Jim James (@removador) is tired of talking. “I feel like in today’s world, everybody wants to talk and nobody wants to listen. So I’m trying to be a better listener,” he says. His preferred method of communication is (no surprises here) music. But if he had to pick a close second, the My Morning Jacket frontman would go with photography.
“You know, I’m lucky enough to get to travel the world and see all these really cool things,” he says. “And I feel like this is the perfect way for me to be able to communicate and say, ‘Here’s what I’ve seen,’ or ‘Here’s what I’m feeling,’ without any words.”
Right now, he’s feeling a Super Mario Bros.-themed totem pole, which is staring back at him on the waterfront in Seattle. But that pole could just as easily be an old faded record with a ripped sleeve, or the inside of a piano, or a dusty room with light shining through the curtains.
Jim is the first to point out that he isn’t trying to make a career of taking pictures (“For me, it’s always been more of a fleeting pleasure. I just see something and take a picture of it, and it’s just a fun way to be artistic”). But when you shoot photos over a long period of time, patterns start to develop and inform other creative avenues. That’s how he came up with the cover of his band’s latest record, The Waterfall.
It all came together during a trip to Portland, Oregon, when My Morning Jacket was mixing their album. Not only did Jim visit Multnomah Falls while he was there, he had also written a song for the record called “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall).” The next logical move was to just use a waterfall photo as the cover art — which was easy since the singer had already built up his own collection.
“I don’t even know why, but I just kind of got obsessed with old black-and-white pictures of waterfalls,” he says.
Sifting through used pictures, you begin to wonder where they originated and why no one claimed them. Jim had been thinking about this a lot recently, after the death of his great aunt.
“If somebody passes away, and they were alone or didn’t have any family or anything, all those photos just eventually go to the Goodwill or go in the trash or some antique collector,” says Jim. “But it’s kind of cool because it’s like, there’s another life for all those things, and people like me kind of walk through an antique mall and get into it, you know?”
Turns out taking photos isn’t the only way to communicate without talking — so is finding them.
For more of Daniel’s adventures, follow @dcwriley on Instagram.
Daniel Riley (@dcwriley) doesn’t feel disabled — at least not when he’s running a marathon, surfing, skydiving, skiing or riding a mountain bike. But Daniel is a double amputee; he lost both legs as a 25-year-old Marine, in a bomb blast in Afghanistan. He had served one tour in Iraq when he volunteered to go to Helmand province to join one of the infantry units that had lost troops as combat intensified.
“The guys in my squad and platoon were professionals,” Daniel says. “I served with some of the hardest and toughest men on the planet. And on the morning of December 16, 2010, that professionalism saved my life.”
In the wake of more than 20 surgeries, sports — and the freedom of being outdoors and active — became a critical part of Daniel’s recovery. “Waking up in a hospital bed and looking down at bandaged bloody stumps, it was easy to say my life was over. However, trying — even when failing miserably — all these sports has led me to do more than I had ever done with legs.”
Now a 30-year-old college student in Colorado, Daniel reflects on coming home from war. “My generation of veterans struggles with being heard. I deployed to combat twice, but that’s not unique. I have many friends who served two, three — and even seven deployments. I sustained life-altering wounds, but again I’m not unique and others have sustained worse. None of this was done for fame and glory, and we would do it all over again. All we ask is that you don’t forget about us.”
Lollapalooza Brasil, 2015: St. Vincent is brandishing her fist, ruling the stage and outshining the magnesium glare of her throne. It’s one of many striking pop images from Brazilian music photographer Breno Galtier (@brenogaltier), who revels in iconic poses, unsung angles and the ground beneath our feet.
“Lollapalooza is insane!” says Breno. “Usually, you can only photograph the first three songs, so it’s always a little crazy. You work under pressure. St. Vincent was one of the coolest concerts to shoot — she has an amazing stage presence. When I saw her doing that move, with that perfect light, I hurried to catch that angle.”
Breno has been shooting music since 2012, with photos that feel like they’re literally leaping out at you. “I love to [photograph] musicians that move, jump and show excitement,” he says of his dynamic aesthetic. “But I love it even more when the lighting is great, because it makes it easier for me and lets me explore the venue without limitations.”
