From Maine to California and Florida to Alaska, more than 90 million Americans have joined Instagram since the photography site launched in 2010. TIME LightBox selects 50 Instagram accounts to follow – one from each and every state.
A former photo editor for the White House, Jared Ragland is also a photographer and professor at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. For him, Instagram is a “creative outlet” that he uses to “experiment, play and engage in a dynamic dialogue with other photographers.” His feed is a mix of black-and-white street scenes (realized with the app’s Inkwell filter) and the eerie collages that are one of his passions.
Corey Arnold might reside in Portland, Ore., but he spends the majority of his time in Bristol Bay, Alaska, where he runs a wild sockeye salmon fishing operation in “an abandoned cannery complex called Graveyard Point,” he says. It so happens that Arnold is also a professional photographer whose work has been published in magazines worldwide and in two now hard-to-find books. His photographs of fishermen at work offer a quiet and intimate look at the trade – one that cannot be missed.
Ryan Neal Cordwell
Ryan Neal Cordwell is one part of the duo behind the creative design firm Royal & Design in Arizona, and his Instagram feed shows where the creative director gets his inspiration and love for simple, yet carefully composed photographs.
Nina Robinson lives in the Bronx, but in 2014 when she returned to Dalark, Ark., to say goodbye to her grandmother, she stayed to create a body of work that explores life and loss. “My family has a storied history in the South, going back six generations in Arkansas,” she says. “I became fascinated with exploring these often overlooked communities experiencing varying states of decline.” Now, she’s taking this work further, looking at the Center Point African Methodist Episcopal Church, a community epicenter in rural Arkansas that was built, in part, by her great-grandfather in 1944. Her aim is “to document rarely seen moments illustrating faith, poverty, education and race within this rural African American community.”
For more than 20 years, Matt Black has been photographing extreme poverty in California’s Central Valley where issues of immigration, climate change and economic hardship are intertwined. His powerful, black-and-white images bring the reality of poverty into people’s pockets, offering a stark reminder of our country’s fragile social fabric. Now, he’s taken his work across the country using Instagram as his publishing platform.
The Denver-based photographer used to be a wildland firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service Hotshots. Now, his photographic work focuses on Western America “to explore the vastness and beauty of its space with the people and stories that occupy it,” he says. For him, Instagram is a test kitchen – a place to get quick feedback and experiment. “I have found, on Instagram, an audience to help me think through some visual challenges,” he explains.
A self-described photographer and poet, Janeivy Hilario looks at Instagram as a way to “interlay my vision of making connections with what my hometown and Connecticut has to offer,” he says. “From partnering with brands and local businesses to hosting Insta-meets to bring a community together.” His feed offers a stimulating view of Connecticut through a mix of landscape images and striking portraits.
Laura E. Pritchett
Known predominantly for her painting work, Laura E. Pritchett is also a photographer who shares her inspiring images on her Instagram feed. With more than 200,000 followers, she has quickly been noticed for her work and is now represented by the Tinker Street agency.
MrAntooine’s artistic approach is full of humor. The photographer from Florida plays with the idea of the absurd, the self and time in multiple forms: a man with an iPad-face holds a human head-device while another, lifting his t-shirt, sports a six-pack of beers. In his signature pictures, shadows rarely reflect the original shapes, and an invisible man often comes into play while MrAntooine’s piercing captions add a hint of wit to each square.
Landscape images used to dominate Tim Lampe’s Instagram feed but, in recent months, he’s taken a new approach based, in large part, on his experience as a designer. “[I’m] sharing images that build up this alternate reality that’s not so different from our existing one,” he says. “I found more satisfaction in creating images that resonated with people and made them feel something.” And the response was overwhelming, he explains. “There’s so much noise in social media that I want to be deliberate in what I share and offer it as an opportunity to put a positive attitude in someone’s day.”
