Cult of Mac’s Photo Famous series introduces you to the groundbreaking photographers featured in Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” ad campaign.
The thick Icelandic fog lifted and Austin Mann saw an otherworldly glacier emerge. Photography is a way for Mann, a Christian and a professional travel photographer, to worship god, and this was the kind of scene that spoke to him.
But to get the shot, he would have to leave his camera gear in the car for a climb on all fours down a rocky cliff. Mann put his new iPhone 6 Plus in his pocket and scrambled down to make the picture.
The shot, taken using the iPhone’s panorama mode, was among the most prominent photos featured in Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” marketing campaign, a promotional blitz that began in the spring with billboards, giant banners stretched across the sides of buildings, and advertising on television and in magazines.
Apple mined Flickr, Twitter and Instagram for pictures made by iPhone 6 users around the globe in search of photos that would show off the phone’s camera and video capabilities.
Photos from hobbyists who have only made pictures with the iPhone stand alongside those taken by highly skilled professionals who adopted the iPhone as another tool in their professional kit.
Even before the Apple campaign, Mann had been sharing his enthusiasm for iPhone cameras. He conducted test shoots with each new model, wrote reviews and did video demonstrations (see one at the end of this post) for his blog. He even invites website visitors to ask him questions on how to make better pictures with the iPhone.
“Apple has struck a very powerful intersection of high tech and usability,” Mann told Cult of Mac. “You put a DSLR in someone’s hands for the first time, it can be a very perplexing user experience. Then you have this iPhone and it suddenly simplifies very complex tasks. It empowers everyone.”
Mann, 29, was in Iceland last fall reviewing the new iPhone 6 Plus for his followers. He carried a rig on which he mounted an iPhone 5s and the 6 Plus to compare them side-by-side. Apple selected a second photo from the Iceland trip, a vertical panorama of a towering waterfall, plus a video from the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon. A third photo of Mann’s, a snowy slope in Steamboat Springs, Colo., was also featured in the Apple gallery.
That Mann would say the iPhone empowers everyone is a clue to his collaborative spirit. He wants his work to start conversations and he is willing to help people see the world with a similar metaphoric intensity.
He started a company in Dallas, Texas, called WELD, a kind of incubator for creatives in a 10,000-square-foot building that gives independent workers a place to collaborate. He wanted to recapture the spirit of old photo labs, where photographers would discuss their work while waiting for film and prints to dry. He is about to launch a similar space in Nashville.
As evident by his iPhone tutorials, he is generous with his knowledge. Rather than see photography as a competitive business, Mann believes it to be a language that he excitedly gets to help shape through his pictures and sharing his creative process.
“If you look throughout history, 100 percent of the world can understand the visual language of photography, but only a small number can speak the visual language,” he said. “The wealthy or the technically trained were the speakers of this language. Today, everyone can speak a visual language. There are few barriers.”
Mann considers himself an early adopter to new technology. As an 11-year-old, he made flyers to promote a lawn mowing business so he could save up $1,300 to buy a Bondi Blue iMac. He became obsessed with Macintosh computers after his father taught him how to use Photoshop.
He was fascinated with digital imaging, and time he spent scanning basketball cards and making elaborate illustrations eventually led to teaching himself how to build websites. In fact, he devotes a page on his website to his history with Macs, including a timeline that shows every model he ever owned.
In college, Mann converted to Christianity; on evenings when friends would go out to party, he would go out alone with his camera to teach himself how to use ambient light. He also began to see the spiritual side of photography.
“That was the beginning of photography for me,” he said. “l became interested in light and how it fills the darkness. My work became a form of worship for me and I wanted to make people stop and recognize the beauty and splendor of creation.”
That beauty is not limited to landscape photography. Much of Mann’s work includes people and their connection to these lands. There’s a quality to his work that celebrates the unique values of a certain corner of the world as well as matters of the heart and soul that everyone shares.
It’s part of the reason he loves working with his iPhone. People can see his face because it is not covered by a camera and, likewise, he can see more than what might appear in a DSLR’s viewfinder.