News,  Photo Education & Accessibility

Mobile Photographer Rachael Short Explores the Beauty of Simplicity with iPhone

California-based photographer Rachael Short likes to keep things simple. Shooting photographs around Carmel, California, she searches for new textures, lighting and contrasts to capture in her portraits and landscapes. She prefers black and white, brushing off colour as a distraction. “Life is so chaotic, so it’s something to simplify and calm things down,” Short explains.

In 2010 at age 28, Short suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident along California’s Highway 1 on Halloween night. She was diagnosed with a C5 fracture in her spine. She was quadriplegic.

After a spinal cord injury in 2010, fine art photographer Rachael Short started shooting exclusively with iPhone.

It would take 60 days in-hospital for Short to touch her nose with her left hand, and a full year before her arms had the strength to hold anything, let alone a camera. While she was there, her best friend gifted her an iPhone 4 because it was easier to use after her injury.

“It took about a year for me to have enough arm strength to start holding an iPhone,” Short recalls. “It was the first camera that I started using [after the accident], and now it’s the only camera that I’ve been using because it’s nice and light, small and easy to use.”

Since then, Short’s creative process has shifted to one that is digitally streamlined and mobile. “It used to be that I had my 4×5 camera, and I had my medium format camera and 35 mm and it got complicated,” she says. “Now it’s more about the image and less about the technical and the equipment. It’s made me more focused.”

Inspired by the everyday life and natural beauty of Carmel, California, Rachael Short creates archival prints that showcase the textures, lighting and contrasts of her surroundings.
A wandering path at Monastery Beach, shot on iPhone XS by Rachael Short.

She no longer carries multiple cameras or a variety of films. Instead, she captures a colour photo with her iPhone XS using the Hipstamatic app, converts it to black and white and edits it in the Snapseed app, prints a digital negative and then produces a platinum print as an archival image. “I’ve been really impressed with the camera on the iPhone and how I’ve been able to make it do what I did with film,” she says. “The image quality has been really amazing and surprising.”


Today Short lives a short distance from Gallery EXPOSED in Carmel, her photo gallery where she exhibits local artists’ work. As a wheelchair user, she looks for accessible places to shoot and still be in nature, like Point Lobos for its flat trails and natural beauty, or the long coastal trail weaving along the ocean near Monastery Beach, one of the only places in the area that gets her close to the ocean at all. Though she rarely visited these places before her injury, she now shoots these locations often. She prefers capturing wandering paths or endless roads that lead a viewer’s eye down the frame of a photograph.

A native of Carmel, California, Rachael Short shoots photos on her iPhone Xs using the Hipstamatic app and converts them to black and white in Snapseed.

Despite the unexpected obstacles put in Short’s path almost a decade ago, she still finds this lightness and dreaminess in the world around her. She embraces today’s technology as a new way for her to create, finding beauty wherever she is, whether in a peace poppy flower that’s sitting in her window, or in the shadow of a tree cast on the facade of the Carmel Mission.

“I couldn’t imagine being in my situation even 15 years ago without my iPhone,” Short says. “Technology has changed so much in that time. It just opens up so many possibilities for people with disabilities and limited mobility. It’s my camera, it’s my email, it’s my photo editing, it’s ‘Hey Siri, do stuff for me.’ It’s everything.”

It took a full year after Rachael Short’s injury for her arms to be strong enough to hold her iPhone. Since then it’s been her preferred camera for shooting.
In partnership for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple worked with California photographer Rachael Short to showcase her art, all shot on iPhone.

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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]