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Food From Scratch and Selfie Sketches with Singer...

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 16:29

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Food From Scratch and Selfie Sketches with Singer @liannelahavas

To see more of Lianne’s sketches and photos of food, friends and family, check out @liannelahavas on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Lianne La Havas (@liannelahavas) sloshed through nippy south London growing up, so perhaps it’s no surprise she’s attracted to sunny locales where oranges ripen year-round and a summer rain leaves you refreshed instead of chilled and soggy. Even the title of her upcoming album, Blood, evokes warmth.

“I like to think you can imagine yourself being in a very warm place when you’re listening to it,” the 25-year-old singer says, drawing out her words as if she’s stretching on a sunbaked rock herself (though, she does still live in a English capital). “I like that kind of feeling of things in general.”

So far, it seems she’s been successful in suffusing Blood with that balminess — even if that’s quite a drastic shift from her star-making 2012 debut, Is Your Love Big Enough? Where the latter was sparse, folk-leaning and laced with delicate melodies and Lianne’s own gentle plucking of her guitar, the singles from Blood are lush and in full bloom. It’s obvious that she’s gleaned inspiration from nature (“I’ll stop if I see some nice leaves,” she says). Whether it’s the hothouse beauty of the Paul Epworth-produced “Unstoppable” or the sassy swing of “What You Don’t Do,” she sounds relaxed, mature and bursting with confidence.

Speaking of shifts, that’s another one. As a child, she says, “I was quite shy, but longing not to be shy.” Her father’s family was Greek and her mother’s, Jamaican. They split when she was young and she spent a lot of time with her grandparents and great grandmother or playing with Barbies and Polly Pockets. When she became a teenager, she became “loud,” but at 18, she discovered the guitar and revisited the solitude of her childhood. “I wanted to be alone with it for months and weeks just trying to master this new technique I’d just learned,” she says.

She also had loved drawing as a child — “It was natural to me” — and one of her doodles became the cover of her first EP, 2011’s Lost and Found. “That was my attempt of copying a selfie!” she says, laughing. “I was trying to draw a self-portrait at the time. I find it so fascinating, and it’s just really hard to make something look exactly like it looks in real life. I wanted to make it look nice. But also I had an image in my head of the pose I wanted it to be as well, so I tried to take selfies and tried to copy them.”

The EP thrust her into the spotlight, and soon thereafter, Bon Iver scooped her up as the supporting act on his tour. By the following July, she had released Is Your Love Big Enough? and was a burgeoning star. With its bright, bold singularity — her colorful mixed heritage courses through it, from the album’s inspiration (her traveling to Jamaica with her mom) to the song entitled “Green and Gold” to the cover art, which features marble representing Greece and sprays of palm fronds and bird of paradise flowers to symbolize Jamaica — Blood stands to send her soaring even higher.

Despite her ever-increasing profile, however, she still prefers sharing the homey stuff, simple pleasures like nature or flowers or food.

“I’m always kind of creating, in short. I like making stuff from scratch. Traditional English roast chicken but with Greek and Jamaican flavor influences,” Lianne says. “It ends up this incredible, iconic flavor.” Just like her music.

—Rebecca Haithcoat for Instagram @music

The Week on Instagram | 192 News Wired: NASA Teams Up with...

Sun, 07/19/2015 - 14:00

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Combining a Love for Postage Stamps and Graphic Design with...

Sat, 07/18/2015 - 19:38

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Combining a Love for Postage Stamps and Graphic Design with @graphilately

To see more of Blair’s growing postage stamp album, follow @graphilately on Instagram.

Graphilately (@graphilately) is like a love letter to two of Blair Thomson’s obsessions: philately — the collection and study of postage stamps — and graphic design. “It’s effectively a growing digital stamp album shared from my collection,” says Blair, who is Canadian, lives in Exeter, England, and founded her own brand design agency. “I want to inspire, educate and encourage new collectors and, especially, raise the profile of stamp designers from across the world.”

The stamps shared by Blair tend to be typographic or illustrated, and most come from the ‘70s and early ‘80s. “I love all my stamps for many varied reasons,” Blair says. “If I had to pick a standout post though I would say the Canada earth sciences set from 1972. As a Canadian and as a huge fan of the designers Gottschalk+Ash, these stamps represent everything I love about design. They’re simple, emotive, beautifully crafted with attention given to every detail. The color palette is divine and they’re set in Helvetica.”