No one will disagree with Melanie Tjoeng when she says that Hawaii is a paradise for photographers. “It’s very easy to capture beautiful images here; not only is the landscape majestic, but also the people and culture are equally beautiful,” she says. And Instagram is the best place to showcase that beauty as well as her photography skills. “It gives not only an insight into my life but a representation of my work; it’s incredible to be able to share those things with so many people.” Her feed is a mixture of daily life, travel and work photographs. “All in all, it’s a representation of how I see and feel about the world around me,” she says.
Camrin Dengel grew up in Alaska, but she now calls Idaho her home, sharing on Instagram carefully crafted photographs of rural life. “The story I’ve chosen to tell with my photographs is one that is close to the earth, full of raw and organic beauty,” she says. “I’ve been diving deep into the theme of ‘returning to our roots’; nourishing a relationship with our food and forging a connection with the natural world.”
As a photojournalist, Joshua Lott maintains a feed that captures people and places he encounters around the country and in his own community. “Instagram is a great platform and opportunity to showcase my images around the world,” he says. The photographer spent nine months in Iowa in 2008 to cover the presidential election, and now he’s back in the neighboring state for the 2016 elections.
Only 17, Skyler Wagoner already shows great promise. His photographs of Indiana’s countryside, mixed with portraits of his friends, have a certain nostalgic Stand By Me feel to them.
A native of Iowa, Garrett Cornelison has quickly established his name on Instagram with more than 140,000 followers, receiving commissions from commercial clients such as Lincoln, Hollister and Aeropostale. His particular style of photography has even become a filter in the Priime photo app. Now, after a 50-state documentary journey, he’s settling in Los Angeles — but, he says, Iowa remains his “forever home.”
Béle Benard is an artist, designer and photographer originally from Wichita, Kans. “I approach Instagram like I approached painting and drawing growing up – trial and error,” she says. A novice photographer – she started taking pictures a year ago – Benard uses photography as a “therapeutic creative outlet” beyond school activities. “It’s all about being open to new modes of creating. You can’t be afraid of messing up, because it’s going to happen. What’s important is how you deal with it; you can’t dwell. You can only try again.”
A photojournalist who’s been chasing the news around the country – from the White House to Ferguson – Luke Sharrett turns to Instagram to escape the pressure of the job. “It’s a place where I can be myself,” he says. “I’ve been on a railroad kick for the past 26 years, which means I post my fair share of train pictures.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“It’s easy to associate New Orleans with a couple of buzzwords: Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, Hurricane Katrina,” says Claire Bangser. “But below the surface, the city is culturally rich, diverse, complex and wholly undefinable. It’s like nowhere else in America.” That’s why the young photographer decided to start NOLAbeings to present her city’s diverse population and history. “Every day I approach strangers on the street and ask to take their portrait. It’s a jumping off point to ask about their lives,” she says. “My hope for the project is that – in some small way – it inspires more people to talk to strangers, to listen deeply and to start meaningful dialogues within the community.”
Abigail Johnson-Ruscansky, a 21-year-old photographer living in Maine, loves Instagram because of its community. “It helps me make friends from all over the world, meet in real life and shoot together, all while sharing creative ideas and inspiring one another,” she says. Her carefully composed photographs, which draw from her interest in fine art, showcase everyday moments. “Whether I am trying out a new coffee shop, excited about the place I am exploring or showing appreciation for who I am with, I love to document and share moments of my day through images [that] communicate with my followers,” she says.
For Devin Allen, a West Baltimore-born and raised photographer, this photo changed his life. When Freddie Gray died in police custody, Allen took his camera and started covering the protests, uploading his best photos on his Instagram feed. One of them, shown here, made the cover of TIME magazine, propelling the young photographer to the national stage. Since then, his photographs have been exhibited in museums in Baltimore (and at Photoville in New York City in September) and are now part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. Allen continues to photograph his city, but he also teaches his craft to Baltimore’s youth.
