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Matt Black Is TIME’s Pick for Instagram Photographer of the Year 2014

The Californian photographer has spent the last year putting poverty on the map using Instagram

For many of his Instagram followers, Matt Black is a newcomer. He joined the photo-sharing app in December of 2013 to chart, through a series of gritty and deeply personal black-and-white photographs, the physical terrain of economic inequality in his native Central Valley of California, home to three of the five poorest metropolitan areas in the U.S.

“The Central Valley is this kind of vast unknown zone,” Black says. “These towns, these communities are right in the heart of the richest state in the richest country in the world. It’s halfway between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and yet, you still have conditions like these,” where poor communities are left with bad roads, dirty water, crummy schools and polluted air.

Black’s work might be new to Instagram, but the 44-year-old photographer has spent more than 20 years exploring issues of migration, farming and the environment in the area. That was never his intention, though. “When I first started in photography, my goal was to get out of the Central Valley,” he says. “But it quickly became clear to me that if I had a significant thing to say, it would be about the place I’m from.”

Over 100 years, migration, farm labor and poverty have shaped the region, he says. “These are the places that actually produce what feeds the nation, and the irony is that we’re so dependent on these communities for food and yet rarely do people take time to actually look at them and understand what the challenges are, what these folks are facing — what their lives are like.”

Black’s Geography of Poverty project is designed to address these issues. “People should care because we’re all implicated in this system,” he says. “What we pay at the supermarket is what eventually goes to the farms and goes to the farm laborers. We’re all connected. So, [if] I can lift that veil and make that connection between what we eat, the choices we make, and how that impacts real people — communities — that’s the role I can play.”

The best way to do so, Black explains, was by using the unlikeliest of platforms for a photographer who developed his visual identity at a regional newspaper where black-and-white fiber paper prints were the norm.

There’s no doubt that Black is an unconventional choice for Instagram Photographer of the Year. For one thing, he doesn’t always uses an iPhone to shoot the images he posts on his feed – “It’s a mixture of iPhone and a Sony RX 100 camera,” he says, “but it seems like the convention is: if you’re upfront about it, then you’re not cheating, so I’ve been upfront about it.” Second, he’s not a prolific user. In the year since he joined the photo-sharing network, he’s posted 73 images – an average of one photograph every five days. That’s because he doesn’t look at Instagram as a daily journal. “I want each image to contribute and advance this portrait that I’m building, and if I feel like the images that I shot don’t meet that standard, then I don’t publish that day. I’ll wait until the next time.”

For him, Instagram’s appeal resides in its mapping feature – which allows photographers to add geographic coordinates to their images. “Maps are fantastic,” says Black. “They [offer] a complementary augmentation of reality. Photography and maps are similar: they’re born out of the same idea of describing a place for another person to engage with. And, they are right there, together, on that same platform. Without this map, I would not be on Instagram.”

The mapping feature might have attracted Black to Instagram, but the newfound freedom and sense of community is what kept him on the photo-sharing app. “I started Geography of Poverty with 20 followers. I had no clue if people would even understand what this was, and [I didn’t know] whether or not people would want to engage with me over these issues.”

To his surprise, Black found that Instagram users valued substance, engaging with the photographer and his work. “That’s reflected in the comments,” he says. “It’s interesting because in my other work, which are long-term photo essays, I’d spend one or two years trying to tell a story, and people wouldn’t have an opportunity to respond. It was top-down. On Instagram, it’s an unfolding, ongoing narrative, and people engage with that in a new way. It’s something they choose to receive. People take it in. People receive the work in a more intimate way. It’s right there, close to them. You don’t get that same reaction from a gallery show or from a book.”

This, he adds, offers “a fantastic opportunity for photographers to have an independent voice. There are hundreds of millions of people on Instagram wanting to engage with photography. If you’re a photographer working on these issues for so long, how can you not want to reach those people?”

Matt Black is a freelance photographer based in California. Follow him on Instagram @mattblack_blackmatt. In 2013, David Guttenfelder was TIME’s Instagram Photographer of the Year.

Phil Bicker, who edited this photo essay, is a Senior Photo Editor at TIME.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME celebrities

Angelina Jolie Has a Cyber-Security Team Monitoring Her Kids’ Internet Use

2014 Variety Screening Series - "Difret" Screening
Executive producer Angelina Jolie attends the 2014 Variety Screening Series of "Difret" at ArcLight Hollywood on December 9, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez—Getty Images

She says she and husband Brad Pitt, who don't use social media, "wouldn't even know what to look for."

Angelina Jolie describes herself as “old-school” when it comes to technology, preferring to write things down instead of posting them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram — none of which she uses.

But the Hollywood star may not be able to ask the same of her six children, which is why she tells People magazine in its latest cover story that she and husband Brad Pitt have hired a cyber-security team to monitor their Internet usage and exposure.