When asked about her plans for Graphilately, Blair is coy. “Watch this postage stamp-sized space, I guess.”

Organic Goldmine: The Look and Sound of New Zealand Songwriter...

Sat, 07/18/2015 - 16:40

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Organic Goldmine: The Look and Sound of New Zealand Songwriter @kimbramusic

To see more of Kimbra’s work, check out @kimbramusic on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

If second albums are supposed to be difficult, then Kimbra (@kimbramusic) didn’t get the memo. The New Zealand-born singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort, The Golden Echo, was released to great acclaim in August 2014, lauded for its free-flowing textural eclecticism and refusal to conform to any of the usual rigid conventions of modern pop. Nearly a year may have passed since then, but the 25-year-old is still drawing from that world to great effect — most recently with the newly debuted music video for the album’s trap-inflected centerpiece, “Goldmine.”

“‘Goldmine’ is a pretty special video for me, because I made it with two of my friends who I’ve known since we were about 15 in New Zealand,” says Kimbra, over the phone from Atlanta, where she will spend the next week putting in studio time with local producers. The two friends she refers to are Berlin-based filmmakers Chester Travis and Timothy Armstrong, who, alongside Kimbra, have created a fascinating stop-frame animation for the song, which required a staggering 4,300 square feet (400 square meters) of heavy-duty gold foil. The resulting video is equal parts eerie and surreal — a far cry from the Technicolor spectacles that accompanied previous singles “90s Music” and “Miracle.” “‘Goldmine’ to me is a song about finding that safe and sacred space, where you find your inner strength,” says Kimbra. “That often doesn’t come in a loud, obnoxious way, it comes from the quiet moments, very contemplative moments, when you realize that you can draw strength from everything around you.”

While the stark, gold-on-black color scheme of the “Goldmine” video might be a visual departure from Kimbra’s usual aesthetic, it’s a testament to her creative depth that it doesn’t feel at all out of place within her body of work. Likewise, a list of Kimbra’s collaborators reads like a music critic’s iTunes library left on shuffle overnight — having worked with everyone from experimental metalheads The Dillinger Escape Plan to instrumentalist Thundercat — but she’s managed to retain a uniquely coherent thread throughout.

“It’s something I think about a lot,” she says. “Especially because I’m just about to work with certain producers that have a very particular Atlanta style. It really comes down to the fact that because I’m producing the music as well, because I’m very involved in all parts of it, it’s always going through your filter. So you’re not just an artist walking into a studio: do your part, walk out and that’s it. Instead I’m taking every part of the music home and going through it all. It’s about looking at all of the elements and thinking, ‘Do these line up with my aesthetic?’”

Kimbra (born Kimbra Lee Johnson) admits that sometimes she might not always even be able to put her finger onto what that aesthetic exactly is, but that it’s rooted in something organic: organic sounds and an organic approach. Fittingly for someone who grew up in New Zealand (a childhood spent climbing trees, she says with a laugh), she’s acutely influenced and inspired by the environment around her. She famously moved to the solitude of a remote sheep farm in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, the day after winning several Grammys in 2013. And when she’s not showing off photos of friends and her on-stage platform heels and feather boa, she can be found enjoying the more natural elements of her new home of New York City, a move that was inspired by a recent trip to Ethiopia.

“I arrived back in L.A. and I had all day there, and I just went, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ That was the moment for me when I had to move to New York,” she says. “Honestly, there was just endless inspiration [in Ethiopia], and I don’t just mean musically. I was over there working with women with HIV and it was really about hearing people’s stories, about sitting down with them, giving them your love and your heart to understand what life is like for them, and for them to understand what life is like for me. It’s like now it gives more weight to my music because I care about the music having a greater reach, because maybe I could help these women more, for example. It also just puts things into perspective — sometimes we think our career is just everything, you know? Oh my gosh, it’s not.”

—Mike Sunda for Instagram @music

#LocalLens: Walking your Senses through Oaxaca with...