A founding member of the VII Photo agency and a National Geographic photographer, John Stanmeyer has worked in nearly 100 countries. As a result, his feed is an invitation to travel the world and discover new cultures. When he’s in Massachusetts, where he owns the Stanmeyer Gallery & Shaker Dam Coffeehouse in West Stockbridge, he shares his love of the Berkshires and, of course, coffee.
It was at a family picnic in August 2013 that 73-year-old Patricia Lay-Dorsey discovered Instagram. Since that day, she’s been using the app to create a community and to share blurry black-and-white images of her daily life with her husband. The images now form a body of work she calls Tea for Two. Why blurry? Because she wanted to move away from sharp focus, concentrating on people’s vibrational energy, she says. “With Instagram, I’m free to play, to color outside the lines, to explore new avenues and simply see what happens,” she adds. “As an artist I know that is where creativity flourishes.”
Based in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, Madelynn Furlong is an art director, fashion blogger and creative consultant. Furlong has collaborated with several American apparel brands and now works as the art director of Target in the Minneapolis area. Out of her intimate desire to create and share a “simpler, more thoughtful wardrobe, home and lifestyle,” in 2010 Furlong founded Wide Eyed Legless, a fashion blog where she shares her minimalistic-chic approach to style and beauty. Her signature style is mirrored by her Instagram feed’s.
Melissa Vincent’s interest in mobile photography was sparked when she joined Instagram in April 2011. Her photographs quickly caught public attention as she gained many followers and after one of her snapshots was featured on the cover of TIME magazine’s first annual Wireless Issue in 2012. Her Instagram feed depicts fairy tale-like, dreamy landscapes where the line between photography and visual art smoothly intersects. Her goal, she says, is to show a “different side of Mississippi.”
Melissa Spitz has spent the last six years documenting her mentally ill mother. When she started sharing her photographs on Instagram, she was attracted to the app’s grid view, which, she says, is “like a window that gives viewers an opportunity to physically dissect images while simultaneously realizing that this was very metaphorical to understanding mental illness.” In essence, she adds, “my Instagram has become another cathartic facet of the story involving my mother.”
A National Geographic photographer, Ami Vitale uses Instagram to showcase images that speak of the connections that exist between people, communities and nature. “I use photography to focus on the commonalities rather then the things that divide,” she says. That link can be found in her home state of Montana, or 5,000 miles away in China or Kenya if she’s on assignment.
Omaha-based self-taught photographer Brett Brooner admits without any fuss his Instagram addiction, a smartphone-related mania that has gotten him more than 60,000 followers. Mostly shot in color, wedding pictures and laid-back portrait shots fill his Instagram gallery, along with captivating images of the Nebraska landscape. As he frequently scouts for shooting locations with fellow photographers, Brooner often appears in his own images.
Johnny Lace is only 23 but he’s already deeply embedded in the Instagram community. His carefully composed photographs of Las Vegas and other areas in the state, as well as his youthful portraits, are a delight. “I feel that Instagram has changed the way we see things,” says the photographer, who has a particular love for street scenes. “You never know what you’ll capture when you’re out there.”
Cheryle St. Onge
Cheryle St. Onge, a photographer, artist and educator who received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009, is an enthusiastic adopter of the 8×10 format, which she uses to photograph her surroundings in New Hampshire and Maine. But she has also eagerly embraced Instagram since 2011. “Instagram allows me to share and experiment with my work in a much more instantaneous way and gain feedback almost immediately,” she says.
Boasting a decadent aesthetic, Tilly García, based out of Asbury Park, N.J., floods her feed with natural shots of velvety flowers, handmade gothic ornaments, and the romantic and supernatural allure of faded and mysterious books. Some of her photographs turn into prints available in García’s Etsy shop.
Stella Maria Baer
While Stella Maria Baer lives in New Haven, Conn., her work as a painter and photographer takes her back to her native New Mexico. Her inspiring Instagram feed shows photographs from the deserts and valleys that rule her dreams, alongside examples of her paintings of planets and moons.
