The past five days have probably been the most exciting days of my life. Seeing an image I created on the iPhone going on display on giant billboards in different cities all over the world has been beyond my wildest dreams.
My photo on a billboard in Hollywood, Los Angeles
It all started back in Copenhagen last October. I was there on a week’s visit to the University of Copenhagen as part of an exchange program from my own university. Before heading out there I had arranged with one of my friends on Flickr, Thomas Toft, to meet up for a photo walk (which in Copenhagen means a photo cycle). I had seen one of his images from Copenhagen of this location with crazy curved white lines on the black tarmac. The way Thomas created the image with the strong contrasts of the black and white lines and with the shadow of the lone man really impacted on me. When I travel, opportunities to get out shooting are always highest on my list of priorities and if I know of a good location, it gets me excited. So you can imagine how I felt about having the chance to go shoot in this quirky place. I was so looking forward to it.
I had only ever been in contact with Thomas via Flickr email, but once we met, we hit it off immediately. We hooked up on a late autumn evening in October in the centre of Copenhagen. First, he brought me to this beautiful building that had an amazing spiral staircase and elevators without doors that never stopped – you just had to hop on and hop off – carefully. After this, we got on our bikes and joined the hundreds of other Copenhagen cyclists on the many cycle lanes that the city has, and we made our way out to the Norrebro area of Copenhagen where this park, know as Superkilen Park, is located.
Very often when you get to see things you have only ever seen before in a photo in real life it can take a while to take them in. This was the case when we arrived. Those long, curving white lines got my eye and I found myself following their path. It really was a cool spot! After some time shooting a few frames, I got the idea of how I wanted to create an image there. The lines lead the eye on a journey and to best accentuate that would to be compose it from an incline. We headed up this little hill for this different perspective. The shot below which I took with my DSLR shows this perspective and from where I took the iPhone shot.
King of the castle
Standing now in the position where the person is in the image above, I knew would allow for the kind of shot I was looking to get. We stayed up on top of this little hill for about 25 minutes, chatting and getting some images. It was a quiet evening and there were not that many people passing through. Knowing that I wanted to get the human element in the photograph, I waited. Photography can require a combination of patience and luck at times. Fortunately, for me four people entered the frame, three walking and one on a bike with the lines twisting down to meet them as they went on their way. Reviewing the image after I had taken it, I was reasonably happy. I knew I would later convert it to black and white to bring out the contrasts of the lines against the black surface. Here is the original image.
Later in the evening, I used the iPhone app Snapseed to convert to black and white and play a little with the contrast.
God will send a sign. When he does, be prepared.
Now, here’s a funny thing. When I posted it to Flickr on October 31st, I gave it the title – ‘God will send a sign. When he does, be prepared.’ I am not religious, but I do have a God shaped socket with no plug to fit it. I seem to recall that the image made me feel that the four characters in the frame were just going about their daily business, each unaware of the other, but that maybe some day they would need to react and they would need to be prepared. I like giving titles to my images and while it can be hard, when it does work, it adds a dimension to the photograph. Does this title match the image? I am not sure. But it sure has gotten me thinking!
The photo received a great reaction on Flickr, getting thousands of views and some great comments from my Flickr contacts. Time moved on and the image lay there in my Flickr stream like all the others. Then out of the blue in December I got a Flickr mail from a person who had zero photos asking me to contact them about a research project. I ignored it. It was spam. But when the person sent the mail again urging me to be swift in response, I replied. Details were sketchy. There might be interest in my photo, would I be interested? Ehm… OK.
Then to my amazement I saw the name Apple and I was definitely interested. They were interested in two photos, the above one and another from I had taken in Berlin. Through the jigs and reels and many emails later we arrived at the end of February and I got an email congratulating me on my image being part of the Apple World Gallery. I was thrilled! Later, I got a phone call to congratulate me and I thought I heard the woman say that as part of this my image would be on billboards and posters in 70 cities in 24 countries. She couldn’t have said that, though. No.
Monday came and the page went live on Apple. What a buzz to find my image there, and in fifth place as you scroll! It was so great to see the other images selected. One after another and I was going wow, wow, wow. They all looked amazing. Apple had done such a great job in choosing these. Really impressive.
Later that morning, I got an email with a list of cities where, I was told, my image was on billboards. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, Bogota, Hamburg, Berlin, Milan, Kuala Lumpur. Ya!? Really. Could it be? So, she actually had said that. Wow! How super cool!.
But how could I get to see them? As you can imagine, I wanted so much to see them. I got on to Flickr. Checked the locations of my friends there. Were any in these cities? A few. Anton was in Berlin. Dirk was in Hamburg. Nigel in LA. I had a chance. I set about writing emails. Please, please if you are anywhere these locations can you find if my image is on a billboard there? Of course, came the reply and the next day, Anton had located my image in Alexanderplatz Train Station in Berlin. It was true! My photo was on a billboard.