Sat, 07/18/2015 - 14:03

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#LocalLens: Walking your Senses through Oaxaca with @fcoronado

In this series, local Instagrammers show you their favorite places to shoot around where they live. To see more photos of Oaxaca, Mexico, through Frank’s eyes, follow @fcoronado on Instagram.

(This interview was conducted in Spanish.)

“Oaxaca is color, flavor, smells and sounds. Walking through its streets you get a unique encounter with your senses,” says Frank Coronado (@fcoronado), a photographer and painter from the region in southern Mexico.

The Mexican state is known for its cultural diversity, something that Frank aims to capture. “The differences between the eight regions of Oaxaca can be found in their gastronomy, in their textile richness. Every regional costume is made in a different way with colorful threads, which weave traditions inherited throughout generations.”

Frank spent 18 years away from his hometown and was amazed with everything he rediscovered when he returned. “Many people believe that due to the fact that Oaxaca is a small city, not a lot of things happen here. But you just need to walk through its streets to realize there are endless things going on,” he says.

Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPhairplay Weekend Hashtag Project...

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 19:17

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Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPhairplay

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 take creative photos and videos featuring creative hairdos and facial hair. Some tips to get you started:

  • Keep your setting in mind as you stage your shot. On a windy day, the breeze moving through long hair can lend itself to beautiful video portraits — especially if filmed in slow motion.
  • Sharpen your street photography skills and keep an eye out for interesting hairstyles in the wild. Snap from afar or respectfully approach and ask to take a portrait. Or, if you can’t find anything interesting, get creative. Grab a willing friend and break out the hairspray to see what you can create.
  • Finally, as with all photos of people, keep light in mind as you shoot. Take advantage of an overcast sky or nearby window for softer portrait light, or go out into direct sun for bold shadows.

PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPhairplay hashtag only to photos and videos taken over this weekend and only submit your own photographs and videos to the project. If you include music in your video submissions, please only use music to which you own the rights. Any tagged image or video taken over the weekend is eligible to be featured Monday morning.

Honoring Classic Japanese Facades with @twinleaves To see more...

Fri, 07/17/2015 - 13:58

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Honoring Classic Japanese Facades with @twinleaves

To see more photos of classic Japanese facades taken by Hitoshi, follow @twinleaves on Instagram.

(This interview was conducted in Japanese.)

For Hitoshi Kobayashi (@twinleaves) from Tokyo, Japan, the sceneries that excite his photographic endeavors are not the urban landscape or the modern architecture found inside the city center, but rather the decades-old stores and houses which he discovers in suburban neighborhoods. “I’ve just been capturing whatever that catches my attention in the streets, but come to think of it, I think I’m naturally drawn to things that tell stories about people’s lives,” he says.

“Timeworn buildings, overused dustpans and even small inventions like attaching a broken door with a string — these are the kinds of things that I find fascinating,” explains Hitoshi. “The areas I like to go to are restaurant alleys in provincial cities. Old onsen [hot springs] towns are filled with retro, too.”

Over time, his photography has evolved from snapping nostalgic moments to capturing straight facades of aged buildings. “The appearance of the facade changes even with the slightest trim,” he reveals. “It takes forever for me to walk through an old town — because when I’m walking, my eyes and head are so busy trying to trim the reality in front of me.”

Following the Road Trip Adventures of @into_theworld To keep up...

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 21:59

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Following the Road Trip Adventures of @into_theworld

To keep up with Christof’s and Marcus’s adventures on the road, follow @into_theworld on Instagram.

Traveling the world in a car and taking photographs on the road was Christof Schoppa’s and Marcus Hofschulz’s (@into_theworld) dream. The idea came up during a phone call. “The same night we decided: We’re going to do this!” says Marcus.

Since starting the adventure in February, “Kalli,” a transformed Kia Carnival van, is equally vehicle and home to the duo. The brave decision to leave everything behind – apartments, jobs, studies – has been rewarded through unforgettable moments and memories along the way. “It was a starlit night, and we drove along the coast to find a place to sleep. Eventually we found a small sandy path that led to a cliff, offering a vast view over the moonlight-flooded ocean.” So far, Marcus and Christof have visited 13 countries, and there’s no plan to stop any time soon. “We are currently focusing on Europe and then the rest of the world. Into the World is a global photography project,” says Christof.

Filmmaker @andrewthomashuang on His Work with @bjork, Her MoMA...