How much does a band’s style, sound or personality inform Breno’s photos? “A lot, but I don’t let the inspiration take over the picture,” he says. “When I photograph a concert, apart from the band’s musical genre, I put in my own style. It’s how I leave my ‘brand’ on my work. I like to shoot musicians [from] a different point of view, notice the non-obvious things and angles, exploring the band, but in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
For all of his aesthetic kinships — he cites fellow music photographers César Ovalle, Matt Vogel and Andy Barron as influences — Breno’s visual identity is singular. “I try to avoid clichés,” he says. “I don’t like to take obvious pictures. I like to play with all the resources that I have — from gear to the possibilities that the situation can provide me.” He also shifts our point of view: he often frames the rock star not as a headshot, nor an instrument, but as a pair of feet.
“When you’re at a concert, you hardly ever look to the musicians’ feet. But I love to pay attention to them!” he says, laughing. “I like to observe all the details that happen onstage and one of the coolest things is the moves that they do with their feet: stepping on pedals, dancing or just expressing themselves in a different way.”
— Nicola Meighan for Instagram @music
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.
This weekend’s prompt was #WHPfuturistic, which asked participants to make pictures inspired by what they imagine fashion, architecture and everyday life will look like in the future. Every Monday we feature some of our favorite submissions from the project, but be sure to check out the rest here.
To see more of Ivan’s photos, follow @zabavnikov_ivan on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in Russian.)
There is nothing beige or bland about Ivan Zabavnikov’s (@zabavnikov_ivan) photographs of bread. There is texture, props — including a cat — and even vibrant color. “I want to tell people about the things that I like, and I love bread,” says Ivan, who is a baker for a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Russia, and founder of the Ivan Zabavnikov Bread Workshop. When he travels, Ivan seeks out other bread makers and captures their recipes and stories in pictures. On a trip to Sri Lanka last year with his wife, the search wasn’t easy: “We figured out that there were only stoves in the local restaurants and cafeterias and there were no ovens. I was so happy when we found a cafeteria owned by a Russian couple and I saw the oven!” Ivan says. “One day, on a beautiful morning, the bread was ready. This is how I reached my goal and met wonderful people. The world is full of kind and understanding people!”
For more photos from Shawn, follow @_xst on Instagram.
Grape-colored buildings, a woman’s rainbow-striped blazer, lipstick-red splashes of paint, a man’s gleaming white fedora, extreme close-ups — the vibrant colors and characters in Shawn Theodore’s (@_xst) photographs are impossible to ignore. Yet he began taking pictures of African-American neighborhoods and their denizens because he felt invisible.
“I want people to be attracted to the color, but also to get to know the people. I really love being able to put my people up on a pedestal,” the 45-year-old Philadelphia native says. While re-reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, he began noticing parallels to his own experience, explaining, “I started to see a greater context — people are being pushed out, people are disappearing, houses are being torn out.” Still, he wants his work to be simply a celebration of beauty and community as opposed to photojournalism, so he prefers not to link his photos to their locations, instead describing how they make him feel.
“I want people to feel the vibe before it changes, to understand the spirit of a neighborhood. I don’t want people to think of one city,” he says. “These folks won’t be here in 10 years. The buildings won’t be here. Being able to capture the ebb and flow is a big deal.”
Around the Community
“It’s been brought to my attention that some think my motives are off … I wasn’t welcomed easily because of what some would call my ‘edge’ … I’ve also seen how scared some of you are.”
What’s so scary about John Givez? Is it the tattoos? The hair? The lyrics about gang violence and the attempt to escape it? For some in the Christian hip-hop community, it’s all of the above.
“People be like, ‘He don’t look like he’s a Christian,’ or, you know, ‘He looks like he has tattoos. His hair’s all weird,’” he says over the phone. “And I get that stuff all the time. After a while, I’m just like, I can’t even deal with this.”
John has been down this road before. When he was 11, his father was diagnosed with a mental illness. The then-aspiring rapper went hunting for different outlets to channel his energy. He was eventually exiled and labeled a bad influence by other families in his church. Make sure to keep your kids away from the big bad John Givez, they said.
John has grown tremendously since then, finding strength in himself and in his music. He believes the issues he experienced are parallel to the way Christian hip-hop deals with artists like himself. John is different — in his flow, in his lyrics, in his sense of style. And because he’s different, he’s labeled an outsider. But instead of cowering from it, John has learned to embrace it, like he does on the cover of his new album, Soul Rebel.
“You’re kind of born into the world naked; you grow up into these ways,” says John about the artwork that features him, shirtless with his head down. “Like, you don’t learn how to lie; you just kind of start lying. It was like trying to convey the whole thing of being this rebellious kid, born into the world to lose, but making the best out of what he’s doing by keeping his head and learning how to get through life given his circumstances.”
