Mikey Rishwain has always been a music guy, but after joining Instagram, he discovered an interest in capturing the world through a lens — his phone’s lens.
“I feel like I’m a photographer now, like I’m an artist,” he said.
Rishwain — a band promoter who splits his time between his hometown of Lodi and Quebec — is not the only one finding the unique, abstract and ordinary life interesting enough to photograph. iPhone users across Lodi — and the world — have joined a community of “iPhonagraphers” who click what they see, apply a vintage-esque filter and share a roundup of digital postcards with a social community known as Instagram.
Instagram is a free application that is only available on the iPhone, and it was Apple’s No. 1 app last year. Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom founded the photo-sharing service, which has gained 15 million followers since it was released in 2010.
In 2011, Instagrammers documented Super Bowl XLV, the Japan earthquake and tsunami, the royal wedding, Osama bin Laden’s death, Atlantis’ final voyage, the London riots, Hurricane Irene, Burning Man, Occupy Wall Street, the Thailand floods and the World Series with their phones — allowing a world of followers to see the wonderful and gritty details of those experiences captured by people just like them.
It’s similar to a Twitter for pictures, used by people to show off their children and cats, but also for professionals and celebrities to highlight their work.
Rapper Snoop Dogg shows concerts from behind the scenes. Power couple Selena Gomez and Justin Beiber streams snapshots of their time together. Taylor Swift shares holiday baking and her creative gift wrapping.
Of course, there are more serious uses for Instagram, too. NPR photographer David Gilkey used his Instagram photos when he documented “Russia by Rail,” his 16-day shoot aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway. Other news outlets, like ABC News, NBC and National Geographic, use Instagram to offer an insider’s view of their studios and show their staff’s personalities.
Instagram is user-friendly. When you open Instagram, you click a photo, and then you choose a special effects layer to apply to the photo, adding a grainy, vintage, blurred, aged look to a new photo.
You upload the photo to the Instagram feed — and Twitter or Facebook, if you choose.
Sometimes, the finished product even amazes Lodi user Kristin Shinn.
“Once it is edited, you can show the world how creative the app has magically made you,” she said. Afterall, the app was created to make any photo look cool.
You follow people, and people follow you. Every time someone posts a photo, it streams through your roundup of photos. You can “like” photos by tapping them, and comment if you have something to say.
Photos are often labeled with hashtags — which is the “#” sign. If you search “#Lodi,” you’ll find shots of daily life in Lodi, Italy, but also photos of the local murals, the famous Lodi arch, rides in motion at the Grape Festival and sunsets over area vineyards.
‘It inspires people to explore’
Staci Takach is a professional photographer from Lodi, who studied photography at California State University, Sacramento. She’s also in love with Instagram. She walks the alleyways of Lodi, taking pictures of a side of the city that most people don’t see.
“I like old, abandoned, vintage-looking things. Old stuff that looks like no one cares about it,” said Takach, whose photo stream is filled with Lodi’s porches and building tops.
As a photographer who uses both digital and film cameras, Takach likes that Instagram emulates the different process of film cameras. In a way, it’s a photographic perk after the loss of certain films, like Instant Polaroid.
She follows mainly friends and those whose photos are artistic and similar to her style.
“I think it’s a neat way to share photos,” she said. “It inspires people to explore photography and learn about it.”
On a recent afternoon, Adrianne Bradley documented a walk through Downtown, first capturing the wheel and metal work of a friend’s motorcycle and then the Lodi arch. She was hoping to catch an old truck, but it drove away before she had a chance to snap a photo.
“I post anything that is vintage or family-oriented,” she said, “or if I see something that is beautiful.”
She says she knows little about photography, but it has inspired her artistically. It’s something anyone can get into.
“I’m not a photographer. I’m just a regular person,” she said.
Yet the little iPhone app with a big, artistic following has inspired her.
Instagram: Making artists since 2010
Stephanie Lautenschlager and Sandi Lang, both from Lodi, are Instagrammers. Lautenschlager has a following of about 200 people who comment on the cuteness of her 2-year-old daughter, Sofie Deeter. By viewing other peoples’ photos and seeing their angles, poses and filters, she has noticed an improvement in her own photos.
Instagram streams are flooded with photos of diner coffee, daily outfits, plates of food, cute animals and found objects — details that can reveal a lot about a person.
“After a while, you start seeing their life a little bit,” said Lautenschlager, about one of her favorite aspects of Instagram.
Lang is from Lodi, but is now a student studying theater at Sac State. She follows her friends and one of her favorites, “catsofinstagram.” She loves it all — “minus all the teenagers and all the absolutely ridiculous things.”
For her, Instagram is more important than checking her Twitter or email.
“I think it its more interesting than Twitter because it’s a visual representation of what you’re doing, not just words,” she said.
Though Mikey Rishwain may not quit his music gig to become a photographer, Instagram has showed him that he has a knack and might benefit from taking a class.
“Ever since I started using Instagram, it’s got me buzzin’ on photography,” he said. “I’m going to take a picture of myself saying, ‘Instagram made me an artist.’”
Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at email@example.com.