Author ORCID Identifier


Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

Nicholas A. Sharp

Second Advisor

Jorge M. Benitez

Third Advisor

Michael A. Keller

Fourth Advisor

Les Harrison


The iPhone is the most popular smartphone and camera on social media. iPhoneography, the photography taken or edited with the iPhone, has set the trend of nostalgic photography on social media during the 2010s; thus, the iPhone, a high-tech camera, produces low-tech-looking images. This dissertation attempts to find out why iPhone photographers (iPhoneographers) take, edit, and share images that mimic photographs taken with analog photographic equipment. I argue that nostalgia allows iPhoneographers to use the iPhone as a creative tool and to belong to a community. Based on the arguments of Vilém Flusser—who suggested that photographers are more interested in the camera and the process of taking pictures than in the photographs produced—this work focuses first on the iPhone camera and the camera apps. (This work also considers the writings of Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, and W. J. T. Mitchell, as they pertain to photography and iPhoneography.) It traces the beginning of the nostalgic photograph style to 2008, when the Apple App Store offered apps that behaved like toy cameras and rendered images similar to those produced by toy and Polaroid cameras. The Hipstamatic app set the trend in 2009, and Instagram made it mainstream. Nostalgia is more a source of inspiration and creativity than a source of melancholy and longing for the past. The iPhoneography community on Facebook tends to form small groups that share and curate specific topics, such as clouds, portraits, flowers, and images produced with Hipstamatic. A small survey of the iPhoneography community shows that the community considers iPhoneography an art.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission