Teen’s iPhone photos put vibrant face on homeless population

Nic Tullis has a summer project that doesn’t involve surfing or working at a frozen-yogurt shop.

The 18-year-old is at the tail end of a Kickstarter campaign to to raise $2,500 that will keep him out photographing with his iPhone 4s. His “Homeless But Not Hopeless” project aims to bring awareness about the homeless population of St. Louis, Missouri, which spiked 12 percent after the economic tsunami hit.

Tullis takes photos of homeless people that show how they live along with normal shots that show off St. Louis. The funding for the project would rent a gallery space to auction off prints as a fundraiser; proceeds would go to two local organizations that help people get back on their feet.

“I don’t believe in sharing or posting work simply because you think everyone else will like it,” says Tullis, whose other leisure pursuits include collecting Michael Jordan basketball shoes, watching basketball and playing video games. “I take pictures for me…. I get the most enjoyment out of photography when I’m being myself and taking photos of stuff that I want to take photos of and not just doing what will get me the most likes or the most followers on Instagram.”

Likes, though, are what he’s been getting a lot of: In the last year, his work has been on show at Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center in Maryland, Soulard Art Market, the 33February exhibit organized by mySLART.org and the 2013 Young Artist Showcase at Sole Survivor Art Gallery in Belleville, Illinois. His pieces are displayed at the Benton Park Inn in St. Louis, Missouri. The teen shutterbug has also been profiled on local TV, an experience the lanky Tullis calls “terrifying.”

Tullis caught the iPhoneography bug thanks to Apple’s “Photo Every Day” ad “that really made me excited to start taking my own photos,” he says.

As for his inspiration for the subjects he shoots, he’s got a family legacy to draw upon: Tullis is the grandson of photojournalist Jim Quinn. Although he never met his grandfather, Tullis says “My mom has several of his old photos and negatives that I enjoy looking through to see how he would frame images or capture moments in time.”

His most-used apps are Snapseed and VSCOcam, though he aims for as “little editing as possible.” What’s next? Tullis hopes to attend Full Sail University, so he can learn how to write, develop and market smartphone apps.

“I’d really like to make an app that allows you to change the settings of the camera on your iPhone so that you could set your ISO, shutter speed and aperture like you can on a DSLR,” he says.

  • Michael Roberts

    I’m pretty sure the picture labeled “Top Hat” is Val Kilmer… :-D

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Nicole MartinelliNicole Martinelli heads up Cult of Mac Magazine, our weekly publication available on iTunes. You can find her on Twitter and Google+. If you're doing something new, cool and Apple-related, email her.

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