"New Community: An Instagram Story" Brings Light to How Incredible Social Media Can Be for Photographers

I might push the importance of Instagram each week, but it's for good reason. It has seriously changed my life by introducing me to a hobby and career in photography and I know I am not alone. Thanks to a few talented photographers and Instagrammers including Eric WardCraig Hensel, and Ricky Staub, along with the Instagram community, set out on an eight day journey across the country to meet and collaborate with individuals they had met entirely on the social platform. Check out the incredible story here in this short documentary film!

I can't stress enough the importance Instagram and social media has played in my career as a photographer, but these guys have done something pretty special with the chances they have been given. Setting out on an eight day adventure across the country together, having not even met in real life to represent true community they brought back stories anyone could relate to. Check out the write-up below from the guys on how this journey began, and how it culminated in a fantastic short documentary film above.

"The creation of this film was completely organic. I met Eric on Instagram a couple years ago. New to the platform, I randomly came across his profile. At first I didn't understand how the platform really worked - I'd merely taken it on because I thought it'd be good for the company. We had a commercial shoot in this beautiful part of Virginia, so I invited Eric to come on as a BTS photographer. We'd never had anyone document our company shooting and figured he could do that and then post about us and help jump start my feed.

Much later after this we stayed in touch and continued to work together. I was passing through his hometown and he invited me to stay at his house with his family. It felt weird at first because he was my "Instagram" friend but I figured what the heck. I had a great time with Eric and his family, and it was amazing to me that this little app of pictures had actually turned into a real friendship. Eric began to share about some of the other amazing friends he had on Instagram. 

I was headed to Chicago, so Eric encouraged me to reach out to anyone there that I followed. To meet up and shoot. I told him I loved Craig's work so I sent Craig a note on one of his pictures. About fifteen minutes later Craig responded that he'd love to meet up and shoot. We grabbed dinner and beers and shot around Chicago for hours. We had a really deep conversation about life and faith and everything you can imagine. Again, I was just floored by how real these friends felt. 

From there the three of us started tossing around the idea of visiting others we'd never met in real life. So we put together this trip - I figured a kick ass road trip documentary would make for good marketing, and could justify spending some money from the company to make it happen. From there we just began to plan where we wanted to go and who we wanted to meet... and hoped they'd give us a bed! 

What I never anticipated was how this adventure would become one filled with people sharing their heart and struggle through addiction, homelessness, or depression. A trip filled with stories on how people’s Instagram communities were becoming agents of true healing and hope for people. This film certainly represents the adventure of Instagram but more so I feel it represents the broader spirit of this new community that we all love uniquely and the same."

Be sure to follow along as each of these guys continue to tell beautiful stories on Instagram @littlecoal, @thecraighensel, and @neighborhoodfilm

Andrew Griswold's picture

Andrew Griswold is a photographer and designer based in Indianapolis. Born and raised in Indy he has made a name for himself by staying very active in the creative community in both photography and design. He has also founded a community of photographers via Instagram connecting them with brands to work with and shoot locally.

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Thank you! So glad you like it!

Following your advice, I reached out to a company today via Instagram and they responded saying that they are going to send me some products in exchange for photos. The journey begins....

You're totally right! At 20k followers, we're starting to get some seriously good opportunities on instagram... http://instagram.com/ericparephoto & http://instagram.com/kimhenry.dance

Eric Ward's story is very cool. He has been around for a while. Check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT-SC1c0plQ

Right on! Eric is one of the best!

I would love to do what they did in this video. But honestly my wife would kill me.

Same here. Damn, we are whipped... :-D

I know! Truthfully I have meet a ton of people off of Instagram in real life. But when ever I do it when Im traveling she gets worried that I'm actually meeting an ax murder. But to be fair I have not met an ax murder yet so I think Im doing good.

The first rule about whipped club is you do not talk about whipped club. I'd tell you the second rule, but I gotta go. Wife needs something..

No! You cant talk about it! NEVER.

Bring her with!

You don't have to have "meaningful" relationships with so many people. You can meet a few that you have very deep and special friendships though. There's nothing superficial about that. Social Media is what you make it, just like anything else.

