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Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels is a mobile artist, photographer and mixed media artist living in the Far East. He has been active in the mobile arts online movement since 2010 otherwise known as iPhoneography, and he is interested in the transformation of human suffering and consciousness through interaction with and contemplation of decaying materials and ordinary objects.  Mark is part of the 2013 OCA MA cohort.

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‘I feel very fortunate to be involved with OCA as a MA Fine Arts student. I finished my undergraduate studies in the 1970s and during those pre-Internet days and in Texas there were significant social and family pressures to pursue a “practical” course in the sciences or engineering. I did that but was left with a nagging sense that something was missing. Science and technology work enabled me to build a career that has been both fascinating and rewarding on many levels, and the work allowed me to live in Southeast Asia for the past 17 years and fulfil a childhood dream. But the desire to make art has always been there, although often well hidden from others.

I first had the inkling that the visual arts should be a significant part of my life when I enrolled in my late twenties in a master of architecture program. I enjoyed the course immensely, but after a year the financial pressures forced me to abandon the course. In many ways it was good as I was able to participate in building a new industry – biotechnology. Living in San Francisco and traveling around the world provided a good excuse for recovering my teenage interest in photography, and I have continued that for the past 30 years.

About 5 years ago my business and finances took a nosedive following a combination of political and social unrest, a major global fiscal crisis, devastating financial losses and a series of life-threatening health issues. It seemed that the scenario presented lacked a viable recovery path and that the outcome would be grim. I turned my attention to studying and making art, and fortunately the mobile arts movement began taking off with technologies that supported an on-the-fly art practice. An iPhone became my studio, and it quite probably saved my sanity.

I made a commitment to myself to pursue artistic excellence and to spend whatever time I had left on the planet to producing a body of photographic work that would be compelling and possibly inspiring to at least a few other artists. Part of the commitment has involved intensive study of art principles and theory, and another part was to commit to a daily practice of making with the aim of producing increasingly beautiful and compelling work. Practical considerations (daughters, business, health) meant that any fine arts program would need to be online, affordable, practice-based and capable of helping me to achieve my goal of making better images and producing a coherent body of work.

So far the OCA MA course has exceeded my expectations: the cohort is a strong mix of experiences, enthusiasm and diversity, and the course leaders have been extraordinarily supportive and insightful. Their recommendations have opened new doors and expanded my horizons. I built a small studio space in my home and am having a go at collage, monoprint, sculpture, modeling and drawing.

I carry at least two cameras wherever I go, (one is always an iPhone) and in the past 8 months those places have included business and personal trips. Even in my home the Internet connections are not always good, especially after massive flooding. The OCA IT support staff has been great, but even they cannot fix the infrastructure in Hanoi or Yangon. But so far there have been no serious obstacles. I have staked out several WiFi hotspots in case the power is down in my neighbourhood. The time difference – I am 6-7 hours ahead of London – is not as difficult as it might sound, although my tea bill has increased.

In parallel to the coursework I am also participating with several online mobile arts and photography groups. I was asked to join the artistic committee of the New Era Museum and am submitting work for a curated show in Kansas City this summer. I was asked by Joanne Carter to be one of their featured mobile artists on the globally recognized App Whisperer website; see the article here. I tried my hand at self-publishing using Blurb and a local print shop and now have two books with photographs of materials in decay. My art photography blog can be found here.

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The above images were taken and processed entirely on an iPhone (I did Handcycle in 2012 with an iPhone 4 and Tools of Enquiry was taken in 2013 on an iPhone 5S). The images refer to the importance of hands-on engagement as a mode of enquiry, exploration and learning. “Tools” is the more abstract image and remind us that craftsmanship can take us to the highest levels of thinking. The hand in “Handcycle” emphasizes the importance of human interaction with technology. Mobile arts open up the world of art to many who felt locked out. Before, during the pre-Cellphone era artists were at the mercy of the commercial art world. Now artists of all levels – beginning to advanced and accomplished – can interact with one another in real time across the globe.’


Posted by author: Joanne
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6 thoughts on “Mark Daniels

  • Very interesting Mark, especially as I have just written about the use of my ipad for 3D scanning. It seems to me that the democracy of these new tools is getting the artist out of the studio and engaging with the world in a direct way. I have found the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco has spoken about the act of play and engagement within the creative process with great insight. Your use of transformation and decay in the image is very interesting!

    • Thanks Doug. I find Orozco’s work very compelling and especially his exploration of materials and assemblages/collections. I grew up near the Mexican border and spent allot of time south of the border so I imagine (or would like to think) that it had a positive influence. I would like to learn more about 3D scanning as I am working on a #D collage/sculpture and photographing it for a project in OCA. Take Care and all the best.

  • You sound so enthusiastic and experimental. Your website is very interesting Mark and it made me think again about categorising images as I sometimes find it hard to decide which category to use. For example, how did you decide between conceptual and expressionist on images that have a similar quality to them?

    • Thanks for your comment Catherine. I appreciate the feedback. I struggle categories but try to have fun with it. For me, Conceptual was more about an intellectual construct where expressionist somehow resonated with a stronger feeling, although it would be hard to see that just in the photographs as either one could conceivably be in the other category. Naming photographs is more fun, as I allow myself to name them anything that comes to mind. In the case of “Angels” the name should have been “Angles” as would be obvious from the photo, but the typo made something more fun for me. Thanks again and take care.

  • I really like your site. Especially the shadow ones. I am always amazed by what can be achieved on phones and would love to learn more. I use snapseed and a couple of other apps too but am in early stages of experimenting.
    You’re doing so well, it’s great to read about.

  • Hi Mark, I am a visual communications student with OCA and im moving to Bangkok is 6 weeks! It would be great to get together sometime and you can show me some great galleries or even those wifi spots!

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