Salamah’s traditional goggles — carved by his own hand
using hardwood from the jungle and fitted with scraps of glass
he found on the beach — were so iconic to me that I couldn’t
resist making another portrait for myself with my iPhone.

Last October, I traveled to the idyllic jungle-fringed beach of Ao Bon Yai on the tropical island of Koh Surin, a national park located 60km from the Phang Nga mainland and a few hours north of Phuket, Thailand.  I was there to photograph a cover feature about the Moken — a tiny community of about 300 sea gypsies — for SilkAir’s inflight magazine, Silkwinds.

Early one morning, while photographing portraits of a number of the Moken people for my Silkwinds story using my “real” Nikon DSLR camera, village elder, Salamah, appeared shirtless on the beach.  He was carrying with him a pair of wooden dive goggles, which I asked him to put on for a photograph. These traditional goggles — carved by his own hand using hardwood from the jungle and fitted with scraps of glass he found on the beach — were so iconic to me that I couldn’t resist making another portrait for myself with my iPhone.

Today I learned that this photograph of Salamah was awarded 1st Place in the Portrait category at the 2018 iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAwards).  As someone who loves making photographs with my iPhone, this is a fantastic honour.  I have actually submitted some of my imagery to the iPhone Photography Awards for the past few years, and I’ve been fortunate to receive recognition for this photography with a 2nd Place honour in the People category in 2016 and two Honourable Mentions in the Landscape and People categories in 2017.

As background, the IPPAwards is the world’s longest running iPhone photography competition, celebrating visual storytelling with iPhones since 2007.  And with thousands of entries received from photographers

spanning more than 140 countries, it’s an honour to be recognized for the imagery I create using only my iPhone.

IPPAwards founder, Kenan Aktulun, explains that, “iPhone users have become very fluent in visual storytelling.  This year’s photos were technically impressive and many of them were very personal.”

Indeed, as I’ve said many times before, the ubiquity of mobile phones — having a camera that is always within our reach — has made it more convenient and ever simpler to make photographs and tell stories anytime, anywhere.  And I think this is amazing!

Most photographers will attest that making great pictures has little to do with owning the best and most expensive equipment.  Personally, I believe that the real secret behind great photography is in how you see a moment and interpret it in a still frame, regardless of what type of camera you are using.  Are you able to make something ordinary appear extraordinary by showing it differently?  Are you able to make the viewer feel an emotion when they see your photograph?  Are you able to transport someone to a moment with you simply by pressing the shutter?

And I’m in good company with this sentiment, as dozens of significant media outlets across the globe shared the results of this year’s IPPAwards, from The Washington Post to The Wall Street Journal to NPR.

See below for more international coverage of this year’s winners and follow my Instagram account @scottawoodward which is dedicated exclusively to showcasing the photography I make with my iPhone.

IPPA Fortune
IPPA Newsweek
IPPA Esquire