Let’s meet Daniel Berman aka Reservoir Dan! Dan is the founder of the Mobile Photography Awards, a filmmaker, photographer, producer and well-known figure in the mobile photography scene. We asked him about his work and current projects, how the idea for the MPA was born, where he got his nickname from and what’s coming up next in terms of exhibitions..
Hi there Dan! Please tell us a little bit more about you: who are you, where do you live and what are you up to these days?
Hello everyone! I grew up in Toronto, Canada and now live just outside the city with my family. I started in filmmaking because at heart I’m a storyteller – whether that involves public speaking, making documentaries or taking photos my goal is always to try and convey some fundamental kernal of a story.
Aside from creating images as often as possible, I’m currently working on a feature length documentary about Cuban jazz pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba. We should be done by April and it will be available on DVD and download from all the usual outlets at that time. It’s a story about music, time, and creativity and how different cultures come together via the universal language of music. Gonzalo is a true titan of music so it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on the film with him.
Did you go to Cuba to shoot the documentary?
He lives in Miami now – he’s been in the USA for at least the last 25 years – the film was shot at recording sessions in New York and at Gonzalo’s home in Florida. Oh, and Jordan Cortese and Dutch Dosccher, both of whom I’d only known on twitter, came and worked for me in NYC when we shot for 4 days last summer . That was pretty cool.
Where’s the difference between telling stories through filmmaking and through photographs?
The basic difference is that moving images take place in time and still images take place out of time. That is to say that moving images sweep us along in a pre-determined time-frame established by the narrative – we are forced to accept that for the story to reveal itself properly we must give ourselves over to the filmmaker’s decisions on the unfolding of the story, unless, of course, we pause the images in which case the story ceases to exist in time, and in fact, ceases to exist at all.
Still images on the other hand depend upon the viewer to create time. Without montage there are no limits – no need for the next image to make sense of the previous image and so on – so the viewer must dive into the story of the image and has the freedom to impose his/her own sense of meaning without any kind of “top-down” imposition of time.
In fact, still images depend upon the viewer to create time – without the viewer there is no time.
I guess you’ve been photographing for a long time, right?
I’ve been shooting since I made my first pinhole camera when I was 6 – by no means have I accomplished anything close to what I would like to accomplish in photography but it’s always been a passion. Music and images are my great artistic loves, along with literature I suppose. But yes, I’ve always loved taking pictures!
Tell us how the idea for the Mobile Photography Awards came along..
Well, the mobile photography space is a little like the wild west. There is still room to establish new versions of traditional “art world” events and I realized that for an exhibition to be taken seriously in this space the images needed to be part of something larger than just one person’s taste. So a panel of judges was selected, we worked together with 12 app developers and created the MPA.
What I’m especially proud of is that the exhibit will be part of the San Francisco Fine Art Fair. It’s attended by the who’s who of the California art buying scene as well as just regular folks who want to see what’s new and cool in contemporary art. It’s pretty cool for us to be able to get the mobile photo and art work in front of some of these people. Should be fun too!
To sum up, the ultimate idea behind the MPA is to support, nourish and promote the best in mobile photography and art in exhibits, galleries, magazines… a focussed exhibit each year with a limited number of images forms a finite collection that hopefully will take on a certain stature over time.
When did the MPAs launch?
I came up with the idea August 24th of 2011, set to work the next day contacting developers and potential judges, hired a web designer who was well-versed in database management, and opened the doors for submission on September 24. One month from conception to reality. Crazy, but when I’m motivated not much can stop me.
Wow! Can you quickly give us a roundup on the judging panel and different categories in the MPAs?
There are 25 categories with one lead judge each, who narrowed the submissions to 30-40 images. Then, each lead judge was joined by 3 other members of the panel to narrow down the images to a top 5. From there, a winner was chosen.We then took the 25 winning images and the entire panel of 15 chose the grand prize and the runner-up – the voting was double blind – that is to say that the judges did not know the names of the photographers and did not know which images the other judges voted for during the grand prize round.
When and where are the exhibitions taking place?
The Arthaus exhibit runs from April 5 through June 30. The OCCCA exhibit runs April 7 through April 28 and the San Francisco Fine Art Fair will be May 17-20 – I’ll be chairing a panel there called The Everyday Revolution of Mobile Photography and Art and will feature some great panelists including Marty Yawnick from LifeinLofi, Jen Pollack Bianco from My Life’s a Trip and John Nieto a gallery owner and mobile photographer, as well as a few others…
We’ve heard a rumour that there will be a competition for getting a picture into the OCCCA exhibit… something to do with colors. Can you tell us more?
YES! We have space for one more image at the OCCCA exhibit. I can’t say too much about it this point, only a little hint: OCCCA stands for Orange County Center for Contemporary Art…get it? Stay tuned, more information will be revealed here on the EyeEm blog next week!
So Reservoir Dan, as a final question, where did you get your name from?
Well, I made this lomo picture of myself with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth and I kind of looked like a character from Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs so I jokingly called the image Reservoir Dan – also, I live right behind the reservoir in my home town so it all just kind of came together and stuck.
Thank you for the interview!