John keeps his head by challenging the status quo, both from a more serious context, in his rap lyrics, to learning how to laugh at the little things. In his Instagram bio, he calls himself a “manchild.” While the term now tends to be used in the negative to describe protagonists in Judd Apatow movies, John happily embraces it — and uses it to his advantage.
“A lot of people grow up, and they let being grown up limit their imagination, limit the possibilities for them. And sometimes I’m burdened by that,” he says. “So I’ll wear an article of clothing that frees me from that. Like, what does a grown-ass man look like who walks around in overalls? And a lot of people look at me like, ‘Why are you wearing those?’ But I’m just like, ‘Why aren’t you?’”
For more of Ayumi’s portraits, follow @r_you_me on Instagram.
Born in China, raised in Japan and educated in Thailand, London and the US, Ayumi Takahashi (@r_you_me) calls her work “borderless.” Her portraits are inspired by women she sees in fashion blogs and on the streets of Portland, Oregon, where she lives. Their style is suggestive of Alex Katz’s paintings or Matisse’s collages, but she also thinks of her brightly colored creations as having a mission:
“There are a lot of horrible things happening in the world, but I’d rather focus on the joyful way of looking at life — because there’s the same amount of suffering as happiness. Which do you want to scale up?”
That same playful aesthetic translates to the textiles and jewelry she started making in college and plans to start selling next year under her brand, Are You Me. Ayumi says the name grew organically out of having to solve the first problem she encountered when she moved to the US: “I don’t have an English name. It’s how I tell people to pronounce my name: Ayumi, R-U-Me.”
Singer Shamir Bailey (@shamir326) is not an accessories person. He just can’t be trusted with small things.
“My nose ring is pretty much all the accessory that I need,” he says.
If we’re ranking Things People Love About Shamir, the first would be his critically acclaimed debut album, Ratchet. A close second, however, would be his fashion choices. Because who needs accessories when you have colorful pants, jackets and polka dot shirts?
Someone — Shamir still isn’t sure who — once referred to his style as gutter glam, which seems about right. That would explain the new white overalls he has been rocking for the last three days on tour.
“My band members were like, ‘They are getting dirty,’” he says. “I am like, ‘I got the white overalls so they can look dingy.’”
Shamir’s fashion sense can be traced back to high school. His look was a bit more conspicuous in those days, nabbing him the title of Best Dressed Student his senior year.
“I actually dress more toned down now,” he says. “I would dress like a greaser or a mod or a beatnik or Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I would just wake up in the morning and be like, how do I feel like dressing today?”
Shamir’s style has since evolved, but the principles haven’t. Whether he’s on the road or at home, the 21-year-old singer wears whatever he pleases: a pair of green overalls, neon-pink colored shirts, a denim jacket with a Velvet Underground patch sewn on the back.
“I just throw on whatever. I dress how I feel,” he says. “Sometimes I don’t feel super colorful, so I like to add a lot of color into my wardrobe. But a lot of people are mistaken from my videos and when they see me wearing all black or like more toned down colors they are like, ‘Shamir! What are you doing?’ I am like, ‘I don’t wear colors all the time.”
Color or no color, if you want to dress like Shamir, you’ve got to do some thrift store sifting. That’s where he found his favorite jean jacket and a prized Reba McEntire tee. He saves the more expensive stuff for the photo shoots, like the KENZO sweatshirt a magazine put on him for a recent spread.
“I felt bad wearing the clothes. I hadn’t showered in god knows when and had just got off the bus from touring and it was like … photo shoot! I was like, ohh,” he says, laughing. “But it was a really cool outfit.”
Shamir, keeping it gutter glam as always.
To see more pictures from Joana’s Abidjan, follow @joana_choumali on Instagram.
Joana Choumali (@joana_choumali) is a fine art photographer based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Her polished projects have received international attention, yet on Instagram, she prefers to share observations of her city, through personal images of everyday life without fanfare.
“To me, Abidjan is a 50-year-old woman. She looks juvenile, even though she is not. She attracts young people, but she is an old city. She absorbs every international trend without taking the time to think about it. She is also changing her appearance. She is taking back control of her life. New construction, a new bridge — the city landscape is evolving every day.
Abidjan is a beautiful woman. Indeed, she is living above her means. But she is very charming and she knows it. You can’t put Abidjan into a box. Either you adore her, or you hate her. By picturing my city, I am talking to her. Sometimes I get mad at her. She has so many flaws. But the more I travel all over the world, the more I feel she is my home. She is perfect.”