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 16:45

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Filmmaker @andrewthomashuang on His Work with @bjork, Her MoMA Exhibit and His Childlike Love of Geology

To see more of Andrew’s work with Björk and photos of Iceland, check out @andrewthomashuang on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Andrew Thomas Huang (@andrewthomashuang) is ready for some summer relaxation. While the Los Angeles-based filmmaker is working on a new short/video installation featuring Brooklyn flex dancers, he’s mostly hoping to take it easy after the 18 months he spent working with Björk and doing the dream sequences for Joe Wright’s upcoming Peter Pan prequel Pan, which stars Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Rooney Mara.

The high-profile gigs are perfect for Andrew, whose breakout came with 2012’s Solipsist, a 10-minute experimental short fantasy/sci-fi film featuring actors and puppetry adorned in beautifully colored ornate costumes enhanced by surreal practical and CGI effects. A winner at the 2012 Slamdance film festival, the short ended up catching Björk’s eye. “She contacted me to do a music video for her song ‘Mutual Core’ from Biophilia,” he says. “It was kind of the onset of her break-up with Matthew Barney, but the song was about trying to merge two continents together. You could tell it was a personal song through proxy, so I took the aesthetic from my film and lent it to this song. It kind of worked perfectly because it’s a geological song, so there’s a lot of striations in it and it kind of meshed.”

The look of the video was a natural fit for Andrew, who grew up in the Southwest hating the arid climate before learning to love the natural rock formations he saw during family trips to Bryce and Zion national parks. “You’re confronted with the landscape here,” he says. “I don’t know anything legit about geology from a scientific standpoint. I’m by no means a Shinto Japanese craftsman that cuts rock. It’s more of like a disposable fascination with it.” That love of natural history is reflected both in the “Mutual Core” video and his photos from Iceland. “You can tell where the moss was turning red in the fall,” says Andrew. “You get all these dark, burgundy colors. When I come home, it’s both a shock and familiar to me, the palette in the desert. Going from places so lush and moist to a place that’s so arid, I’m constantly taking photos of the nature that I find on either continent. Nature is the one thing that inspires my work all the time, so I’m often documenting that.”

After working with Björk on “Mutual Core” and letting her get a feel for his artistic process, he was asked to come back and work with her on the visuals for the Vulnicura tracks “Black Lake” and “Stonemilker.” “It’s kind of intimidating working with someone who’s worked with so many people in her career. She’s like the hub of a wheel around which so many people revolve,” he says. The latter video features a 360-degree spherical view of her dancing in a yellow dress on an Icelandic beach, a concept they came up with the evening before. “Something I learned from working with her is not to be afraid to be spontaneous,” says Andrew. “These pieces are more performance heavy. They feature her and they’re very naked and it’s not something I would typically do but that’s also why I wanted to do it. Each one was an act of spontaneity. A lot of it was being out there and happening to capture these amazing things she would do in the spur of the moment.”

Andrew also ended up working on Björk’s infamous Museum of Modern Art retrospective, which received mixed reviews from critics. Right from the start, they ran into a major roadblock: “We wanted to take her music and 3-D print the sound waves along the wall. It hit us very hard what the real budget was and just how many teams of people were involved. Each team was isolated, which is why I think maybe the final product generated so much controversy. There was no single vision behind it.” Eventually, Andrew stepped back and decided to focus just on the portion devoted to “Black Lake,” which involved showing the video in a space that resembled an Icelandic cave.

Though their concepts for the installation didn’t quite pan out, Andrew has nothing but high praise for Björk. “I know it’s stupid to say but when you work with a celebrity, it always comes as a shock when you feel how human and natural that interaction with them is,” he says. “She’s so versatile. She can talk about object-oriented ontology and crazy intellectual stuff, then turn around and put on Chaka Khan and rock out. She can be really funny and dry. Sometimes she’ll say things and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, you’re hilarious.’ Something that I’ve also learned over time is how strong her political stance is, just championing women and people of color and queer people of color, in particular. That’s something I really admire about her, the way that she generously supports other artists out there who sit outside of the norm.”

