Instagrammers of Lansing: Curating the Capital region

There are loads of Lansing-inspired hashtags on Instagram right now, attached to a wide array of faces, places, food and events. Curious about what's happening right now in Lansing? Look no further than #greaterlansing and #lansingmichigan, for an endless stream of everything from beer and tacos, to churches and car license plates. Want to know what's delicious or interesting or inspiring in Lansing? Simply check out #coollansing for a glimpse into what makes Lansing fabulous. But while people love to know what's going on and where, what they seem to love even more is the art of finding beauty in Photo - Dan Priceeveryday life.

Essentially what photography is, is life lit up.
- Sam Abell

Lansing boasts a stunning number of really good photographers, a point that Dan Price says is interesting, given the fact that we are a smaller city. Price, a pastor at Riverview Church and an Instagram sensation in his own right, has a growing fanbase of almost fourteen thousand followers. His subject matter is primarily landscapes, shot in and around the Greater Lansing area. Everything from moody sunsets and trees glittering under shrouds of ice, to misty close ups of grasses and frost rimmed leaves. Beautiful imagery, without a doubt, but definitely not the sort of subjects that most people associate with Lansing.

"The thing about photographing a place without all of the traditional features that you associate with beautiful landscapes, is that it forces you to look for the beauty." says Price. "Lansing doesn't have beaches or mountains or any of those natural features that make for easy landscape photography." So how do you capture such breathtaking beauty in a place where many people don't see any beauty at all?

"You can find beauty anywhere you are!" Price insists, "You just have to choose to look for it." And many are choosing just that. People have travelled to Lansing from other parts of Michigan, and even from surrounding states, hoping to meet up with Price and other Lansing-based Instagram photographers, and capture the places they see on Instagram.

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph
- Matt Hardy

So while instagram allows people all over the world to see the beautiful side of Lansing, it also provides locals with a more personal experience - meetups. Individuals on instagram stumble across each other's' work, and meet up for coffee to talk about favorite spots to shoot. And then there are Instameets - group get togethers organised Instagrammers of Lansing, more commonly known as Igerslansing.Photo - Khalid Ibrahim

Photographers of every level, from professionals to beginners, are welcome at Igerslansing get togethers. "Igers folks are the nicest, kindest, least judgemental people you could ever hope to meet!" Ibrahim exclaims, and Price seconds this opinion. "Photography communities are traditionally very competitive." he explains, "But people here are very kind, very accepting. It doesn't matter what level of experience you bring to the table, you will be welcome."

It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.
- Alfred Eisenstaedt

All instagram users in the greater Lansing area who are generating thoughtful and interesting content are encouraged to tag their work with #igerslansing.  This allows other local photographers and interested viewers to find instagramers working to create visual stories around the capitol area. Beyond that however, it notifies the admins at igerslansing that you are willing to have your image shared on their account.

The Igerslansing administrators are an amazing group of five very dedicated people. Currently in the saddle are Sean Gleason, Jason Kent, James Lenon, Josh Shade, and Taylor Rupp. Working together, they curate the Igerslansing collection to reflect a city that is more full of life than many of us who live here have ever realized. But while selecting and presenting images of the Lansing area's best a is an enjoyable commitment, what they all seem to love most isn't actually the photography.

You don't take a photograph, you make it.
- Ansel Adams

So what do they love most? "The people!" says Gleason, who got involved in the community through the regular Igerslansing meetups. "Far and away it's the people that make Instagram worthwhile." Lenon echoes this sentiment completely. "The community." he explains, "The diversity and creativity held within our small community is outstanding and Photo - Dan Pricereally outshines many larger communities in the states."

But while loving the people may be what brings them together, what each one brings to the table is unique from a content perspective. For example, Shade has a Jeep Wrangler he describes as "wicked sweet" that he's invested a great deal of time and money into. As such, he loves to photograph it in different urban and off-road settings, in and around the capitol area.

For Rupp, it's MSU campus. As a student, she spends a lot of time walking around on campus, and so has the benefit of a diverse and captivating setting for her photography. "When you find that sweet spot while walking, where the light just happens to hit this tree perfectly, it's magical. The campus has old buildings, new architecture, gardens, fountains, woods, a river, and a lot of people."

Kent is a hiker who loves parks, like Woldumar Nature Center in Lansing and Birchfield Park in Holt. But just as interesting is the downtown Lansing area. According to Kent, a few times a year the sunset shines directly down the center of Allegan Ave, which the group jokingly refer to as "LansingHenge”.

There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.
- Robert Frank

Another Lansing-based Instagram phenom is Khalid Ibrahim, whose fast growing commercial photography business Eat Pomegranate is responsible for all manner of Lansing's visual campaigns. From the Capital City Film Festival to MSU's LIVEON, the oncampus housing program encouraging students to live locally. But while Ibrahim's commercial success has made him a well-known face in the Lansing area, it's his instagram account that has helped to put Lansing on the map.

Ibrahim, who has been involved in photography for about 20 years, downloaded Instagram onto his phone the day it became available for droids. "Instagram does one thing, and it does that well - it allows people to create visual stories." Part of why this is so important for Ibrahim, is that it provides a very democratic approach to photography. Everyone can participate.

Ibrahim treats his instagram account as if it were a microblog, providing a platform for him to document an aspect of each day with a single picture. "I try to post something every day, and in doing so, I challenge myself to find beauty in my everyday life. Everything from coffee to architecture can be a source of beauty."

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.
- Marc Riboud

This is a sentiment shared by many people from all walks of life, in and around Lansing. People who love this city because it's where they live life, and it's full of people they love. Rebecca Douglas, the afterschool program coordinator at the Refugee Development Center, is a transplant from southern Africa who now lives in Lansing. "I believe in the saying 'bloom where you're planted," Douglas says, "And this is where I'm planted now, so I want to find beautiful things where I am, and share them with others."Photo - Khalid Ibrahim

Douglas says she started taking walks at the end of the work day as a way to unwind, and discovered that there was so much to see. She started photographing the sunsets and cityscapes, and sharing them on instagram. But like so many others, what Douglas loves most about instagram is that it is all about people.

"It's all done by people." she says, "In this age where so much is automated, people often get lost in the shuffle.Technology is changing the way we connect and communicate with each other, and in a time when so many social media platforms create distance between their users, Instagram brings people together."

Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field
- Peter Adams

When you ask most instagram users in the Lansing are what they most like about the app, their answers will range from ease of use, to inclusivity for all skill levels. But when you ask them what they love most about Lansing's instagram community, the answer is unanimous. The people.

"I love the way we all want each other to succeed. There's no competition between us because for the most part we all just want to make art that speaks to us and we want to grow our community." Gleason says. Shade agrees. "I love the inclusion. Everyone is willing to offer a helping hand to someone who has a question."

This community has been the incubator for incredible friendships and relationships that have flourished as a result of shared photos of Lansing. A phenomenon that Lenon sums up beautifully when he says, "I have so many friends that I would not have known, if not for this little app called Instagram!"

Photography is truth
- Jean-Luc Godard

Instagram is a powerful tool. It allows people all over the world to share their passions, their talent and their communities with one another. It allows us to capture all that makes life beautiful and gritty and strange and captivating. Through the power of the visual image, it provides us with a doorway into someone else's world. A doorway that can lead to entirely new experiences, and lasting friendships. All you have to do is step through.


Sarah Hillman is a freelance writer for Capital Gains. 
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