(This quote is from an interview conducted in French.)
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post announcing the weekend’s project every Friday.
The goal this weekend is to make pictures inspired by what you imagine fashion, architecture and everyday life will look like in the future.
Here’s how to get started:
PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPfuturistic hashtag only to photos taken over this weekend and only submit your own visuals to the project. Any tagged photo taken over the weekend is eligible to be featured Monday.
Monthly Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @music on Instagram.
What does your local music scene look like? Over the next month, @music wants you to capture it in our hashtag project, #MHPlocalbeats. Our curator for the month is rapper Jay Prince (@loungeinparis), who shares portraits of his friends and family — along with the colorful moments that catch his eye in everyday life. “My feed should be a story — if you go from bottom to top, you can see progress,” he says.
Here are some tips from Jay on how best to share your local music scene through pictures:
For more photos from Christian, follow @christianpondella on Instagram.
Christian Pondella (@christianpondella) began his post-college life as a “ski bum” and mountain climber, with photography as a hobby to document his high-altitude excursions. “I’d go up skiing and climbing with friends, shoot photos and spend hours in the darkroom making prints. It was so much fun,” the Mammoth Lakes, California, resident says. Over two decades later, Christian, who’s 45, makes a living documenting his international adventures, and those of other athletes like kayakers, motorcycle racers and BASE jumpers. He captured one of his favorite shots while visiting a Chilean ski resort in the Andes Mountains, cutting through powder high above a partially frozen lake. “We kept hiking and skiing, but the image I had in mind never presented itself,” says Christian of his photo of renowned skier Chris Davenport. On the last day of the trip, with less than an hour remaining before they needed to board a bus to catch a flight, the light and ice finally synced up. “I fired off a bunch of frames and didn’t even have a chance to look at my camera because we were running so late.”
Keeping pace with elite athletes requires shedding gear. “If I’ve got 25 pounds [11 kilograms] of camera gear, I’m not going to be able to keep up. I have a small camera body, plus one or two lenses, and it’s attached to my hip so I have easy access to it.”
For more exquisite recipes, follow @_foodstories_ on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in German.)
Lavender cakes, pumpkin waffles and peach-gooseberry-thyme tarts — these are just some of the mouth-watering and gluten-free culinary delights that can be found on “Our Food Stories,” a food blog run by Berlin-based duo Nora Eisermann and Laura Muthesius (@_foodstories_). It all began accidentally when Nora and Laura first met on a small film project four years ago. “We often cooked together because I have so many [food] allergies,” Laura recalls. “Eventually we had the idea to photograph our food and to provide the recipes online.”
Nora bakes and styles the jointly conceived dishes, Laura makes the photographs — the delicious creations arise in perfect teamwork. By now the duo appreciates the challenge of cooking gluten-free and vegan. “We actually think it’s nice that Laura’s intolerances force us to always try new things and use ingredients creatively.”
It’s not unusual for musicians to move to Los Angeles. The city is a mecca for successful creatives. It’s where artists go when they’re ready for the “next level.” And yet, Washington, D.C.-bred Alvin Risk (@alvinrisk) is finding it hard to concentrate.
“I didn’t have an option before, really. It was either be cold or be inside. Now, it’s like the world is my oyster,” he says, laughing. “You’re like, ‘Why am I sitting in this studio just working myself to death when I could be outside? I could go to the beach.’”
It’s a new feeling for the singer-producer. Music has always been his outlet, his means to express his wild and boundless imagination. He may admire and draw inspiration from the urban murals around him, the fine work of a skilled designer and the musings of sci-fi authors, but the man knows his medium.
“It was just the only thing that I would do, the only activity that existed that made me feel like time didn’t exist,” says Alvin. “I was super restless growing up. I was a big troublemaker. Everything was boring, I thought — until I found music, and that wasn’t boring.”
Since he was 10, music has been both his escape and his voice. In the beginning, it was guitar, though it’s been through the futuristic sound of electronics that he’s made his name. There’s so much room for experimentation, and Alvin is nothing if not sonically adventurous. His last EP, Venture, explores everything from reincarnation (“Alone”) to nuclear proliferation (“Dark Heart”). Each track serves as a window into a corner of Alvin’s mind, a small universe of his own creation. They’re not merely songs, but rather “its own little documentary.” If he can dream it, he can give it a beat, and it’s in that openness that he finds the appeal.
“Everything just has a relative period of time that it’s here or that it’s noticed, that it’s seen or remembered,” he says. “The odds that we’re here in this time and in this environment, for this short little speck, it’s miraculous. It’s amazing. It’s a reason to just celebrate. Really, we should just be partying all the time.”