Now, with a bit of time off to work on his dance-centric short and sketch at his leisure, Andrew says he’s “ready to cleanse my palate a bit” with a bigger dream. “I want to make a feature but the state of the movie industry is so weird right now. It’s so stratified economically. My stuff is very expensive to make. It’s very visual, and I’ve been struggling to figure out how to accomplish that feature in a way that’s consistent with my work. I want to make a movie but I don’t see it as the be-all, end-all. That’s more of a long-term goal.”

– Dan Reilly for Instagram @music

Food That Looks Good and Tastes Good, with @dailybreakfast in...

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 14:00

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Food That Looks Good and Tastes Good, with @dailybreakfast in Milan

For more from Laura’s daily breakfast, follow @dailybreakfast. For more from the Milan World Expo, explore the Expo 2015 Milan location page and follow @expo2015milano on Instagram.

“The culture of Italian food is renowned worldwide and although this is a small country, every region has its gastronomic tradition and even within each region there are huge culinary differences,” says Milan-based photographer and food stylist Laura La Monaca (@dailybreakfast). As a freelancer, Laura says breakfast is the only fixed point of her day before shooting, preparing and working with chefs to create dishes which are not just photogenic, but entirely delicious too. “The food styling process starts from the dish itself: I try to understand what may be the difficulties in terms of photography and try to minimize them. For example, the pasta is better to photograph al dente rather than cooked, and a bit of olive oil makes it more pretty in photos. Then I think about how to serve it, about the set and props to use,” she explains.

Milan’s Expo 2015 (@expo2015milano) runs through the end of October this year, with 140 countries showcasing sustainable solutions to providing food for everyone. “This is a great opportunity for Italy,” Laura adds. “An opportunity to bring attention to the enormous amount of food wasted every day and to learn about the traditions and culture of the countries that joined the Expo.”

Blue Brush Strokes with @danischafer_ For more of Dani...

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 18:57

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Blue Brush Strokes with @danischafer_

For more of Dani Schafer’s photos, follow @danischafer_ on Instagram.

Spend time looking at Dani Schafer’s (@danischafer_) recent work and you might feel an overwhelming sense of calm. “I never consciously intended to work with cooler tones, but once I started I couldn’t stop,” says Dani, an artist in Madison, Wisconsin. “I’ll move away from them when they no longer fit my vision.” She starts her 3-D pieces with drawings and plans, but her painting process is different. “They begin with a vague idea in my mind — maybe a few colors, the shadows of a few forms,” she says. “Once I start, it all happens on my palette and the painting surface.”

Although Dani has been painting since she was in elementary school, it became her primary medium only a few years ago. “In college my focus was on sculpture and installation — larger-scale work,” she says. “It’s important for me to keep working across genres, regardless of what my current focus may be.”

The #roadtothejump with @hardwell, the World’s Number One DJ To...

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 16:35

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The #roadtothejump with @hardwell, the World’s Number One DJ

To see more of Hardwell’s journey, check out @hardwell and the #roadtothejump hashtag on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

Ibiza on Tuesday. Majorca on Friday. Barcelona on Saturday. Then it’s back to Ibiza before jet-setting to Holland to get ready for the electronic music festival Tomorrowland.

This is the life of the world’s number one DJ, Robbert van de Corput, aka Hardwell (@hardwell). Before this year is through, Hardwell will have played for thousands of fans at 150 concerts around the world. At each show, he’ll tell those in attendance to scream, to throw their hands in the air and, most importantly, to jump, in what has become his signature show-stopping moment.

“It’s amazing. You can’t even describe it with words,” he says, of the instant he starts counting and then telling people to reach for the sky. “Being in control of a crowd, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m a DJ. It’s great to touch so many people with your music. You’re in control of making the best party possible.”

Ironically, Hardwell got the idea for the jump movement from the times he wasn’t DJing.

“I was always grabbing the mic when my friends were playing,” he says. “I spoke for them. I came up with the ‘1-2-3 jump’ thing. It’s so familiar now. Everybody is using it. I just did it once, and it worked, so I kept doing it.”

“The Jump” is now ubiquitous in the DJ world, which is why Hardwell and his camp began the #roadtothejump hashtag last week, allowing his fans to share their own Jump moments with each other in real time. In turn, Hardwell has been leading them along the journey, giving his followers a chance to get a personal, inside look at his tour.

