If Apple really had inspired a religious following, Jonathan Zufi would be its high priest.
On his Web site, ShrineofApple.com, Zufi has collected thousands of high-quality images of nearly every Apple product ever made. He did so as a tribute to the company that inspired him and countless others growing up during the advent of personal computing.
The goal is to catalog every single one of those Apple devices, a mission Zufi has been on since 2009 that has turned out roughly 150,000 photos and found the 42-year-old Australian native purchasing more than 500 Apple products.
Now, with the help of a number of other professionals with ties to Apple and its history, Zufi has turned his photographic fascination into a book equipped with written contributions from the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and early employee David Kottke.
The coffee-table-size collection, "Iconic," is a 326-page selection of Zufi's best photos that comes in a special-edition case shaped and designed like an Apple II. The book was self-published and is available only through Zufi's Web site.
"The goal is to collect and photograph every product they've ever made," Zufi said in an interview with CNET. "I know I haven't photographed everything, but I'm pretty damn close." The IT industry specialist, who currently manages SAP's North American Mobility Innovation Center in Atlanta, Ga., is not shy about where his technology allegiances lie. "Apple is the most amazing, fantastic, and awesome company in the world," he writes at Shrine of Apple's "about" page.
Building the shrine
The idea of a tribute to the Cupertino, Calif., company all started in 2009 when Zufi remembered the early days of learning to code on an Apple II and playing around with its various applications.
"I had a sudden memory of an old game I used to play in high school called Robot War," he said in an interview. "I hopped on eBay to look for the game and an old Apple II to play it on, and that's how I ended up looking through old Apple products."
From there, Zufi ventured down the rabbit hole where he found a countrywide community of early Apple engineers and collectors who had their hands on the rarest of Apple devices.
That included everything from early prototypes of Apple's Newton MessagePad, the company's first venture into personal data assistants, and the Apple WALT, a pen-based touch-screen telephone that never made its way to market.
The effort did not come without its challenges. Zufi built a photography studio in his basement and enlisted a photography professor to teach him the best ways to capture the Apple products in the same fashion new iPhones and iPads are displayed on the company's Web site today. He also had to buy and sell hundreds of products on his own while traveling the country to photograph the devices owned by collectors not keen on selling their own Apple gems.
Zufi's personal financial investment was another hurdle. "I would describe it as significant. I had to sell off practically everything I purchased in order to fund the rest of the project," he said. "I have about 15 large pieces left (and a few iPods)."
When a family member mentioned that his photographs would make for a great book, Zufi said that "it became all about that."
Using his Shrine of Apple site, Zufi got the word out and eventually pulled together a team consisting of designer Lisa Clarke and photographer and editor Forest McMullin, a Savannah College of Art and Design professor who aided Zufi in his quest to replicate Apple's official photography style.
"I didn't want it to be a reference guide, so not all products are in the book," he said, adding that the goal is more to showcase Apple's evolution with regard to design and technical innovation.
"A great way to summarize Apple came from a great quote from Kelli Richards," he said, referring to the 10-year Apple veteran who launched its digital music division. "She said, 'Ideas that were born decades ago are still coming to life at Apple.'"
That's precisely the idea Zufi hopes to evoke with "Iconic." "If you look back at the history, Apple went from a circuit board to a brushed aluminum, high-tech device like the iPhone," he said.
"The book proves they're not done innovating," he added. "They've got lot more powder in the keg."