Ravi Vora & the Instagram Generation by Andres Tardio

Is this an Instagram generation? Ravi Vora thinks so.

Vora, a filmmaker, photographer and creative director recently released “An Instagram Generation,” a 3-minute-long film documenting a recent Instameet in Santa Monica, California. The short clip is also a commentary on how a simple app is creating unity among like-minded strangers. It’s a view into what has made Instagram a popular destination for all kinds of people, from creative mobile photographers to selfie-making experts.

Whether you love or hate Instagram, it’s hard to dispute truth. The app is now home to over 100 million human beings. With over 45 million photographs posted daily and a billion likes tapped into existence daily, this is looking like a generation that loves Instagram as much as it loves touchscreen mobile devices. For this reason, Vora’s film is an important one that illustrates the enthusiasm, togetherness and creative spirit that allows some users to explore.

Beyond this, the film and app have opened doors for Ravi, as he explains in this interview. These doors were not only unlocked by the app but by his talent, one that has proven to be an inspiration to that Instagram Generation.

A: Everyone seems to have either a defining moment or a series of minor moments where they fell in love with their art form. What was this process like for you? When did you fall in love with photography?

R: To be perfectly honest, when I was in high school I thought photography was hardly an art form. This, of course was before I understood what it took to make a great photo. I imagined you just pointed a camera at something already beautiful and hit the button. What kind of art was that? A photographer, in my mind at the time, was not a creator – but a documenter. When I was in college my father bought a camera for me and once it was in my hands there was no going back. I took it out in my rural backyard (I lived in a part of Michigan you’ve never heard of at the time) and took photos of the fresh layer of snow. I found icicles and was mesmerized at how I could capture the different ways the light spilled through them. Since then, I’ve never had a camera far from hand. Whether it’s film work or stills, I learned that the art is in crafting a story through an image. Every decision you make as a photographer can lead to a completely different story.

 A: How about mobile photography? When did you realize this was going to be something you focused on?

R: This happened for me in October of 2012. Before that, I had used Instagram like most people, taking pictures of things I was interacting with on a daily basis. Then, in October, I took a trip home to visit my father in Michigan. While there I realized a lot of the beauty of my hometown and wanted to share it with people. Especially during Autumn, Michigan is an incredibly beautiful state. I had my iPhone with me and I started shooting in an aesthetically pleasing way and people responded to it. Once it sunk in that mobile photography was a way for me to share my experiences instantly and in a way that would make me push myself, I was hooked.

A: Obviously, you enjoy meeting with likeminded individuals who share this passion for photography. Can you recall your first instameet? What was it like? What were you feeling before, during and after it?

R: My first instameet was in November of 2012, with @jebo88. He was the first instagrammer to feature my work on his feed and he lived in Belgium. Luckily, he’s dating a girl in Los Angeles and came to town for a brief visit. I got to meet up with him and we went into the mountains for a foggy sunset. My father was in town as well and it was great to get out, even for an hour or so to see the beautiful landscape. We took photos of each other, exchanged stories, photo tips, and were good friends almost immediately. When you have so much in common with someone, it’s hard NOT to find something to talk about. After that first meet I had an itch to meet more instagrammers on a one-on-one basis and in groups. People I followed or had never heard of, it didn’t matter. It’s just a great experience to meet people who like creating.

A: What has been your favorite instameet experience? Why?

R: Favorite? I don’t think that’s the word I’d use. Each meetup is memorable in it’s own way, from the locations we visit to the people I go with. My favorite kind of meetups are when we arrive somewhere and either the weather or an idea or something magical happens that changes our expectations and we walk away with amazing photos to commemorate our adventure.

A: I know you’ve done a lot of film work and you also do some great stuff with your SLR. However, I know you keep the Instagram app for sharing exclusively iPhone shots. Why do you feel that’s an important facet of the app?

R: Because that’s the medium. I don’t particularly care if someone only posts iPhone or not. But, for example, if you hear of someone who was poor and made themselves a success, it’s much more impressive than if someone had their parent’s money. Similarly, if someone can capture a moment and make it impressive with a phone, then it’s doubly impressive to me. It shows people that photography isn’t about how much money you put into it, it’s about how you explore and see the world. The ideal world would be if we could do away with cameras entirely in the photographic process. Using our eyes and our imaginations without the technological limitations would free people to create however they choose.

A: You and @lolameyers have been on several adventures, which you guys have captured in your feeds. What’s been the most interesting adventure you guys have had over the last year or so?

R: Either our trip to Colorado and Arizona over the holidays, our day trip to Sequoia National Park, sunrise over the clouds in Santa Barbara, or most recently our trip to San Francisco. All of them were exciting and I like to think of our adventures as a continuous rollercoaster of finding new places to explore, coming back home, then planning our next adventure.

A: As a part of the Los Angeles community of Instagram users, what are three of your favorite Los Angeles locations?

R: Downtown Los Angeles has slowly grown on me. I’m not very good at capturing urban photos, but I do my best. Malibu has some gorgeous beaches which I love to shoot in different kinds of weather and times of day. Finally, my very favorite has to be the mountains surrounding Los Angeles. They are otherworldly when there’s bad weather and I love getting away from the city for awhile and just enjoying the outdoors.

A: I know you also travel and shoot in different locations. What’s been the best place for you to shoot in outside of California?

R: Anywhere that has unique landscape. Like I mentioned before, Michigan has a lot of natural beauty to offer, especially during Autumn. Another great place is Colorado. It’s gorgeous and showcases so many different looks with varying weather.

A: Who are other artists that inspire you in your work (they don’t have to be photographers or Instagram users)?

R: Christopher Nolan, Bruno Aveillan, David Fincher, Emmanuel Lubezki, Darren Aronofski, Neil Gaiman, Gregory Crewdson, Danny Boyle, the list could go on forever…

A: I think it’s important we discuss An Instagram Generation. How did this idea come about?

R: The instameet was a collaborative effort between @christianflorin and @projectlife365. They reached out to me to be a part of it and we decided there should be a video. I then took it upon myself to use the instameet as a vessel to showcase what meetups were like. My friends don’t really understand instagram or the culture of it, so I wanted to — perhaps slightly selfishly — have a reference point for people to understand this world of instagram meetups. Between making real friends and going on adventures, instagram meetups have had a very positive impact on my life and I wanted people to see the potential of these meetups and how they could be involved.

A: What did you hope to convey with the video? What has the response been like so far?

R: I hoped that more people would meet up, see how a meetup could make a real difference in their lives, and hopefully lead to some real friendships. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People contact me about the video almost every day and it’s even been picked up by PBS. I’ve noticed more meetups happening, whether that has anything to do with the video or not, and it makes me immensely happy every time I see two random strangers getting together to take photos.

A: How much has mobile photography changed your life?

R: It’s given me a passion for adventure, led to job opportunities, friendships, career advancements, honed my creative eye, and I’ve even been interviewed!

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