But the road isn’t always glamorous. The energy from shows often leaves the 27-year-old performer staying up long after the set has finished. And since he’s usually playing again the next day, he’ll typically get only two to four hours of sleep a night –– though he’ll try to sneak a nap in on the plane or in the van on the way to the gig. He also rarely has a chance to catch up with friends or family. Still, he wouldn’t trade what he’s doing now –– visiting different cities, making new friends and getting people to jump as high as they can –– for anything.

“I’m living my dream literally at this moment,” he says. “I can travel the world, play to different cultures, different people all around the world. It’s really amazing … It’s definitely really exhausting to do a world tour, but I will never complain because this I what I want to do.”

– Kat Bein for Instagram @music

Curiosity, Surprise, Constant Exploration with...

Wed, 07/15/2015 - 13:56

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Curiosity, Surprise, Constant Exploration with @dita_alangkara

To see more vibrant photos from Jakarta and elsewhere, follow @dita_alangkara on Instagram.

Like countless people around the world, Indonesian photojournalist Dita Alangkara (@dita_alangkara) commutes to work. Unlike most of those people, Dita enjoys the ride. “Jakarta, where I live, is huge — a city of ten million people and really crowded, so traffic is crazy here,” he says. “I commute on the bus so I have a lot of time to observe, and I enjoy working in this traffic chaos.” Some of his most thoughtful pictures are made in the midst of colossal traffic jams.

Dita, 40, started shooting when he was in his teens (he’s been a professional photographer since 1997), so he’s had a good, long time to hone his craft. When he first started, though, it was as much the camera as the pictures he made that he fell in love with.

“My dad had a small range-finder camera when I was a kid,” Dita says, “and he let me play around with it, and that was the point when I really got fascinated by photography. The technology was so amazing. You could take an image of something and print it out and show friends or family members, and to me that was just incredible. In my hometown in central Java, a camera was a rare thing back then.”

And he still has the same drive to make beautiful images today.

“Curiosity is something that every photographer should have, I think,” Dita says. “Curiosity is what brings us to new places. It helps us to refresh our eyes, to refresh our minds, gives us new ideas. Curiosity, surprise, constant exploration. That’s it. That’s what keeps us going.”

Perhaps it’s that very curiosity — as well as a vivid imagination — that allows Dita to appreciate other aspects of the everyday that might go unremarked by the rest of us.

“You know,” he says, “when I’m commuting and I’m surrounded by all of these people, on the bus or on bicycles or motorbikes, I see them as heroes, because they sacrifice themselves, in a way. Public transportation in Jakarta is really not very good. There are so many very, very old buses operating here. But all of these people take public transportation to get to work. Maybe they have to, because they can’t afford cars or motorbikes,” he adds. “But unwittingly, I guess, they become heroes for others. Imagine if they bought their own cars! People would be stuck in even crazier traffic jams.”

For his part, Dita might not see himself as a hero, but he also doesn’t see himself giving up his commute anytime soon. After all, he gets much of his inspiration from his daily travels. “It can be powerful, or it can be nothing,” he says of his adventures on Jakarta’s streets. “Like today, I took three buses today and I got nothing. But on another day I might get on one bus and get 10, 20 pictures. You never know what you’ll see next. That’s what I like.”

Talking Family, Fans and Thunderstorms with MLB All-Star...

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 20:01

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Talking Family, Fans and Thunderstorms with MLB All-Star @miketrout

For personal photos from a superstar athlete, follow @miketrout on Instagram.

Twenty-three-year-old Mike Trout (@miketrout) is baseball’s reigning American League MVP. He signed a $144.5 million contract in 2014, and will be up for another deal before he turns 30. And yet, his feed reveals a regular guy who loves his job, his family, his young fans and, interestingly enough, weather.

“Growing up, I always watched the weather with my dad,” Mike says of his father, former minor leaguer Jeff Trout. “He got me hooked. I love watching it snow and any kind of thunderstorm.” Naturally, the first photo he shared from Cincinnati, where he is now to play in his fourth All-Star Game, was of pedestrians caught in the rain.

The superstar athlete loves his young fans, who make art and signs for him all the time. “It’s always cool to see how creative fans can get. I appreciate it. It’s humbling!” he says. One child actually has a net that Mike tosses a ball into every home game that’s known as — what else? — the “Trout Net!” “What’s cool is [the kid] always finds a new fan to give a ball to,” Mike says.

