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.



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