. 

Bhatia has also created a book entitled "Moments in Time,” a photographic essay where she captures moments of everyday life. 

She has also received an honorable mention for her self-portrait “Blood Tears”,  from the  Mobile Photography Awards, that was displayed at the SOHO Gallery for Digital Art in New York City. For Bay Area locals who would like to see Bhatia's work on display, the same exhibit moves to the ArtHaus in San Francisco from April 5 through June 29. 

Currently working at Palo Alto Medical Foundation as a senior philanthropy communications officer in Mountain View, Bhatia plans to continue her love of iPhoneography in hopes of sharing more of her art online and in a classroom,  teaching others the practice too. Bhatia will be teaching iPhoneography classes this summer at the Palo Alto Art Center.

One of her last words as we finished at the restaurant are: "Try to give the audience what they want; but also satisfy yourself. The beauty of the iPhone is that you develop your tools and skills as you create your art. 

"You know, you can't do that with a paintbrush." 


Due to Instagram’s new privacy policy, Bhatia no longer shares her photos via Instagram. Instead, check out her personal website, art.mansibhatia.com or the following links.  


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