Mike’s most important little fans may be his sister Teal’s two kids. In one of the many personal photos he has posted, he was practicing letters with his niece. “I try to be the best uncle there is so I spoil her pretty good,” he says.

This week, Mike will get a few days off for the All-Star celebrations. Then it’s back to work trying to lead his team, the first-place Los Angeles Angels, back to the playoffs. Still, he doesn’t boast about having such an outstanding 2015 so far. (Eighty-eight games into the season, he already has 26 home runs, compared to his career high of 36, which he hit last year in 157 contests.) “I love the game,” Mike says. “I do my best to play it the right way. When you go out there and have fun, good things will happen.”

Singer and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Star @courtneyact Marches to Her...

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 16:27

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Singer and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Star @courtneyact Marches to Her Own Drumbeat

To see more of Courtney’s photos, check out @courtneyact on Instagram. For more music stories, head to @music.

In 2008, drag queen Courtney Act (@courtneyact) stood on stage in her hometown of Sydney, Australia, and performed “What About This?” a song about homophobic violence and her experience getting mugged.

“This rally came up, and I ended up singing it just with a guitar,” says the 33-year-old singer. “It was outdoor in this park, and it was a really cool experience. It was the first time I performed my original music in public.”

Courtney initially rose to fame in 2003 on the TV show Australian Idol. A decade later, she was living in Los Angeles, appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Though the venue has changed over the years, Courtney’s commitment to using music to stand up for what she believes in has not.

This month, she released a music video for her song “Ugly,” a track off her new EP Kaleidoscope, which tells the story of a transformative relationship she had with a straight-identifying man. “He’d never been with a nonbiological female before,” says Courtney. “We were together when I was Courtney, and we continued when I was not Courtney.” The overall focus is about sexual and gender fluidity. However, Courtney didn’t always know where she stood on either subject. “This year I’ve come to discover more about myself,” she says. “I used to kind of put [my gender and sexuality] into a rigid box where I was, like, a gay man, and now over the last year I’ve become a lot more comfortable with everything, and I’ve realized that my sexuality and my gender are both fluid, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

That’s why Courtney uses social media to shine a light on herself and other people. The singer’s Instagram shows everything from glamorous professional portraits to her in a bathtub shaving her legs. Her photos are a reflection of the full spectrum of her real life. “I remember the pop stars that I looked up to in the ’90s and 2000s were always kind of untouchable and perfect,” she says. “I think that people love to see silly, fun things – things that aren’t polished.”

Her photos are also about celebration, she says. “Celebrate those things about yourself that you’re ashamed of, because there’s a reason that you’re ashamed of it, and if it’s who you are, there’s nothing you can do about it. And when you do celebrate it, you will learn that it could actually be your greatest strength and not a weakness at all.”

For Courtney, celebrating her authentic self is still the best form of activism. “I think that if you just beat your own drum then people will stand up and take notice of that.”

– Instagram @music

Working with Passion in Paris with @lapetitetouche To see...

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 13:59

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Working with Passion in Paris with @lapetitetouche

To see Bastille Day celebrations all over the world, browse the #14juillet hashtag, and for more from Phémina and Lélé, follow @lapetitetouche.

For one Parisian couple, the city of romance inspired not only enduring love but also a joint artistic endeavor. “Lélé is my muse; it was obvious to combine our passions, our love for art. Photography is a way to express ourselves,” says Phémina Madiande, a self-taught painter and photographer, and one-half of La Petite Touche (@lapetitetouche) — an artistic collective. Phémina met Lélé Matelo, an actor/model, eight years ago in the city, and three years ago they began working together creatively, inspired by everything: light, place, the name of a street and color. “Working with passion is our motto,” says Lélé. “Paris is a cosmopolitan and beautiful city, that’s why we rediscover it every day.”

On July 14, Francophiles all over the world celebrate France’s national holiday with fireworks and a military parade down the Champs-Élysées in Paris. “To be French means to live in a beautiful country with a heritage, rich history and culture,” says Lélé. “We will go to see fireworks and explore Paris by night; the lights adorn the city, it’s wonderful,” adds Phémina.

