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Home » Opinion

The word “iPhoneography” and why one label is important

Submitted by on September 5, 2012 – 12:12 am 36 Comments

 

iPhone 4S

As the popularity of the iPhone grows and more users discover the greatness of the iPhone camera, I’m seeing more and more influential pundits try to invent and popularize a word for iPhone photography. Recently, I’ve seen “iPhonography”, “iPhotography”, “iPhonetography”, “Mobile Photography” and many others. They all try to label a new art form that was so perfectly named years ago by Glyn Evans.

We have a word for this emerging art form. It’s called “iPhoneography.” The word is brilliant. It’s a gift. And as a community of artists, I strongly suggest we eschew the other attempts at trying to reinvent this wheel and embrace “iPhoneography.”

A brief history on the word for those of you who are fairly new to the art. Back in November, 2008, Glyn Evans launched his blog, iPhoneography.com. The word is a simple contraction of “iPhone” and “photography”. There’s the possibility that the word may have seen casual use before that, but with the launch of his blog, Glyn made it official. Since then, Apple has been very generous in not defending its patent rights to the word “iPhone” and giving its tacit approval (and more recently quite vocal approval) to the art.

iPhoneography is an awesome word. It perfectly illustrates what we do as artists — we take photos with our iPhone. When I tell someone I’m an iPhoneographer, one of the first things they say to me is “Well, I shoot with a real camera.” The word makes pretty clear the device I shoot with. After they’ve seen my portfolio (on my iPhone, of course) and they’ve picked their jaws up off the floor, I think they respect iPhoneography quite a bit more.

Other spelling variations simply look like a misspelled word to me. iPhonetography isn’t smooth off the tongue — it’s a clunky word. iPhotography doesn’t tell me anything about the device — it could be any style of photography shot with a stutter. iPhoneography is a smooth and appropriate word, both spoken and visually.

iPhoneography is Iconic Branding

Why is one word important? Branding. Like it or not, labeling is important in our society. It makes it easier to categorize and sort. Good branding is important for long term success. In a word, good branding sends a very clear message about the expectation of the product (or art).

The word “iPhoneography” is excellent, iconic branding and sends that very clear, focused message. Without previously knowing anything about the art, hearing the word “iPhoneography” clearly and concisely spells out what we do in a way that “iPhotography” and other variations don’t.

“iPhoneography” is that rare breed of word that’s its own sub-brand within other brands and sub-brands. As I see it, the breakdown looks like this: Photography > Mobile Photography > iPhoneography. It’s on par with Lomography, another iconic sub-brand of photography. There are few, if any, calling it “Lomotography” or “Lotography”.

Yes, we are photographers. We are mobile photographers. All cameras are mobile. I get that. What about Android users — aren’t they iPhoneographers, too? Maybe. Someday. The difference between iPhoneographers and the rest of the photography genres lies in the thousands of photo apps that allow us to process and share our art using only an iPhone. You can’t do that with a Nikon or a Canon. The Android market, Google Play, is growing, but lacks the sheer number of photo apps and many of the best photo apps are iOS only. iPhoneography truly is a unique style among the photographic arts.

As an art movement, we need one label for the scholars to write about. Academia likes to do that. iPhoneography is the word with the Wiki. Try looking up “iPhotography.” If we are calling ourselves a dozen different things, we muddy up the genre. The art is the same, but those who write such things are at a loss to accurately describe it. We run the risk of brand dilution, and that does not help us as a community in the long run.

Singular branding gives us the strength of numbers. The strength of numbers helps give us recognition. Recognition helps give us credibility. Credibility helps the art and opens doors for us that would otherwise be blocked to random, smaller groups of artists who can’t unify behind a single name.

If you’re hacked off that you didn’t think of the word first, get over it. Both Glyn and Apple have been very gracious in letting us freely use their intellectual property. Neither make any royalties from the word, by the way. I would love to be the guy who could say that I invented the word, but I’m not. I’m not whining about it, trying to create my own variation. From the early days, I embraced our gift. iPhoneography has been a part of my masthead since day one of this blog.

iPhoneography is the perfect name for our art. I am behind the word — the label — 100%. I know many of us hate labels, but we need to stop the splintering off. We need to stop the brand dilution. As a community of artists, I think iPhoneography is the word we should all embrace. That’s what the guy who invented the word calls it.