I love how this is all *new* and everything. Guess what... Flickr - *BOOM*. Traveled the world, slept in strangers houses, met with tons of people.... it's been done before.... you all just either forgot, or you are too young to have the perspective outside of your phones.

Thanks for the thoughts Andrew! You're right there's nothing new under the sun. The beautfiul part for us was taking part in people's stories.

I appreciate your kind response to something so negative haha.

it was cool idea , would have been cooler if he did it with out putting JEEP in everything,now i get it, who dont want to make money or get a free car for the trip, just would have been cooler if he did it in his beat up car . I mean I have met a shit ton of people on IG and keep meeting more and more each day, especially when i go out and shoot on weekends and its been nothing but positive and i am having a blast doing it. Sure beats getting yelled at and bitched to while at work. I guess i decided to struggle a little and to pursue something that makes me happy, doing this with IG let me see what photography was all about again and made me see what i was missing doing weddings and holiday cards. I feel like i was given the camera again for the first time again and just having fun with and just getting back to basics. Sorry to sound sappy or jaded

Thanks Steve! It wasn't a free car...Jeep had a pretty small role in the trip, we wanted to keep it focused on the people. However, when a few dudes are told to 'see what they can do' we did it, unashamedly. Really glad to hear how you found inspiration through Instagram, that's what the film was all about!

Craig I totally got that and i totally think it was great idea to do, it just rubbed me the wrong way that JEEP was so heavily in the film. Now i get it they give you a car or loan you the car so you have to show it in the film ( and its cool that your thick skinned about it and dont take offense to what i am saying , or maybe you are i cant tell from the messages, either way your a good man regardless since we are all here to express our feelings and ideas) but buy doing that it lost a little of the warmth to it which i was getting but when i noticed the JEEP in it more it made me feel like i was watching a super bowel commercial , and i am not knocking JEEP one of my first cars was a CJ-7 and i loved it. I am not knocking your film i loved it and shared it with a few of my friends who make fun of me being a IG whore, like i said i met some really great peeps so far and i can only imagine what this year will bring with the subject matter i am shooting but the jeep took away a little from it, but congrats on it and hope you do many more dude all the best

Amazing article and very cool movie !

Thanks Vincent!

I like this ! There is a + side to technology after all !

Thanks Claude!!

Love that video ... and those Renegades :) <jeep wave>

Hey O!!

All in fun Pete!

I really wish that i could do this! I would love to do it for climbing and camping and adventures, but you do need trust in those things and that's not just something you can have through instagram.

Explain? What do you mean?

Well in climbing, you are literally holding your partner's life in their hands. Many things could happen and someone who is inexperienced could react to a small falling rock by letting their hand go, or panic and let go if the climber falls and a clip comes out of the rock. It also makes it a lot a safe and easier if you have climbed with the person before, you know their style and their comfort zone and know that they will pull their weight and know first aid if something happens. These relationships build up, and i have to climb with someone got a while before i trust them to belay me. It would be possible to find that person on instagram, but it would take months of getting to know each other before we could climb. The hiking, same thing they need need to know me and be able to recognize when I'm not being myself, they need to know first aid and how to use an epipens, and they need to know not to eat tree nuts. That would only take a few days to build that relationship though

I so totally want to do this!!! I'm on my way to follow all of these amazing people; they have beautiful souls!!

Thanks Brandy!

Follow me @PagesEdward

Shameless plug :-)

I'm a big fan of Instagram and the doors it opens for all involved. The question is aimed towards everyone.

Have any of you noticed cliques forming within your instagram community, and when I say this I don't mean like "everyone finds the people they gel with" but more of an inclusive/exclusive clique? Where people are either accepted or pushed out of that specific instagram community.

I've noticed this happening more and more often lately. Where certain people within the community run specific pages etc, and just promote their friends work, or those people are CONSTANTLY winning the contests they are running. I guess the bigger question here is, is there a dark side to the instagram community that sometimes goes overlooked?

It's just something I've noticed within my region lately.