It was hard to take in. I stared at the screen, eyes wide with amazement. Wow! A few short months previous I had been standing on that very platform in Berlin and now there was this huge billboard with my photo.
On my social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, things began to get a little crazy. So many messages of congratulations. Then I began to do a search on the #shotoniphone hashtag and lo and behold images of mine started to appear from New York and Boston. Then I found someone had set up a Twitter account @shotoniphone6 and that they were tweeting images of people’s shots from around the world. From that I got to meet some of the other photographers whose images were chosen. This has been a great thing also in that we can share our excitement and awe of finding our shots in the wild. Thanks to Ryan Healey for sending me this image.
On Tuesday night, I hardly slept. There were so many updates on Twitter, and then my friend in LA, Nigel sent me a shot of my image on a billboard in Hollywood. Hollywood!
Hollywood, Los Angeles
I got this about 5 in the morning. There was no chance to get back to sleep. I was exuberant. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. It is beyond cool. I was working early on Wednesday and I had already told my boss about it and she encouraged me to share the news in my university. She kindly wrote a little piece with the accompanying photo from Hollywood and this then appeared on my university’s social media platforms. This thing was gaining momentum.
The next day was probably the craziest. It the space of about 20 minutes, I got a request from a Danish journalist for an interview, an email from Apple’s P.R person about an interview with the Irish Independent and then this came in:
Now anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Flickr will know that I absolutely love Tokyo and that if I love Tokyo then Shibuya I a d o r e! I immediately rang my wife. ” You can’t believe it!. It’s in Shibuya! It’s in Shibuya! And to make it even more cool was the fact that Laurence had created such an amazing shot of it. I was so delighted.
Later in the day, I did the interview with the Danish journalist and Adrian from the Irish Independent. Here is the Danish piece. Still waiting to see of the Independent publish the interview.
On Twitter, more and more images began to appear of shot on iPhone ads from around the world, but no new ones of mine, unfortunately. Apple is so clever. They don’t sell products, they sell experiences. The hype surrounding their product releases is something to behold. An Apple product launch is headline news. This latest campaign of theirs has those involved in it on a treasure hunt. We do not know when the campaign will end. We don’t know exactly where our images are appearing. We have to scour the net for them. Sure, some photographers are lucky that their images are on billboards in their hometown, or they are like Austin Mann who gets to film the unfurling of his awesome ad (this is well worth watching), but I am from Cork, albeit the home of the European headquarters of Apple, there is no promotion here. But I guess it all adds to the excitement. If anyone reading this comes across the photo, can you please send it to me?
On Thursday night, I tweeted the image Nigel had sent me of the billboard in Hollywood and it got retweeted so many times. From this, the Irish Examiner contacted me and did this piece on me. From that, numerous people got in contact to congratulate me. Then on Friday morning, I got a tweet from the Dave Fanning radio show. Now, anyone around my age would have grown up listening to Dave’s iconic radio show. This was before the Internet. Dave is Ireland’s John Peel. He gave bands their big break. U2 have a lot to thank Dave Fanning for. Anyway, back to the story. The radio station were enquiring as to whether I would be interested in talking to Dave about my experience of being part of the Apple World Gallery. Of course, I would. I spoke with one of the researchers and as I write this it is only about an hour before I go on and talk to him on his Saturday morning show. I could never have imagined all of this.
Later on Friday, a good friend of mine living in San Francisco, Jon-David messaged to say that he had found my photograph on a poster in Van Ness train station in San Francisco. I wrote back telling him to get me as many shots as he could, but to make sure he got one of himself standing next to the poster. My wife has come up with the great idea of having a wall of framed photographs of the image from around the world. It will be great to have friends of mine in the images too. Thanks JD.
Jon-David in San Francisco
As it turns out, my brother is in New York this weekend and someone has told me that the image is in Port Authority train station. I really hope he can get a photograph of it with himself beside it. That would be super cool. Even more super cool, will be next weekend when I fly out to Milan to try to find for myself one of my billboards. My wife decided this was a too-good-to-miss opportunity. So hopefully I will get a photo of myself in front of a huge billboard of my own photograph. Unfortunately, we cannot get a babysitter for the kids. I really would love if she could come with me.
And where do I go from here? I had never expected all of this. Photography is my hobby. It is what I do for fun. The iPhone puting Phun – iPhunography. Maybe I can sell Apple that slogan! Where do I go from here? Back to enjoying photography – back to having fun. And who knows where that will lead to.
One of the most lovely things about all this experience has been being able to share it with family and friends. Their reaction has made it so special. I always try to make myself realise how fortunate I am; I have an amazing, loving family, and I if my kids grow up to have just one friend like I have, I know they will be OK in life. I need more than one hand to count the great friends I have. Thanks!
Thanks to all who have sent photos, congratulations and kind words. It means so much to me. Thanks to Jen Pollack Bianco who sent me that great panoramic shot above. Thanks Jen!
You can read Part 2 of this here and Part 3 here.