=M=

~~~~

I know many LoFi readers call themselves by other labels. Feel free to discuss your label of preference and why in the comments below.

Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • http://twitter.com/AeroPics @AeroPics

    I think you have thoughtfully and rationally argued your point – one I agree with, including the graciousness of Apple and Glyn in allowing the use of their IP. The video side of this issue is facing a similar identity crisis. As someone building an accessory that serves both communities, trust me, I've had an interesting time trying to find a correct and consistent way to describe the masters our indie serves. Thankfully, iPhoneography is a clear leader on the photo side. Now what for film and video. I'm seeing iFilmmaker starting to stretch its wings.

  • Guest

    Appotography–the phone is not the point, it's the apps.

    • Andy

      I agree. Sooner or later, the iPhone will die or become lost in time and iphoneography will follow suit. But the concept will remain ie flexible apps powering cameras.

  • mahadewa

    The fusion of the word iPhone + Graphy makes it an independent art/science, rather than just a 'branch' of Photography, which would seem like it if you use iPhotography for example. It makes it on the same level with other Arts/Sciences :)

  • Mário Pires

    It can help marketing, but cameras are cameras, it's all photography. It's a creation tool just like a scanner or a sensitized paper on the back of a pinhole camera (or room). It just brings one revolutionary fact: it's a complete artist toolkit that can fit in your back pocket.

  • Ale Di Gangi

    Oh the intense pleasure of those moments when their jaws actually hit the floor!
    Thanks for writing this.

  • http://twitter.com/fxphotostudio @fxphotostudio

    I've always thought that words other than iPhoneography appeared just because other people are just trying to be too original. iPhoneography is a simple and awesome as the word iPhone itself and I really don't see any reason to change things. I am even surprised by the post, cuz haven't noticed that many people using different name.

  • Nicki Fitz-Gerald

    Here! Here! Marty and Glyn. Everything is right about the word iPhoneography and even if you could logically argue a whole host of other hybrid's nothing looks, sounds, spells or intends better than the word iPhoneography. Even if, in the future, the iPhoneography movement grew to include android shot and apped photos, it does not mean the word has to change. There have been other successful brands, for instance "CarphoneWarehouse" which has sold and still sells all kinds of mobile phones but originally just sold phones for cars (clue's in the name) but the brand name is so strong the name remained. Long live iPhonegraphy!!!!!! and if you love mobile photography – you should be chanting this too!

  • Jason Baldwin

    It’s a phenomenally stupid word construction. It’s photography, plain and simple. Who says, “I’m a Nikonographer”? No one. The tool doesn’t matter a whit; it’s always been the person behind the lens. We don’t need another dumb, fabricated word to describe it.

  • AlyZen Moonshadow

    For me, it started with Lomography via Instagram and a pre-loved iPhone 3G. Then, I discovered the world of Apps, and thus evolved into an iPhoneographer. And joined lots of likeminded sites and forums, and got to know my fellow iPhone addicts, and learned some new tricks! Later, with my pre-loved iPhone 4, my images became more surreal, abstract and fantasy-like, so I called my work iPhone Art. Now, I'm too impatient to wait for Apple to bring out a mega Megapixel iPhone, so I've invested in my first DSLR, the Olympus PEN Mini EPM1, with 12.3 megapixels to play with, and a new iPad to post-process images with. That doesn't mean I don't believe in iPhoneography anymore, rather I've decided to take the best of both worlds – the resolutions only a DSLR camera can give, and Apps that only Apple can provide, to hopefully be combined into something new and creative. I don't know what that will be called, but hopefully it will be seen as Art.

  • Roger Guetta

    Glyn might of made it official but my girlfriend in '09 swears to the fact that after a night of torrid torridness I gently fell asleep and in the middle of that dark and stormy night uttered the words 'iPhoneography rawks,' still in a state of blissful slumber. She said she gave me a swift kick to the thigh to shut my psychotic ramblings up. I did. I shut up, but i won't shut up about the origins of the word.

    So…..sue me!!

    :)

    • Roger Guetta

      correction: It was in '07…yeah…that's the ticket!!!

      It was an honest mistake….Thought you had me huh? No…it was a typo…just a typo….I swear it was!!

  • Oniontears