And yet, you can’t party all the time, even as the perfect weather of California’s eternal summer calls your name. It can be a bit of a struggle, but for an overactive mind, the momentary pain is worth the reward.
“Since I moved here, I definitely am trying to get more stuff done during the day, it’s just weird,” he says. “I can do work all day and nothing will happen. You’ll just be going in circles, and then it gets dark, and you’re all tired and strung out, and then something will happen. You’re in that weird zone where you’re kind of uncomfortable and a little bit desperate and anxious because, man, it’s not happening, but that’s when the good stuff comes.”
—Kat Bein for Instagram @music
For more of Jenn’s life in photos, follow @jennxpenn on Instagram.
“#hellomynameis Jenn McAllister (@jennxpenn) and I’m 19 years old. Before making videos, photography was my first big, huge passion. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, and I remember my mom always carrying her camera throughout my entire childhood, taking pictures of anything. Being outside is just my favorite thing ever, so I like taking pictures of the environment.
On my Instagram, I’m very particular; it’s like an art, you know? My friends and I are so into how our Instagrams look. I choose photos that match my overall aesthetic — as stupid as that sounds — but I want people to see that there is beauty in everything.
I do try to make people laugh in my captions, but my overall goal has never been to impress everyone. It’s to make people happy. If you’re passionate about something — like, truly, truly passionate — don’t stop doing it, no matter what people think. That’s the biggest thing my fans can get out of my story: If you stick to it, you can accomplish anything.”
(This interview was conducted in Spanish.)
Objects for sale have a story — and Rodrigo Noriega (@rodrigo_noriega) wants to tell you about them. The 25-year-old furniture and product designer from Mexico City started the hashtag #proveedordiseñoserie (design supplies series) to collect the intimate processes of artisans, and pay them homage in a visual way.
“I like to show that Mexico is an incredible country that produces almost everything, and that projects are more difficult than what they seem,” says Rodrigo. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities to see what’s behind an object and who’s behind it. I try to show you something that you may not even imagine.”
The Band Perry, the country music sibling trio out of Alabama, approaches each new project with a different visual component. For their first record, they opted for softer colors to match the romantic vibe. Their second album, Pioneer was a bit more intense, which explains the punky black leather outfits they wore on the cover. And then there’s the soon-to-be-released third record, Heart + Beat, which is all about showcasing … yellow? Lead singer Kimberly Reid (@thekimberlyperry) is here to explain.
“For us, the visual is intrinsically woven into the music,” she says. “That color of yellow, which is a very specific one, Pantone C, was the vision we had in our minds while making the music. We thought, maybe for the first time ever, while making Heart + Beat we could do whatever we wanted to do. We were electrified. It was a very spirited recording process — so yellow was just the color that kept coming to mind that brought that to life.”
Over the last several weeks, that shade of yellow has been splashed everywhere: in their music videos, on promo images, on their faces — even in their selection of lip-syncing and karaoke clips they frequently share.
“Karaoke is interesting. We can all make a run for it,” says drummer Neil (@neilperry), on who the best karaoker of the band is.
Reid, the group’s bassist, can certainly make his case — particularly in this clip, where he mimes the lyrics to the band’s new song, “Live Forever” while rocking a yellow tank top.
“I am always a big fan of behind the scenes stuff, so I always try to find a moment where I am like, ‘Hey that’d be cool if people saw this.’”
— Instagram @music
For more of iBird’s adventures, follow @ibird_art on Instagram.
Thirty-six-year-old Jordanian Saeed Attari (@ibird_art) is an investment banker based in Bahrain. But what this dad of two does in his spare time has very little to do with finance and everything to do with the pet he’s always dreamed of having.
“I was dying to get a parrot at home, but my wife was dead set against it,” says Saeed. So he created iBird, a fun-loving, adventure-seeking and peace-promoting bird that happens to be a hand-drawn character. “The bird is a reflection of my own personality. I’m an outdoor person who enjoys having fun and traveling,” he explains.
The iBird interacts with objects like Saeed’s food, phone and even his kids’ toys or their favorite cartoon characters. “The bird is always on my mind,” he says, adding that he even gets up in the middle of the night if he has an idea for his make-believe pet. Saeed’s children are the iBird’s biggest fans. As for his wife, she wishes Saeed wouldn’t spend quite so much time doodling.
“The iBird has become her nemesis,” he jokes.