A woman with her back to the camera, standing on the floor of a glass office building

Photography and friendships with a chance of rain

If you thought that photography was a solitary pursuit, you’d be very much mistaken. Short for ‘Instagrammer’, Igers (pronounced ‘eye-jeers’) thrive on the new – new places, new people and new techniques– and they come together to indulge their passion for photography at Instameets. And while it’s true to say that every possible kind of community exists on Instagram, an Instameet can bring people from them all into one place – the real world.

Originally from Johannesburg, Lori Nigro arrived in the UK in 2014 and is now one of the organising committee of Instagram London (@IgersLondon), along with co-managers Christian, Keith, Matt and Nat. Their Instameets take in all the sights of London – especially the less well-known places – and the group has nearly 55,000 followers. It’s part of the global Instagramers.com network and Lori remembers her first London Instameet well. “I’d been on a few walks with the Igers Jozi community, so the first thing I did when I arrived was sign up for an Igers London meetup. The first walk was freezing cold and rainy, so we all ended up in the pub and I thought ‘these are my people.”

Nobody behind the group is a professional photographer, but everybody is a passionate photographer

A typical Instameet usually starts through a site such as meetup.com and might just be a handful of people exploring a public space or landmark with their cameras, but events (such as community birthdays) can see anything up to 200 people taking part. “Often our meet will be around something that we think will be a focal point, or a vantage point where you can take particularly good photographs,” explains Lori, but when you have as many followers as Igers London, it’s not long before more exclusive opportunities open up. “We’re very lucky because we have the opportunity to send small groups for special experiences. We had a Japanese whisky tasting, or the Handel & Hendrix museum will have a special event and we put it [the opportunity to attend] out to the community.”

While Lori’s group is entirely London-focused, they have relationships with other groups, such as IgersGdansk and IgersLille, and enjoy visiting each other others cities. Others, like Igers Malmoe in Sweden, take the opportunity to collectively go ‘on tour’, heading to Instameets all over Europe, such as Barcelona, Rome and other parts of their home country. For one such meet, they “visited five different religious communities over two days. A Catholic church, a mosque, a synagogue, a Buddhist temple and a Protestant church. It was quite an experience.”

You only have to search #igers to discover just how diverse and exciting this global movement of photographers truly is, with people from all walks of life using Instagram as the sole outlet for their love of photography. Igers London is a snapshot (excuse the pun) of the kind of people who take part. “We’ve got parents with small children, we’ve got retired people, we’ve got businessmen,” explains Lori. “At one meet that I organised it was so cold – it was in January – that Canadians and a girl from Siberia were complaining. And that’s the group that we have! It’s really nice because it means that people have the opportunity to share experiences and talk about different parts of the world.”

A model wearing striped shorts and red boots, standing outside Strand Station
Instameets connect people interested in photography, to share thoughts and inspire each other (©Tim Parker)
A model, wearing yellow trousers and carrying a matching handbag, standing outside Strand Station
Many different kinds of photographer take part in instameets and street fashion is a popular choice in cities.(©Tim Parker)

On the app itself, the images the Igers share vary from group to group. Some, like Igers Malmoe, use it as a community to post challenges and keep the group up to date, as well as sharing beautiful shots from their community. Whereas Igers London stick very much to their own brief, showcasing every aspect of London from an Igers eye view. Whatever the differences, the outcome is the same. “I’ve learnt everything I know about photography from people at Instameets. I’ve met such beautiful people who’ve taught me such a lot. When I bought my Canon, it was based on other people’s recommendations.” Lori’s community, like thousands of others, is built around the generosity of the members and their willingness to befriend, help and champion their fellow photographers – both in real life and online.

Surely it can’t all be sunshine and flowers? Well, according to Lori, the downsides are few and far between. “The lows are when there’s a tube strike and people can’t get to the meet and there’s always a funny story about someone getting lost on the way, but we rarely have anything other than the weather go wrong on an Instameet.” And although she readily admits that Instagram isn't perfect, as a platform it’s a great leveler, connecting people of all locations, abilities and approaches, and letting them be a collective force for good in photography. “In fact, a number of people in the group who began as enthusiasts are now making their way into the world of professional photography.”

Photo Credits: Tim Parker

Written by Marie-Anne Leonard

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