    It is interesting that Instagram has blocked the hashtag #iphoneography. The tag is still in use but has zero photos attached. This might be on aspect of why other names have creeped in. I think they blocked it when they went to Android? Not sure why though. Anyone know? Shows the power of that community.

    • Miki

      I think its funny they blocked that hashtag and yet still keep porn-type hashtags viable.

    • unraveledsweaters00

      Wow, I didn't even know that had happened. I can't even count how many of my pictures are tagged with #iphoneography.

  • James Campbell

    Good post Marty, but not sure why this post was necessary? The other 'variations' are self-evidently bad and ridiculous. Why draw light to this issue when it is not an issue? I also wouldn't call 'mobile photography' a variation of iphoneography, mobile photography is a classification, where iphoneography falls under mobile photography in a proper taxonomy. For this reason and many others I stopped using any terms altogether and just use simply 'photography', which is what it is at the end of the day, despite what emergent brands are pushing. If you need to differentiate your work to get that jaw drop effect by using the iphoneography tag, go right ahead.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      I saw a couple of instances recently where a couple of high profile websites referred to "iPhonography" and "iPhotography". I've never seen other brands referred to in earnest as "Cleanex" or "Coak".

      =M=

  • http://twitter.com/oniontears @oniontears

    Good Article! I find it interesting that on Instagram the hashtag #iphoneography is blocked. People have come up with other words that are not blocked, to represent iphoneography. Even misspellings of the word! Anyone know why that is? I think it started when they started the Android app.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      Instagram refers to it throughout their materials as "iPhonography." They were one of the reasons i wrote this post.

      =M=

  • http://www.mariocavalli.com Mario Cavalli

    No disrespect to Glyn or Roger but I think I also came up with the term iPhoneography, all by myself, as I’m sure dozens, if not thousands of others did, all at about the same time. It is, or was, a natural and obvious coinage, given the iPhone’s then unique coupling of shoot and publish.

    However, that was then and this is now and the iPhone is no longer unique in that respect. Moreover, there appears to be a widespread misapprehension that iPhoneography means the application of app filters willy nilly to every image. In one form or another, photo manipulation has been possible since the advent of the medium, so no USP there, either.

    For both those reasons, I myself have stopped using the term and tag. It is now simply meaningless. As others have said, the device in of itself is not important. What counts is the eye and sensibility behind the device.

    An argument might be made for a term that celebrates the combining of photography and instant communication, a feature that is truely unique to our age (Instagram comes close – presumably, Instagraph was already taken) but as AlyZen points out, that is now possible with almost any combination of digital camera and communication device. So, how about ‘PhotoComm’? Then again, why bother!

  • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

    Hi, all,

    This is great! Very interesting discussion with some great points on all sides of the argument.

    As a blogger, yes, I have a vested interest in protecting the word and the brand "iPhoneography" for things like internet searches, wiki searches and other things that happen outside of the art. As a graphic designer and marketer, I realize the importance of consistency in that branding that helps make those things (and more) possible.

    We could call ourselves "Bobtographers" as long as that's what shows up on top of a Google search and that's what clearly defines the brand. Not Bobographer or Bographer, please.

    =M=

  • https://www.facebook.com/BarbeeBell Barbara Gentry

    I totally agree with the title "iPhoneography" actually it has a nice sound when one says it! Makes a Big Statement! When someone looks at my photos their jaws drop to the floor, and their response is "I can't believe you took that with your iPhone" Amazing!
    Just Saying
    Cheers
    Barbee

  • Mandolina Moon

    When I first started creative photography with my iPhone, I googled a word I made up, "iPhoneography," and 'was surprised to find a whole community of iPhoneographers! Is there also iPadography, or will iPhoneography be generic for all mobile photography?

    • Nicki Fitz-Gerald

