Guest Artist - Nettie Edwards and The Austrian Shoebox

The iPhone Arts is pleased to introduce Guest Artist, Nettie Edwards, who just this week was awarded the 2013 American Aperture Awards, Mobile Artist of the Year. She was also winner in two other categories, Landscape/Seascape/Nature, and Video/Moving Images.

We wish to extend our heartfelt congratulations to her and her accomplishments. 


While Nettie and I collect abandoned family photographs, we do so for different reasons. It is also evident in the way either of us approach and choose to reproduce and give new meaning and life to the image. Nettie delves deep into each photograph, examining various components and then extracts those parts that speak to her.

She says, “I am not trying to create works of art but that the process, of which the photographs are a component, is the artwork itself. Therefore, the images are almost like faded sketches, snapshot of my mind working.”

The Austrian Shoebox
by Nettie Edwards

"These fragments I have shored against my ruins" T.S. Elliot

Fragment 01
iPhone Collage 2009

When I was eleven years old, my great grandmother gave me a much-treasured photograph of her mother. At that moment, my fate was sealed: I was to become the family Memory Keeper, taking it upon myself to gather together every fragment of our history that could be searched for and found: every photograph, scrap of ephemera or official record hidden away in public archives. Inevitably, genealogical research and collections of keepsakes became an important part of my creative practice. In time, I looked beyond my own family's history to that of friends. Finally, strangers moved into my life as I developed an irresistible fascination for anonymous and abandoned collections of photographs: jigsaw puzzles without pictures to follow.

So it was that one recent Saturday morning, whilst visiting a nearby Vintage Market, I noticed a large pile of photographs and postcards on the counter. The vendor remarked that he'd found them at a local Car Boot sale. Leafing through, I could tell that this was probably one family's collection: a ‘comfortably off’ Austrian family. My imagination piqued by images of exotic strangers clad in dirndls and lederhosen, posing in front of Edelweiss-strewn mountains, resistance was futile. As my brain shouted "stop it! You don't have the time or money to get involved with this lot!,” I heard myself asking the question "how much for all of them?" After a bit of friendly haggling, a deal was done, the photographs stashed into a cardboard box for safe carriage and I walked home with my new project: The Austrian Shoebox.

Do all genealogists share the same impulse when they encounter a new collection of family photographs? Mine is to look for evidences: names, dates, addresses and photographic studio locations. Sorting through the box, I was disappointed to find just a few names of people and places. However, many of the snapshots have dates handwritten on the reverse and these have enabled me to construct a rough chronology. Most of the photographs were shot between the 1920s and early 1960s, although there are few covering the 1938 to 1945 period. I'm mindful that these are images from an era before online social sharing, when family photographs were private possessions intended for viewing only by a chosen few. At a rough estimate, there must be about 500 snapshots, enabling me, a total stranger, to witness intimate moments and highlights in the lives of complete strangers, almost from cradle to grave.

But what exactly am I witnessing? Much critical debate surrounds the veracity of photographic images. Richard Avedon wrote "all photographs are accurate. None of them  is the truth." Taken out of context, how much "truth" is there to find in my shoebox of family snapshots? The well-dressed, smiling people they depict appear to have had such golden lives. With no knowledge of them personally, it's all too easy to be sentimental, whilst in reality, I know absolutely nothing about the complexity of their personalities or the complications of their relationships.

As I'm not only a genealogist, but also an artist, it was inevitable that in the absence of information, I would begin to imaginatively construct my own narratives.

Whilst they remain with their subjects, the contents of family albums are generally treasured as captured memories, but as Joerg Colberg has observed "conveniently, we tend to ignore the fact that photographs are manufactured memories." Where do memories end and stories begin? Each individual recalls a different version of the same event, family arguments erupt over whose memory of an incident is correct. In the same way, a single photograph tells not one story, captures not one memory, but many: each viewer brings their own perception to the table.

As I become more acquainted with the contents of the Austrian Shoebox, layers of memory and meaning are blending and evolving as do layers of a photographic image composited in an app or Photoshop. Captured moments in the lives of people unknown to me are becoming part of my own store of memories. My invented stories are becoming an extension of their family history. Should I impose limits upon my imagination? As I never knew these people, perhaps the least that I can do is treat them with respect, give them the benefit of the doubt that they were decent Human Beings. But life is much more complicated than it appears in smiling holiday snaps. This was Austria in the 1920s and 30s: the darkness was encroaching over Europe.

Why do I feel compelled to rescue collections of anonymous photographs? Is it because I come from a broken home and can't bear to think of families being split up? This may also be the reason why I feel compelled to solve mysteries, to create some kind of order from out of chaotic unknowns. Digging deeper, I suspect that I'm also tapping into a fear of being dead, anonymous and forgotten: I salvage these people in the hope that one day I might be salvaged and treasured also. Where is my work with The Austrian Shoebox leading? I have no idea. This project is process led, so I'm not rushing to some printed, mounted and framed finishing line. The Austrian Shoebox is not so much an exercise in image making or even storytelling, as an account of my evolving personal relationship with this particular collection of family photographs and ultimately, with Photography itself.

