‘Shot on iPhone 6’ campaign proves humbling for young photographer

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This vintage roller skate was one of three photos by photographer Michael Mainenti that were chosen by Apple for the
This vintage roller skate is one of three photos by Michael Mainenti chosen for Apple's "Shot on iPhone 6" campaign.
Photo: Michael Mainenti

Cult of Mac’s Photo Famous series introduces you to the groundbreaking photographers featured in Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” ad campaign.

 Michael Mainenti is in the developmental stages of a photography career, a point when he should be looking at the works of the established masters and saying, “Some day.”

Mainenti is faithful to this time-honored tradition except that some day is already happening. The 25-year-old college student is among the photographers whose work was selected by Apple for a global advertising campaign to show off the improved camera in the iPhone 6.

“It is a humbling feeling to see my work in the same advertising campaign with photographers I followed even before the launch of the ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ ads,” Mainenti told Cult of Mac. “It’s a boost of confidence and motivation to get better.”

Michael Mainenti
Michael Mainenti
Photo: Courtesy of Michael Mainenti

Mainenti did not fire off a single lucky shot. Apple selected three of his images, which have been featured on full-page ads in magazines from the U.S. to Japan and in large public displays, like billboards and subway stations, all around the world.

What is already true about Mainenti as a photographer can be found in the three photos. He demonstrates a recognition of good light and how it can elevate an ordinary object, like a vintage roller skate that ended up on the back cover of Variety magazine.

There is humor and the sense of a fleeting moment in a picture of a cat on top of the stacks at a record store. This appeared in the Italian edition of Rolling Stone.

Mainenti also possesses a curiosity about people and uses portraiture to pose questions about what lies beneath the surface. In a portrait, a young woman’s upward gaze parallels the graphic lines of the wall she leans against. The feeling in this photo could just as easily belong to Mainenti as he tries to map out how to live with photography.

Mainenti's record store cat made the back covers of Entertainment Weekly and the Italian edition of Rolling Stone.
Mainenti’s record store cat made the back covers of Entertainment Weekly and the Italian edition of Rolling Stone.
Photo: Michael Mainenti

“I would like to focus on social justice issues,” Mainenti said. “I find that kind of photography interesting because the story behind the image is more important than the image itself.”

Mainenti, who holds a journalism degree and switched from writing to photography two years ago, is not satisfied with what he has learned thus far.

Mainenti knows having work featured by Apple is not an automatic pass to a career. There is more learning and preparation to come. (You can follow his progress on Instagram.)

He has one more class this fall to complete a photography program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Then he will begin classes at the International Center for Photography in New York City.

From there, he plans to build a career as a freelance photographer and pursue personal projects, including an essay on gun violence, for which he is currently in search of subjects.

The iPhone 6 has proven itself to be a go-to tool in his bag, he said. He loves how discreet he can be as he wanders New York City streets in search of interesting people and scenes to photograph. “I can capture a candid moment without ruining the scene or scaring someone with a big camera,” he said.

Veteran photographers bristle when asked about gear. Mainenti is more polite as he tells people that good pictures don’t come from cameras (or even iPhones). They come from the photographers themselves.

This fashion portrait by Mainenti made the back cover of a magazine in Japan.
This fashion portrait by Mainenti made the back cover of a magazine in Japan.
Photo: Michael Mainenti