      I suspect iPhoneography will continue to be the generic name given to iPhone/iTouch/iPad (ie iOS Devices) as illustrated with my "CarphoneWarehouse" branding story above. iPadography sounds like an unhealthy interest in sanitary towels. ;-)

  • http://iangoldsmith-artist.com Ian Goldsmith

    Great post! Love iPhoneography, as it gives a clear tag to photography taken with an iPhone. Currently it feels a little like an apology to other photographers, but I can’t help feeling that as the iPhone cameras get better and better that the gap between DSLRs and iPhones is narrowing… rapidly.
    After all it’s not the camera or label that makes a good picture, it’s the person taking the shot!
    Viva iPhonography!

  • Nicki Fitz-Gerald

    I suspect iPhoneography will continue to be the generic name given to iPhone/iTouch/iPad (ie iOS Devices) as illustrated with my "CarphoneWarehouse" branding story above. iPadography sounds like an unhealthy interest in sanitary towels. ;-)

  • mragan

    #iphoneographer is not blocked by instagram. I use it daily, including earlier today.

    • mragan

      I meant to say iphoneography

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      It's not blocked. More like censored. An Instagram hashtag search returns "No tags found." Same search without the e returns over 2.7 million images.

      =M=

  • @scrapsparcs

    Well, I think it’s a dumb word, too many syllables and with a brand name at the beginning, like Polaroidography. How about calling it “low res” since that’s what you get. It’s what Rogers girlfriend said it should be.

  • OwnitnLiv (Rey O.)

    Great article Marty! The words, iPhoneography and iPhoneographer, speak volumes to other photographers, artists, and the uninitiated. I use it frequently and always refer to it when discussing my work and hobby to others. It's neither an apology nor a way to exclude others who use their non-iOS smartphone to take pictures, but a term that perfectly describes and articulates the hardware, it's freedoms and constraints, and the tools (apps) we use to create art. Those terms also create a sense of community, familiarity, and cohesiveness within the category of photography and it's utterly vast subcategories.
    As I'm now broadening my hobby to include the use of DSLR and mirrorless cameras, I would have no problem describing myself as both an iPhoneographer and a photographer once I get more familiarized with it.
    BTW, any ETA on those T-shirts? Thanks Marty!

  • unraveledsweaters00

    I noticed that "androidography" is a used tag now. This makes no sense for "iphoneography" to be turning up no photos, when in fact there are thousands of photos tagged with it, but "androidography" turns up 122,000+ photos. If they took it down when they released the android version, then how is it fair to let androidography have a tag. It's not a big thing, but since I personally tagged tons of photos with iphoneography, then I would like to look at others' photos using that tag.

  • http://idogma.com irgendlink

    Don’t forget the stranger’s ears: iphoneography is very difficult for Germans, French, Roman languages and I guess also for Mandarin. I prefer an “Ism”. The art recipents love isms: impressionism, romanticism, classicism, expressionism.
    Appspressionismus (english appspressionism, french appspressionisme) sounds much more like art. If there will ever remain an artmovement based on mobile devices, they will call it an “Ism”.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      An excellent point!

      =M=

  • http://twitter.com/DocPop @DocPop

    Late to the conversation, but I wanted to chime in to. I am not a fan of the iPhoneography term. It's fine if people want to use it to describe their work, but I fail to see it's usage as being "important" for any reason.

    For my dayjob at Sincerely/Postagram, I run photowalks and create videos specifically for mobile photographers, but I avoid the term "iphoneography" like the plague because it does more to alienate people than it does to alienate them. At the moment, it does seem like most of the great photo apps are made for iPhones, but how long before that all changes? We are already seeing more and more Android users at our Instawalks, so why go out of our way to make them feel unwelcome just because they have a different OS than what I like to use.

    Also; "iPhoneography" is one of those terms that just instantly sounds dated. It puts too much emphasis on the novelty of shooting on a mobile phone and de-emphasises (sp?) the importance of taking a really well thought shot.

    • http://twitter.com/DocPop @DocPop

      edit: "because it does more to alienate people than it does to help people come together." That makes a little more sense, right?

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