Thomas Prior first got into photography at age 13 when he won a drawing contest and used the cash prize to buy himself a camera. A graduate from the School of Visual Arts in New York, Thomas has quickly differentiated himself from his peers with his simple yet raw aesthetic, especially when he’s photographing athletes. His Instagram feed is a sketchbook, he says. “I used to shoot with a small camera and post pictures to my blog. I treated the process like eyeball training and that approach bled over to using a phone instead and posting to Instagram.” The feed is a must-see, especially for those in need of inspiration.
John Tully is an independent photographer based in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. With a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism obtained in 2008, Tully has worked as a newspaper staff photographer and has turned to his phone’s camera and his Instagram feed to create a photographic diary that offers “a visual glimpse of real moments in everyday life,” he says.
The sky in North Dakota can be mesmerizing, and Ben Gumeringer captures its massive, fluffy clouds and stark horizon line in a series of beautiful photographs. “Growing up I was never good at expressing myself artistically,” he says. “I couldn’t draw or paint to save my life, but as soon as I picked up a camera, I could express myself. My camera has taken me to places I could have never imagined.” Based in Bismarck, Gumeringer is now a freelance photojournalist after having interned at Fargo’s Spotlight Media, the publisher of four local magazines.
Robert W. Tobin
Based in Columbus, Ohio, 44-year-old Robert W. Tobin worked as an interior designer for almost two decades, before pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education from Otterbein University, following his greater passion to become a teacher. Still, the aesthetic approach nurtured during his designer career emerges in his visual chronicle from Columbus: portraits, objects, shapes and views of the urban landscape compose his snippets, creating what Tobin calls #StoryInASquare.
Originally from Choctaw, Jonathan Burkhart is now a portrait and wedding photographer based in Oklahoma City. His curiosity and love of the outdoors bring him to adventurous explorations, camping or hiking with friends, moments that he often captures with his phone. His Instagram feed, a gallery of portraits and natural landscape shots, is boosted with VSCO cam-processed photos but also reveals his occasional use of traditional film.
Camille Storch spends most of her time in farms and gardens in rural Oregon where she and her husband, a beekeeper, live. Her feed is a feast for the eyes with pictures of food, farms, forests and, of course, bees. “I worked on farms for years and still spend a lot of time in my parents’ garden, so I’m a big fan of and advocate for fresh produce,” she says.
A freelance photojournalist based in Philadelphia, Charles Mostoller shares on his Instagram feed images he shoots “on the periphery of assignments,” he says. “I generally use my Instagram account as a place to publish the photos that don’t have a home in the paper or on the wire. I like looking for small/side moments while on assignment, and often these are my favorite photos.” For Mostoller, Instagram acts as a journal but also a business card. “Many photographers and photo editors follow me and vice versa, and by keeping a relatively steady stream of high quality photos on there I give editors a chance to see what I’ve been working on.”
For Jesse Burke, a professional photographer from Rhode Island, nature holds an important place in his work as well as in his relationship with his three daughters. “[We] often embark on road trips to explore the natural world,” Burke writes on his website, explaining how their travels often inspire reflections on the “vastness of nature” as they get in touch with the earth – something particularly important at a time when technology can monopolize children’s attentions. In Burke’s work the desire to reconnect with the natural elements is powerful. “I want [them] to truly understand how wild and precious nature is and how we, as humans, are an integral part of the system.”
One part of the photographic duo Brinson+Banks, Brinson wears many hats. “I create lifestyle ad photography alongside my husband for major brands, I do portraiture and documentary work for national magazines and newspapers, and I work on personal photo projects when I’m really excited or intrigued about something.” In addition, as her colorful Instagram feed clearly shows, she documents her daily life and many travels across the country. “Just recently I dug deep into my Instagram stream looking for an old photo and was reminded of joyful moments I’d completely forgotten,” she says. “Photography is really wonderful like that.”
