World Wide InstaMeet 11: Community First

[ Click play on the video above for an inside look at Boston’s InstaMeet. ]

From the sea of thousands of phone applications built for passively staring at a screen emerges a tidal wave to break the monotony: Instagram. Instagram is a popular smartphone application made for sharing photographs and videos. Instagram promotes interactivity by allowing users to engage with one another. Users post their own content as well as follow and explore the works of others. Though digital, the impact of Instagram has extended far past the online world. Instagram’s motto is “Community First” – and the tag couldn’t be more accurate. Instagram prides itself on connecting people, both online and in person. It has blossomed into something far more experiential than just scrolling and tapping. It has become a way for like-minded individuals to share their passions and develop a sense of togetherness.

Perhaps the most powerful example of Instagram’s “Community First” slogan in action are the InstaMeets held around the world. An InstaMeet is a get-together of Instagram users that gather to take photos and exchange photography skills. A WorldWide Instameet happens once a year and is coordinated by popular users/accounts in an area. They take place in cities around the globe and promote exploring and capturing your home city while bonding with others.

The 11th World Wide InstaMeet saw an exceptional turnout from the Boston photo community. The event was hosted by @igboston, an account with roughly 50,000 followers (and growing) that features stunning photos of Boston’s scenery as captured by different users and hand picked by a team of moderators. The InstaMeet kicked off with a photography discussion at District Hall, a dedicated civic space for innovation and creativity. By the time the discussion began, virtually all of the seats of the expansive gathering room were filled. The forum began with a greeting by the IG Boston moderators and a behind-the-scenes discussion of how @igboston is run.

Next came the icebreakers. Each person in the room went up one by one and introduced themselves by writing their Instagram handle on a giant whiteboard and offering a fun fact about who they are and why they chose to attend. Through this activity, attendees were able to get a feel for who was in their photo community – and they were not only Boston locals. Instagrammers from countries such as South Korea, Mexico, Russia, and many U.S. states were present. Some introductions were humorous (“I’m from Kazakhstan. Trust me, it’s not as dangerous as it sounds.” “I’m single.. I like long walks on the beach..”) while others were more honest (“I’m just starting out and this is my first camera, but I’m hoping to learn from all of you.”)

The next phase of the forum was a photo discussion including tips and tricks from a few of Boston’s most highly praised Instagrammers. The presentations offered something for everyone, from iPhone users to professional DSLR camera shooters to strictly Instagram-only photographers. New photo editing apps were introduced, as well as tips for more popular photo apps such as Snapseed.

Soon after, a bag was passed around containing slips of paper with the usernames of those present at the InstaMeet written on them. Each attendee drew a name and faced the challenge of finding the person behind the handle. This person was to be your “buddy,” and the goal was to photograph him or her at the InstaMeet. Seeing how packed the large lecture room was, the hunt for the “buddy” was an adventure in itself. People flaunted their nametags while holding up the slips of paper, calling out and asking around in order to find their elusive match. Among the chaos of running around and eventually uniting with this new other half came the excitement of potential friendships and the opportunity to engage with new faces. No longer was this a room full of strangers – it was a gathering of “Insta buddies.”

As the confusion died down and the hunt came to an end, it was time to head out. The main attraction of the InstaMeet – the walking tour – was beginning. Walking tours allow for attendees to discover cool spots around the city and take spectacular shots, all the while engaging and collaborating with other photographers. The first stop on the tour was the Courthouse T Station. Underground and featuring futuristic architecture and neon lights, the location is reminiscent of being inside a space ship (if it’s possible to be reminiscent of such a thing). ‘Grammers mingled and followed each other on the app as the tour continued outdoors in the Seaport District. Prime photos were taken of the Boston Harbor and its beautiful boats and buildings as seen from across the bridge. More creative shots were taken from up on top of the bridge of the Instagrammers gathered below. Some of the more adventurous photographers dodged cars as they got down on the pavement to capture the perfect angle of a friend posed in the middle of the road.

The walking tour continued across the bridge and into Boston’s Financial District. Mother Nature was on the InstaMeet’s side with pure blue skies and full sunshine, making for some spectacular lens flares and fun opportunities to play with the light. This was no silent point-and-shoot session; the attendees helped each other frame shots and even posed for one another, all the while bonding and creating friendships. Lively conversation was heard all throughout the walk with smiles exchanged as frequently as usernames (who doesn’t love new followers?!). The IG Boston family may be of all different ages, backgrounds, and photography levels, but their common passion creates something beautiful.

Now fully acquainted, the InstaMeet finished off with a reception at Sip Wine Bar & Kitchen in the Theater District. ‘Grammers socialized and ate delicious appetizers with VIP treatment in a private room of the restaurant. As the event drew to a close, among the laughter and smiles echoed a shared feeling of community. What was previously an assortment of digital strangers had morphed into a family, united by identical interests.

“We’re all photo nerds,” IG Boston moderator Brian said jokingly. “It’s fun to meet other people who do the same thing.”

Moderator Ash agreed.

“All of us local photographers getting together and meeting in person beyond just online.. that truly is community.”

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