Inspiration can strike at any minute and it might be the very minute that changes your life—just ask professional photographer and Chico State alum Kate Adams.
During a March visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, Adams (BFA, Electronic Arts, ’13) became transfixed by a beautiful group of umbrella jellyfish “dancing” in the water before her. Wanting to share that moment with others, Adams whipped out her iPhone 6s Plus, snapped a photo to post on Instagram, and randomly added the hashtag #shotoniphone6splus right before hitting “share.”
“I was drawn to the movement of the jellies. They were making a circular motion and it was mesmerizing,” she said, noting that they were also her mom’s favorite type of jellyfish. “I was not shooting for the iPhone campaign, it was completely spur-of-the-moment.”
Because of that spontaneity, Adams not only managed to capture a magnetic picture, she caught Apple Inc.’s attention as well. Representatives from the technology giant came upon Adams’ Instagram feed and chose to use her shot of the jellies—unaltered—in their relaunched 2016 “Shot on iPhone 6s” marketing campaign that began in February.
“I received an email saying ‘Congratulations!’ with a partial list of where the jellies would be on display,” she said. “The picture is as I shot it. On some billboards where the orientation asks for a tighter crop, Apple slightly crops it.”
Her picture, officially named The Dance—more commonly referred to as “the jellies” or “xxl jellies” by Adams—has been seen on giant billboards in locations spanning from Hollywood, California to Munich, Bavaria in Germany, and on the back covers of numerous national and international print magazines, including Ebony and the Russian publication Discovery. Being familiar with past Apple advertising campaigns, Adams said she felt “very honored” to have her image selected and have it spread so widely.
“Crazy to think that now my image has been to more places than me,” Adams said. “It’s rad. My family and friends have been amazing by sending me pictures of the jellies in places they spot them.”
Just like the jellies, Adams has traveled all over the world and uses her Instagram feed as a unique photo diary to chronicle her day-to-day life working as a photographer. Adams said her interest in photography started at age 12 when she “couldn’t stop taking pictures” after receiving her first camera from her dad. That enthusiasm grew in high school, when Adams began “dabbling in 35mm” film and spending time in the school’s darkroom.
College, though, is where her career goals started to jell. In 2010, Adams earned a bachelor’s degree in electronic arts from the University of Hawaii at Manoa before coming to Chico State.
“College was where I really realized that I wanted to have a career in photography and image making,” she said.
While at Chico State, Adams worked as a campus photographer and ran the photography studio located in the basement of Meriam Library. She said she cherishes those opportunities and remembers her Chico Experience vividly.
“The connections and relationships that I made at Chico State were what made my college experience special,” Adams said. “The art department and my professors were very influential on me. I really loved the community of BFA students that I learned alongside. I felt very free and supported, which allowed me to create and explore anything that interested me.”
Adams said she has internal motivation to create, so taking pictures is both emotional and intellectual, and the reason why she decided to study art as a way to “nurture and develop that muscle.”
Adams is continuing to put her cameras—iPhone and others—to work. Even with her worldwide exposure from being part of Apple’s ad campaign, Adams says she has no plans to detour from her passion.
“My plans are to keep creating and making,” she said. “Photography will definitely always be a part of that.”