“It’s so beyond what we understand,” Jolie says. “We wouldn’t even know what to look for.”

Read more at People

TIME apps

These Are Instagram’s 5 New Filters

It's the first time the app has premiered a new filter in 2 years

In case your brunch wasn’t getting cold enough as you toiled over the perfect filter to properly capture your pancakes, Instagram premiered five new filters Tuesday.

The fancily named Perpetua, Ludwig, Slumber, Aden and Crema will be added to Instagram’s existing 20 options — which include the “normal” setting.

This is the first filter addition in two years.

Here’s how they look:

Slumber

Instagram

Perpetua

Instagram


Ludwig

Instagram

Crema

Instagram
Instagram
Instagram

Arden

5

Instagram also added slo-mo video, real-time commenting (to prevent the constant need to refresh your screen), new preview modes, and the ability to manage how you view your editing options.

“We know that everyone has their favorite filters,” Instagram said in a statement sent to TIME. “We want to keep things simple as we add more, so we’ve added a new ‘Manage’ button at the end of your filter tray. Tap it to re-arrange the order of your filters and hide the ones you rarely use.”

So, maybe your scrambled eggs will stay piping hot after all.

TIME World

Exclusive: 29 Instagrams That Defined the World in 2014

See some of the most powerful images shared on Instagram this year

As Instagram hit a milestone this month, with its number of monthly active users ballooning to 300 million, TIME, in association with the photo-sharing app, takes a look back at the key moments of 2014.

The selection of images, shared by some of Instagram’s most popular and respected photographers, offers an intimate view of some of the defining events of the year: From the toll of war in Gaza to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., and from the border between Mexico and the U.S. all the way to Mongolia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

“Real moments are captured and posted on Instagram every single day, from Nana Kofi Acquah’s image of a Tanzanian doctor timing a baby’s labored breathing using his mobile phone, to Brendan Hoffman’s haunting first reactions upon arriving at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine,” says Pamela Chen, Instagram’s Editorial Director. “These are just a sampling of the powerful images shared by people around the world in 2014.”

Read next: The Top 10 Photos of 2014

TIME celebrity

Fans Freak Out That Kim Kardashian ‘Cropped’ North West Out of Selfie

When it comes to Instagramming celebrity motherhood, it's "you lose some, you lose some"

Kim Kardashian fans are incensed, simply incensed, that the reality star apparently “cropped” North West out of her latest selfie posted Monday:

😘

A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

The off-center shot, showing a sliver of North’s face, was reamed in Instagram comments—proving that when it comes to celebrity motherhood, social media is often a “you lose some, you lose some” scenario.

If Kardashian posts a picture of her baby on Instagram, she’s accused of something ridiculous like waxing the tot’s eyebrows. If she posts a picture in which North’s face isn’t fully in view, she’s “ruthless” or afraid to share the spotlight.

TIME celebrities

Celebrate Taylor Swift’s Birthday With 25 Instagrams in 25 Seconds

Her new album, 1989, was named for the year of her birth

Taylor Swift loves the No. 13, and not just because it’s lucky—she also was born on Dec. 13 in 1989, the year that inspired the name of her new album. Because the “Blank Space” singer turns an iconic age Saturday—Taylor Swift is now a quarter-century old even if she’s feeling 22—TIME went through her Instagram to find her most iconic snapshots, from award shows and arena shows to quiet moments of down time.

Considering all the famous friends who show up in her Instagram—Ed Sheeran, Lorde, Ariana Grande—she’ll no doubt celebrate her birthday in “Style.”

TIME Social Media

Twitter Co-Founder: ‘I Don’t Give a S*** If Instagram Has More Users’

twitter-smartphones
Getty Images

In an interview, Evan Williams doesn’t mince words comparing Twitter to Facebook-owned Instagram

Yesterday, Instagram announced it has 300 million monthly active users. The news drew immediate comparisons between the photo-sharing app, which sold to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, and Twitter, a $24 billion publicly traded company which has 284 million users. CNNMoney even argued that Twitter should sell itself.

I asked Evan Williams, Twitter co-founder and board member, what he thought of the news. His answer? User count is the wrong metric to focus on.

In his words:

It’s a question of breadth versus depth. Why is users the only thing we talk about? The crazy thing: Facebook has done an amazing job of establishing that as the metric for Wall Street. No one ever talks about, ‘What is a [monthly active user]?’ I believe it’s the case that if you use Facebook Connect—if you use an app that you logged into with Facebook Connect—you’re considered a Facebook user whether or not you ever launched the Facebook app or went to Facebook.com. So what does that mean? It’s become so abstract to be meaningless. Something you did caused some data in their servers to be recorded for the month. So I think we’re on the wrong path.

If you think about the impact Twitter has on the world versus Instagram, it’s pretty significant. It’s at least apples to oranges. Twitter is what we wanted it to be. It’s this realtime information network where everything in the world that happens on Twitter—important stuff breaks on Twitter and world leaders have conversations on Twitter. If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a s*** if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.