The Instagram feed of Jenn Zeller, a proud South Dakota cowgirl, doesn’t lack for delightful insights into what an authentic cattle ranch life feels like: scenes of cows and yearlings led to fresh pasture and of indoor horse training share space with snapshots of rustic local food, ranch critters and floral surroundings.
With close to 1 million followers on Instagram, chances are you’ve already heard of Theron Humphrey and his acrobatic dog, Maddie. The Tennessee-based photographer is famous for the quirky snapshots of Maddie balancing on random objects around the U.S. – a photographic tradition he launched more than three years ago. As the months went on, the poses became more elaborate. If you spend the time going through his archives of shots, you will not only witness the formation of a real bond between Humphrey and Maddie, but also the evolution in the photographer’s work from regular snapshots to aesthetically mastered works of art.
Dubbed the candy-colored minimalist, Matt Crump presents a psychedelic view of Texas. A former art director, he turned to photography after discovering Instagram and experimenting with colors (he uses a combination the apps TouchReTouch, VSCO and PicTapGo to produce his surreal compositions). He has no regrets about the switch, he says: “It seems to strike a happy chord with followers—they tell me how good it makes them feel, that my daily posts brighten their day, that they’re inspired. That’s my motivation.”
Ryan Thayne sees himself as a freelance wilderness photographer, and it’s hard to argue against this label when you see the photographs he shares of Utah. The state’s many geological features shine through his images – from its famous salt lakes to its mesmerizing green, yellow and orange mountains. “My goal is to share the beauty of the earth’s wilderness with people who might not be able to go out and see it for themselves,” he says. “I feel like nature is a great stress reliever and in this super sped-up modern world most people don’t get a chance to experience wilderness that often.” Thayne often tries to include a person in his photos, “not only to show scale,” he says, “but also to symbolize the connection between us and nature.”
The black-and-white delicate aesthetic of Vermont photographer Shane Lavalette neatly plays with shapes, lights and shadows, as well as seductive silhouettes emerging in urban landscapes. Lavelette’s Instagram photographs, mostly posted without a caption, enable a freedom of interpretation that makes the viewer linger at the photographer’s evocative visual portfolio.
A flight attendant always on the go, Taylor Tippett is based out of Reagan National Airport in Virginia but she spends most of her time on planes, snapping shots of whatever inspires her during her erratic but exciting wandering. A lover of pineapple pizza and the wildflowers that she photographs in teeny bouquets, Tippett has started a little social movement by sticking thankful notes on the windows of airplanes and tagging them #WordsFromTheWindowSeat.
Hawkeye Huey is the five-year-old son of National Geographic photographer Aaron Huey. Armed with his Fujifilm Instax 300, the young photographer has become an Instagram sensation – he has close to 100,000 followers – as he shares snapshots in and around Seattle and beyond. He’s even been signed by National Geographic Creative, which will become his agent. No doubt, Hawkeye has a bright future in photography ahead of him.
Stacy Kranitz’s Instagram feed offers a raw, sincere and fascinating exploration of West Virginia and the Appalachia through the people she meets and the stories she recounts.
Kevin J. Miyazaki
Kevin J. Miyazaki initially resisted Instagram, fearing that it would stifle his photography. But he soon changed his mind when he realized that the photo-sharing service kept him visually curious, as he says, just the way he felt when he first started taking pictures. The Wisconsin-based photographer doesn’t limit his work to his home state. In July, for example, he was in Japan, where he rediscovered his roots through a series of images he posted on his feed. “The process was quite important in how I experienced and recorded the trip,” he explains.
Best known for his groundbreaking work in North Korea, the Iowa-born David Guttenfelder relocated to Minnesota last year. Yet, for the past year, he’s been based in Wyoming. There, he has embarked on a thorough documentation of Yellowstone National Park for National Geographic, to be published in 2016. Expect to see a lot more of his Wyoming work in the coming weeks and months.