Saturday 20 July 2019

The UCC teacher's holiday snap that ended up as a worldwide Apple billboard campaign

Ex UCC students Yukiho Tsunoda and Kumiko Yamaguchi in front of the Apple billboard in Tokyo featuring a photo by Brendan O Se.
Ex UCC students Yukiho Tsunoda and Kumiko Yamaguchi in front of the Apple billboard in Tokyo featuring a photo by Brendan O Se.
UCC teacher Brendan O Sé
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

What are the chances of your smartphone holiday snap becoming a worldwide billboard campaign for a giant technology company?

That's exactly what happened to UCC English language teacher Brendan O Sé, whose iPhone shot of a street in Copenhagen now adorns billboards from California to China.

It happened in December when O Sé was emailed by an unfamiliar source about a photo he had posted on Flickr, the photo-sharing website.

"I ignored it, thinking it was spam. But they emailed again and, to my amazement, I saw the name Apple. They were interested in two photos, one from Copenhagen and another I had taken in Berlin."

A few months later, his Copenhagen street shot is being displayed in over 70 cities on four continents.

"So far, I've located my image in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, New York, Berlin, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Bangkok," he says.

"And I have scouts in other cities. It has been amazing to open an email and see that photograph of mine with a friend or ex-student smiling next to it."

Did he get paid?

"There was payment but nothing major," he says. "To be honest, I would have done it for free. The experience has been magical. The wonderful, generous response I have received has been amazing."

O Sé regards himself as a photo hobbyist who tries to take a shot every day using his iPhone and his (Nikon) DSLR.

He posts one of each to an online Flickr account, which is where Apple spotted the Copenhagen photo.

"I have always had an interest in photography, but only got into it seriously in 2009 when I began to post regularly to Flickr," he says. "In 2012, using the iPhone 4, I began to shoot a lot with the iPhone."

O Sé says that while cameraphones are technically more limited than full-size cameras, they often make up for it by being more portable and discreet.

"I love people-watching," he says. "In public, people can be guarded, but they do reveal. With street photography it's those moments you chase. I often feel that I get better chances with my iPhone than I would with a DSLR. I can manipulate it all with just one hand and I love the ability to post-process on the go, as well as the immediacy and ease of sharing."

O Sé, who has had photos shortlisted in numerous competitions before, now plans to build a collection of iPhone and DSLR photos.

"This weekend, my wife and I are travelling to Milan to see one of those billboards with my image on it for ourselves. I can't wait."

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