I noted that Wall Street certainly cares about other things.

Williams said he isn’t authorized to comment on anything financial, but countered that Twitter’s monetization has been going very well. “Twitter makes a hell of a lot more money than Instagram, if that’s what Wall Street cares about,” he said.

Regarding Facebook’s method for counting users, Williams is correct. According to an SEC filing, Facebook’s definition of an active user includes anyone who “took an action to share content or activity with his or her Facebook friends or connections via a third-party website or application that is integrated with Facebook.” So even if you don’t go to Facebook for a month, you count as a monthly active user if you use an app which you have signed up for with your Facebook account and shared something. [Note: This sentence has been updated to include the words “and shared something” after a Facebook representative clarified that a user must actually share an activity to Facebook to count as “active.” If a user “likes” something on a third party site, or listens to a Spotify song which is then automatically shared to Facebook, that counts.]

To that end, Twitter is opening up its own definition of its user base. Last month Twitter CEO Dick Costolo revealed that content posted to Twitter actually reaches 500 million people each month when you take into account anyone who has seen a Tweet embedded in a webpage or another app. The takeaway? When it comes to the horse race for users, Costolo doesn’t give a . . . well, you know.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME celebrity

LeBron James Photoshopped an Image of Prince George

The King photoshopped the prince

LeBron James Instagrammed a photoshopped picture of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s baby, Prince George, in the least offensive way possible.

After giving Will and Kate a pint-sized Cleveland Cavaliers jersey following his team’s win against the Brooklyn Nets Monday, James couldn’t wait for the little prince to try it on. So he helped the baby out:

Something tells us that this won’t be the royal baby’s last brush with photoshop.

 

TIME Social Media

This Was Instagram’s Most Liked #TBT of 2014

Throwback to 2014's biggest throwback

Every Thursday, Instagram streams are filled with pictures of your best friend’s worst childhood fashion choices. #ThrowbackThursday — often shortened to #TBT to save #CharacterSpace — is a nostalgia-driven social media trend that has been adopted by everyone from the Kardashians to your Dad to President Obama.

But who had the most popular #TBT of 2014? Instagram scoured its photo database and found that the #TBT with the most likes came from none other than Justin Bieber.

Me and my dad #tbt love u faja

A photo posted by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

In fact, when looking at the most popular photos associated with the throwback hashtags, Bieber’s account had the five most liked pictures out of all of Instagram’s 300 million active monthly users.

And now, to properly celebrate one of the last Throwback Thursdays of the year, a throwback to some of the most popular #TBTs of 2014, as compiled by Instagram:

Kim Kardashian

#ThrowbackThursday @nicolerichie and I being oh so cool at 13 years old

A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

Michelle Obama

Happy #NationalSiblingsDay! #TBT #ThrowbackThursday

A photo posted by First Lady Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on

Joe Biden

Happy #TakeYourChildToWorkDay #TBT #ThrowbackThursday

A photo posted by Vice President Joe Biden (@vp) on

Beyonce

#WhatIsPretty Friendship @kellyrowland @realmichellew #tbt

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Kate Upton

I remember the days I had to do my own hair before a swimsuit shoot. #tbt

A photo posted by Kate Upton (@kateupton) on

Reese Witherspoon

Ahh the 90's… #Cruelintentions #TBT

A photo posted by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on

Justin Timberlake

#TBT "Flexin'… I'm just flexin'.

A photo posted by Justin Timberlake (@justintimberlake) on

Cara Delavigne

#tbt #nochange

A photo posted by Cara Delevingne (@caradelevingne) on

Jimmy Fallon

#tbt 1986

A photo posted by Jimmy Fallon (@jimmyfallon) on

Ellen

Happy #ThrowbackThursday #TBT

A photo posted by Ellen (@theellenshow) on

TIME Social Networking

Instagram Is Bigger Than Twitter Now

A picture is worth 1000 words

Instagram is officially bigger than Twitter, as far as user numbers are concerned.

The photo-sharing app has reached more than 300 million monthly active users who share over 70 million photos and videos a day, Instagram said Wednesday.

Instagram also said that it will soon be rolling out a “verified badges” feature, similar to the blue checkmark you see on some Twitter and Facebook pages. The company also announced it will start fully deleting accounts it considers “spammy.”

The number of Instagram users has ballooned this year, with 100 million monthly active users added since March, CNBC reported Wednesday. Facebook bought Instagram in a deal that closed in September 2012 at a value of about $715 million.

Twitter, by contrast, has a market cap of about $23 billion and 284 million monthly active users.

“We’re seeing a lot of people coming in the fashion world, a lot of people coming in, in the youthful teens world, and a lot of people internationally as well,” CEO Kevin Systrom told CNBC.

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