©2013 Nettie Edwards - All Rights Reserved


Nettie Edwards - website
Nettie Edwards - Lumilyon Flickr
Nettie Edwards - Instagram
Nettie Edwards - Twitter

AX3, American Aperture Awards page


The silence of lost photographs wanting to speak

I have always felt a sense of sadness when I saw family photographs stacked in boxes or little baskets under glass counters and offered for sale to anyone willing to pay the price. It is as if the life of a person’s memory was being offered for sale, a memory as obscure as any fragment of parchment in unknown tongues on display in a museum. But there is something different about a photograph, a photograph of a person looking back at you, trying to speak but there is only silence.

It has been almost two decades since I started casually collecting old photographs, particularly those from 1920s thru the 1950s. Rescuing images, the lives of unknown persons from a fate of possibly vanishing forever from humanities consciousness.

Yet the majority of these photographs offer no clues as to the names of those depicted, their location or even the reason why someone chose to take the time to unfold the camera, moving the bellows into position and releasing the trigger to capture the scene on film.

We are left to speculate, to imagine. To use our life experience and creatively  apply our knowledge into deciphering the smallest of clues. Interpreting the subtleties of nuances displayed by the subject or that between subjects themselves and the camera.

Much is garnered from a pose the subject holds about themselves. Are they proud, secure, self-confident in who they are or timid and shy. Do they appear restless, as if not wanting to have their picture taken, but for some reason or another they relented due to some kind of necessity, maybe a family obligation.

We look at the apparel and ask, are these your Sunday cloths or everyday work attire. What do they reveal about you and your position in the community. What about any jewelry you might have upon your person or other accessories. Even scrutinising the background for a hint of a geographical location or the name above a store, anything that would allow us to write the first page of a story, the one we image that is occurring on the silver gelatin print.

We can only go so far with the information we derived from a photo or a set of accompanying images from the same roll of film. In the end, it is only our imagination that breathes any momentary life back into these pictures, lending a foreign voice that still must remain silent.

There is no magic spell I can discharge to compel their silence in revealing what lays buried within the fibers of the paper of the photograph and so I will go on collecting the souls of the departed, continuing to treasure their very existence of the lives they once lived.

So when I came upon the work of Nettie Edwards and her inquisitive questioning the lives of a family on vacation in The Austrian Shoebox, I was smitten with a rush of excitement. For very rarely, one is fortunate to acquire an entire photo album or two, gaining access to much more speculative information, all of which fills our thoughts with seemingly endless possibilities.

Nettie brings the unknown photographs back to some form of life by photographing the photographs and applying different post production effects. She is very careful in the selection of the special effect to be applied, making sure that in doing so has means and a purpose in the over all sequence of the story she is creating with the selection of these photographs dating back to to the mid-1940’s.

Nettie Edwards story of The Austrian Shoebox will appear here at The iPhone Arts this coming Saturday, so please mark your calendar and check back.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


The Cemetery Project - Amberlyn Nelson

No matter what time of year, no matter under what different kinds of weather conditions, there is a special beauty when walking through a cemetery under an umbrella in the rain or stepping through a foot or two of undisturbed and pristine snow blanketing the grounds. Especially where history passes with each step one takes, like turning the pages of a book. Where each new paragraph reveals the story of a life, important or not, it is part of a town character and who the inhabitants are, past, present or int he future.

Such is a place that Amberlyn visited earlier this year. A place hidden under a layer of snow, where only tall gravestone markers and the tips of gates where visible to a soft golden winter’s sunlight, while bear trees reached for the sky.

Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, Cañon City, Fremont County, Colorado, is the second known burial ground in Cañon City and it is the oldest. The town was settled in 1859-1860 and the first known burial in what would become Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery was William M. Davis, who was buried in 1865 on the William C. Catlin homestead.

On the November 30, 1876 edition of the Cañon City Times, it was reported that W.C. Catlin had donated 10 acres south of town to be used for burial purposes.

James H. Peabody, former governor of Colorado from 1903-1905, mayor of Cañon City and president of the First National Bank is buried at Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery, including participants of several wars are interred there. Besides numerous other famous individuals buried there, there are two sections reserved for prisoners, the last of whom was buried during the 1970's. One of the more famous inmates was William Cody Kelley, who  became the first man in Colorado killed in a chamber filled with hydrocyanic-acid gas. Most of these graves at Woodpecker Hill are marked by simple metal markers, bearing only the inscription "CSP Inmate.”

There are also Chinese graves, whose grave markers bear Chinese characters, of which unfortunately many have been vandalized over the years. There are also a large number of children’s graves with ornate stone markers throughout the cemetery. 

Earlier last year on a gloomy November Saturday in 2012, John Davis finally was recognized 111 years later as a Medal of Honor recipient at the Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery. He had died December 30, 1901, and was buried at plot 91 in Greenwood’s Pauper's grave section.