Could not agree with you more Pete! I think this video exemplifies that. Especially, when one meet up coordinator is basically saying, "don't be jerks, and make friends."

As I've said I have found the local community in my area to be very "exclusive" in terms about who they tend to support most of the time or allow into their "inner circle."

Just very interesting to see from a platform that promotes inclusion.

So having been involved with the overall Instagram community for quite a few years now. Crazy to think almost 5! But yes I have seen this theme in both small and large markets. Some of the big kids rarely are seen at instameets anymore unless its them hosting it with a large sponsor that is paying for it. Which sucks because I have had the chance to meet with some big names in those groups on an indidvual and campaign basis and they are amazing people to shoot and work with. You have no idea how much it meant to me as I was coming up in the photo world just a few years ago and getting a like or comment or even a follow from guys like Michael O'Neal or Benjamin Heath (def look those dudes up on IG!) but then you see on their feeds they only shoot with or explore their areas or travel exploits with specific people that also have HUGE followings. Its almost like they know how the game works and will continue to push their own agendas to get recognized and grow larger thanks to eachother helping out when they could easily hit up the smaller guys or meetups and make a big impact on the creative commuity like they did with me early on. Not saying these two guys are those asshats but a nice rare occurence where that doesnt happen, or at least not as oftne, they still push those big name friends on their own feeds but in the end they are likely all friends in reality so its easier to push to that group than it is to connect with strangesr. It is just human nature to go to the comfort zone, very rarely to people want to push the limit and explore with a strsnger or reach out to one and hang out.

Now in my experience on the smaller scale I have had the chance to build the Indy community with instagram.com/igersindy from literally the ground up and its been incredible! The people, friends and connections I have made have made my career what it is! I have over the 3+ years I have built that found that some groups have begun to form and some guys shoot and feature only eachother on their own feeds with followings. Some of the big names to push out agendas but for good reasons for the most part. Midwest for ya! I think the meetups we have each month and by using those big names or the ones that are infamous fro the igersindy group are there to say "yea you should come out to the meet" to the smaller guys its a huge confidence booster for those guys to come and hang out and be welcomed to the community. I try my hardest to give back to that group of young shooters all that I can because I understand how much it impacted me in the start.

Great topic by the way!

Andrew, I've noticed this too. In regards to your big names comment. The first meet I went to in the Boston area was exactly that, a sponsored event by two people with a combined following on 150K and frankly, they were nice, but that's about where it ended. They clearly had their group of friends with them that had substantial followings as well, and just stuck to each other rather than being actual hosts. I get at some point it becomes a job, but I do enjoy the conversation and learning that happens. However, unlike the MidWest us North Easterners tend to be standoffish.

I think the big difference where you and I may be having different experiences at this point, is I'm seeing this issue spill into the "smaller groups." Where they have developed this almost elitist quality to them. The best example is you could see the local IG group run a constant and there are always the same people at EACH AND EVERY, which require an invite to attend. I guess I would just like to see things in my local market go back to the smaller version of all this.

I guess this is a topic to take offline and have a convo with you about!

I'm no professional. I do side work here and there, but have a 9-5 that I love. I do enjoy photography as a hobby though, and it consumes a lot of my time outside of work. Instagram has really taken off for me (@stef.c.photo) and has given me opportunities I wouldn't have had otherwise (in my opinion). I also have been fortunate to make a bunch of friends, 3-4 of which I'd consider very close friends. The video is awesome guys. You should all come out to Philly to visit Ricky and we'll shoot/have a party!

I loved this so much. I started Instagram as just something to share whatever I was up to (I was 13 at the time) and I would post something like a photo of a flower or whatever and people would say that they liked it and things like that and it motivated me and eventually I started posting more photography and I've improved so much over the past 2 years because of people's words. Before I felt like I had nothing I could do, I had no hobbies before this, and it's so amazing that I have something I can enjoy now.
I have met many people over Instagram and they are all so much and they've helped me improve a lot, hopefully when I'm older I can go and meet them too.

My Instagram is @gillian__photography if you are interested :)