Flavio Sarescia’s photography is on billboards around the world, walls of train stations and even the back cover of a magazine. Yet he makes his living selling dog food.
His moody photo of a resting surfer on a rocky New Zealand beach at sunset caught the eye of Apple and landed in the “Shot on iPhone 6” advertising campaign, a collection of photos and videos from more than 50 iPhone 6 users prominently displayed in more than 70 cities around the world.
Sarescia and other hobbyists have pictures alongside those of established professionals, a subtle pitch to the rest of us that suggests whether the iPhone 6 is in the hands of an amateur or artist, both can create on “equal” terms. We all can make great pictures.
“This has been an unreal experience,” Sarescia, a salesman for Purina based in Switzerland, told Cult of Mac. “I am extremely proud. I drove to Milan just to see it on a billboard.”
Apple, which released the 6 last Fall with an 8 MP camera and improved video, searched the internet looking through thousands of photos to use for a campaign that rolled out in the Spring.
Apple was understated about who took the pictures, crediting the authors with the first name and last initial. It wouldn’t want the public to further think we have to be a trained professionals to make these kinds of pictures. But as the identities of some of the photographers trickled out, the publicity doubled the value of the advertising and blurred the line between what constitutes a “professional” photograph.
An English teacher from Ireland, an engineer from Japan and a college student from New Jersey was in the same global exhibit as a successful travel photographer, a baseball shooter for Sports Illustrated and a rising star in the world of advertising photography.
Cult of Mac interviewed about a dozen shooters whose work was featured by Apple and will publish weekly profiles this summer of the people whose work was selected for iPhone 6 advertising. Their backgrounds and how they made their photos and videos are as interesting as the images themselves.
Photographers were paid for the images selected, but none could discuss how much because of a non-disclosure agreement they all had to sign. Some privately said they did not question what was offered and later found out some of the professional photographers were able to negotiate a higher fee.
No one is complaining, though. All described feeling ecstatic to have work selected by Apple.
“If you put a DSLR in someone’s hands for the first time, it can be a very perplexing user experience,” said Dallas-based travel photographer Austin Mann, whose photos from Iceland are part of iPhone 6 visual blitz. “Then you have this iPhone and it suddenly simplifies very complex tasks and it empowers everyone.”
The iPhone empowered Satoshi Honma, an engineer who never really cared about photography until 2009 when he got his first iPhone. Pictures he made with his phone at a Shinto shrine pleased him and they were popular on Flickr with other iPhone users who liked sharing the pictures they made its camera.
Honma was shocked when he was approached by an ad agency representing Apple about using an orange nighttime shot of Tokyo Tower and continues to be amazed by all of the places around the worlds the photo has appeared.
“I think ‘Really? That is my photo being exhibited?'” Honma, 40, said. “Before, I was just glad to post on Twitter and Instagram.”
The best part for Honma is not the notoriety but the community of photographers he is now a part of. Many of the lucky chosen for the campaign have connected on Facebook and Twitter and have even visited each other.
Brendan Ó Sé traveled from Cork, Ireland to Japan to meet Honma, who took him to four different places to show where Ó Sé’s black-and-white photo from a trip to Copenhagen was on display.
The photographers have been looking out for each other, sending pictures of the ads on billboards or copies of magazine print ads. Some say Apple fans reach out and offer to send them clips or pictures of the ad outdoors.
Cielo de la Paz of Alameda, Calif. has a still photo and a video that is part of the campaign. She took her children out to explore after a rain storm and photographed her reflection in a puddle with her new iPhone 6. She posted it but never hashtagged the photo. Someone how Apple found it and got permission from her to use it as part of the campaign. She also used the improved video features to record a lady bug gingerly walking on a twig that Apple has used in television advertising.
She is a self-employed UX designer and an avid photographer who finds herself using the iPhone camera more and more. When she learned her reflection picture was a billboard in New York City, she flew out there to see it and had even arranged to do an interview by the billboard.
But when she got there, the billboard image had already been replaced with another photo from the campaign. She contacted Apple to explain she was supposed to do an interview with her billboard image in the background in two days. Apple arranged to get her picture up on a billboard in time for her interview.
The iPhone 6 campaign has her feeling she might want to one day make a living with her photography. She has a blog that she fills with pictures of lush landscapes from long hikes or conceptual pictures to convey mood and the human spirit.
“It has been a game-changer,” she said. “I am so grateful. I have people telling me ‘you’re decent at your craft’ and I feel like I am getting better at this. I would love to try to figure out how to do this (professionally) but no one is really contacting me.”
de la Paz laughed.
Sarescia also finds humor as he entertains what to do next with photography.
He was camping with his girlfriend in February when he got an email on his iPhone from an ad agency saying a client had an interest in his surf photo. Before proceeding, they sent the non-disclosure agreement and that is when he read the client was Apple.
“I couldn’t sleep that night,” Sarescia said. “To be fair, I don’t know how they found me. There are tons of pictures out there and, in my opinion, better ones. I don’t know that this will happen again.”
Shortly after signing the agreement, Sarescia quickly built a website to display his work. Maybe he’ll get lucky again, he said.