In 2001, Cañon City did some restoration and replaced the gate. Throughout the year, volunteers assist in maintenance and repairs of the cemetery.

Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery
by Amberlyn Nelson

My interest and intrigue with cemeteries began at an earlier age due to my mother’s influence. As a young teen, our family took a road trip to Bodie and my fascination with cemeteries began during that adventure. 

I try to make it a point to visit cemeteries when I travel. I get to meet the permanent residents at the cemeteries as well as absorb a bit of the town’s history. The Greenwood Pioneer Cemetery images were taken in February of 2013 while visiting Red Cliff, Colorado.

The town was founded in 1879 during the Colorado Silver Boom by miners from Leadville who came over Tennessee Pass scouting for better prospects. I used an iPhone S3 and processed the images with the 'Iris Photo Suite.' It is my hope that the antiquarian effect of the digital app enhances the personality and history of Greenwood.

Velvet Morning

The Siblings at Sunrise

Victorian Remains

Of Sticks and Ice

Little Otik Rises

Golden Drifts

Glory of God

Hope and Resurrection

Rusted Vines

The White Down Comforter

Of Sleep and Skeletons 

The Fading Son

Where Wild Berries Grow 

Love Letters 

Melting in the Sun

Velvet Morning, Study 2 

Amberlyn Nelson website


Today's Technology in the Hands of Evans and Penn

Walker Evans Hungry Eye

Those of us who are of an older generation and can remember using a camera, whose lens and body was made of plastic and manufactured by Kodak, known as a  Brownie, and using 120 film; then graduating in later years to a pre-1972, 35mm Zeiss/Voigtländer range finder camera, can today truly appreciate mobile photography.

While I have also worked with and owned at some point in time a Canon F1n single lens reflex camera, Hasselbald and various size formats of view cameras, I not only appreciate the technological advances in digital and mobile photography, I also think of my teachers. Wondering what my heroes, my mentors, those who have thought me so much about photography, what would they make of today’s technology and how might they use it.

Though I cannot speak for the dead, yet I have an idea what Irving Penn or Edward Evans might have done. Evans, before his death, experimented with Polaroid SX-70 and my Sensei, Irving Penn, who constantly pushed himself and his art, I am sure he would have fully embraced mobile photography and taught us a thing or two.

There are other individuals who I not only admire, but also count among my teachers, like Dorothea Lange, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and several more heroes and I think about them too. I can only believe they too would have made use of mobile devises for capturing images, as they were too much in love with photography.

And while we will never know and can therefore only speculate on the question of ‘What if,’ I wish to pay tribute to their bravery and for their vision; for they have left behind a rich legacy that has given others and myself included, a foundation for ones visual voice. So here is my tribute what I perceive Walker Evans might have created with his self-portrait, after I added one of my old cameras and a roll of 120 film onto the cover of his book “The Hungry Eye,” before applying a couple of turns though the application Decim8 on an iPad.

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved


iPhotographer Magazine now available

After more than six months of very hard word and long hours, publisher Petr Palan of Fast Track Magazines and Editor-in-Chief Knox Bronson of P1xels at an Exhibition achieved in making a dream a reality and so I am very pleased to announce the monthly eMagazine for mobile photographers, iPhotographer Magazine Preview Issue, which by the way is free, has finally been released and made available at iTunes. This mobile eMagazine is geared towards every kind of mobile photography level and enthusiasm, sharing creativity, inspiration and a good large dosage of fun.

This beautifully designed, interactive multi-media eMagazine is filled with articles, reviews, demonstrations and so much more, from notable iPhoneographers as Jack Hollingsworth, Natali Provetova, Lanie Heller, Elaina Wilcox, Ashley Callaghan, Rudy Vogel, Knox Bronson, and many, many more to list here.

Knox Bronson, Editor-in-Chief, Preview table of Content page

I am proud to be also affiliated with iPhotographer Magazine as a contributing editor with my own column, Egmont’s Process Page. My column is all about how to become a bold and fearless photographer, building confidence with tools from ‘How to think - How to see,’ and what are some of the best applications or camera settings in capturing that precious moment.

Forthcoming issues will feature great stories, all of which will be exciting, educational and entertaining, and fun. There will be plenty of the latest tips and tricks, the newest tools, hardware and applications, in capturing on you mobile unit what you catch a glimpse of.

                Example pages of the preview issue

Interactive multi-media

 Ashley Callaghan - The Third Wave Exhibit

Natali Provetova’s Around the World pages

Obtain your free Preview Issue and see the treasures to be discovered within. While it is only of a regular issue, there is plenty great content. Future publications will be available at the Apple Newsstand at $3.99 US Dollar per month. Right now you can order an annual subscription for $18.99, a 60% saving off the cover price.

Get you free preview issue for the iPad now

Fast Track Magazines website
P1xels at an Exhibition website 
iPhotographer website
iPhotographer at Pinterest
Egmont’s Process Page at iPhotographer website

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