Reinventing the Dog Paddle with @bonosurfdog To add some...

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 01:42

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Reinventing the Dog Paddle with @bonosurfdog

To add some tropical fluff to your feed, follow @bonosurfdog on Instagram.

Hello, Instagram! Welcome to a special tropical edition of #WeeklyFluff. Few people get to surf Rio de Janeiro’s waves with their very best friend. Personal trainer Ivan Moreira (@bonosurfdog) is lucky enough to share his surfboard with his bestie, a champion surfer Labrador named Bono.

“I bought a stand up paddle when Bono was just six months old. Bono loves the water and would swim after me. I helped him get on the board and we began to surf together. We caught our first wave at a beach called Praia do Rosa, in the south of Brazil. Since that day, I take Bono with me each time the ocean is calm enough,” says Ivan. All that practice makes perfect, and the surfing duo were recently crowned champions during a worldwide tournament in Huntington Beach, California.

Ivan’s desire to capture and share photographs of Bono came about when he realized that his dog was different. “Not just because he surfs, but especially because of the happiness he feels when he gets on the board. He barks happily and wags his tail,” says Ivan, who has now gotten used to celebrity status on Rio’s beaches. “When we get out of the water, there are always requests for photos with Bono!”

Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPscreentest Weekend Hashtag Project...

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 20:00

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Weekend Hashtag Project: #WHPscreentest

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 #WHPscreentest, which asked participants to capture moving portraits that convey a sense of personality. Every Monday we feature some of our favorite submissions from the project, but be sure to check out the rest here.

@vincentmoustache Finds Delicious Silhouettes at...

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 13:29

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@vincentmoustache Finds Delicious Silhouettes at @giambattistapr’s Couture Show

To see more photos and videos of Giambattista’s show, follow @vincentmoustache and @giambattistapr on Instagram.

The women in the world of the illustrator Vincent Moustache (@vincentmoustache) are chic with wide, curious eyes and long, elegant necks. “I try to capture that delicious silhouette,” says Vincent, who lives in Paris. Delicious silhouettes were everywhere during the haute couture shows last week, when Vincent was invited to the Giambattista Valli (@giambattistapr) presentation as well as to the showroom to see the pieces up close. “Giambattista dresses extraordinary women, and you can see it in his designs,” Vincent says. “Each of his designs represent a small tale, and you can find lots of special details.”

This year Giambattista celebrated 10 years in fashion, and the presentation was fittingly spectacular. “Giambattista brings a contemporary romantic silhouette,” Vincent says. “This, plus a sophisticated color palette and a mix of embroidery make his designs some of the most interesting.”

The stylish world of Vincent Moustache extends beyond fashion presentations to include lighthearted moments he imagines, such as a meeting of two turtles in top hats or a conversation between summer cocktails. “Life is too short to take too seriously,” he says. “It is good to find moments for everything. I think humor is the best we can do as humans.”

Bringing Together a Generation of Young Artists And Feminists,...

Sun, 07/12/2015 - 19:07

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Bringing Together a Generation of Young Artists And Feminists, with @malalafund

For more images and stories from young activists, follow @malalafund and explore the #booksnotbullets hashtag.

In true teen idol fashion, Malala Yousafzai (@malalafund) inspires girls around the world to create fan art. And the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who turns 18 years old today, found and shared one particular drawing on her Instagram account — made in chalk, featuring the words “extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book.”

The drawing was created by 16-year-old Morgan Ciocca (@macklemorgz) from Kansas City, Kansas, and it was shared with Malala by her 16-year-old best friend, Maddi McMaster (@maddibraps).

“It’s odd to reflect on how Malala’s story has impacted my life, since it has with such immensity,” says Maddi. “To me, the quote on Morgan’s drawing means that for women across the world, knowledge and education are our greatest powers and weapons against sexism.”

Morgan’s chalk piece was made during an art day at her high school, where she was asked to illustrate something that reflected diversity and inclusion. Turning it into a tribute to Malala was a no-brainer.

“Recently, I taught my ten-year-old sister and a few of her friends the meaning of feminism and about Malala,” says Morgan. “I believe young women see someone who very much resembles them, standing up for her rights, and feel as if they can do the same.”

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