In an instant
Mobile photography and videography has permeated popular culture and changed the way people document their lives. Smartphones are now used to capture everything from political protests and global events to the food eaten for lunch or a quick self-portrait—“selfie”—in the mirror.
It’s now considered a full-fledged art form and a subset of photography, which means it’s also earned its own award shows. Reno’s own mobile photography awards started off as a joke at a barbecue. It quickly became a full-fledged event when founders Chelsie Rose, Natalie Handler and Anne Kernecker thought it could be an engaging activity for Renoites.
So they started the inaugural Reno InstaGrammys, a photo and video contest where participants use photo social network app Instagram to document Reno.
Instagram, with its square photo size and many filters, turns mundane images into share-worthy pieces of art. And while there was some skepticism in the art world about the medium, many professional photographers take it seriously—a common sentiment online on photography forums is, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Former RN&R photographer Lauren Randolph, now a prolific L.A.-based artist, speaks often about the benefits of mobile photography. Her Instagram account (username @laurenlemon) has more than 220,000 followers, and she’s held gallery shows just using photos from her iPhone.
The InstaGrammys are intended to make Renoites more alert to the detail of the city, and to document it in creative ways.
Instagram is a free app for anyone with a smartphone, which makes it an “accessible medium,” according to Handler. Participants enter the contest by sharing their photos on Facebook. The contest ends July 7. A panel of four judges will sift through the entries. The Aug. 9 awards will be a formal event—“a mix of the MTV music awards and the Grammys,” says Rose. “We want it to be hip and fun.”
The event is a fundraiser for the Holland Project. Weekly challenges lead up to the event—like #albumcover—and there are 20 categories for the main contest. Categories include “chasing light,” “dance video,” “outdoor adventure” and “liquid landscape,” just to name a few. A full list can be found on their Facebook page. The categories are open for interpretation; for instance, for the “urban landscape” category, artist Bogdan Goldin (@bogdangoldin) posted a photo of a rainy window in focus with Reno’s nighttime skyline blurred in the background.
“The reason I enjoy Instagram is because its constrained visual environment actually inspires a lot of creativity,” says Reno musician Evynn Tyler.
Tyler, who uses the stage name Franc Friday, has amassed more than 47,000 followers on his Instagram account (@francfriday). His feed features a mix of selfies, screen caps of quotes or other artwork, and snapshots of his friends around Reno. Like many social networks, Instagram and similar services are a peek into a person’s life. Some artists take a more creative approach, using it as a platform to share their art, whether that’s visual or audio. Tyler shares short snippets of his music using Instagram’s video features.
“It’s a good resource for creative photography, but it’s more than that,” he says. “It often gives us a chance to look into the people behind the lens without feeling intrusive.”
This is a selling point for using it for a community project, says Rose—a chance to share in a comfortable, but public, space. “The art community can be kind of exclusive and intimidating. This is a way for people to share what they love about Reno.”