Building Stories With Instagram Special
Instagram, the popular iPhone and Android app, has inspired budding photographers to shoot and share their work, in real time. John de Guzman has built a massive following on the mobile platform by blending creativity, community, and business acumen.
With over 22,000 followers and a veritable maze of photos detaiing the skyscraping majesty of New York, the Manhattanite is steadily building a reputation as the go-to guy for mobile photography. His shots
offer a romantic's view of the city, with towering glass, gleaming light, dreamy reflections, and swirling steel. De Guzman's unique, strong vision of the Big Apple melds a propensity for strong geometric shapes with softer atmospheres. HIs consistently entrancing photos are enhanced by his thoughtful use of filters and smart, professional framing. He's clearly in love with New York City, a place he's called home for fifteen years, and it shows.
Born in Madrid to American parents, de Guzman’s interest in photography began as a child, when he and his brother would use film cameras to take quirky photos.
"We would just burn through a roll, and leave two photos," he recalls with a wide grin. "Our parents would finish it and get it developed, and it’d be me with two right hands or things around the house, or turning our faces into masks." De Guzman got his first camera in 2001. "I never really used film cameras outside of disposable ones in college," he says, "but film is the ultimate step - that’s how you learn photography. Most people don’t learn anything about it. They don’t have to."
Though he has digital SLR equipment and has made extensive use of it in the past, de Guzman has become far more entranced by the real-time quality of Instagram over the last while.
“I would walk around the city for twelve hours, get back, and have twenty gigs of photos, 900 photos, and I’d be processing the ones I want to share, then sharing them -usually on flickr
- hoping someone goes to see it,” he recalls. “I used to be a pixel queen. It had to be the best -the best gear, getting the right lighting, exposure, the best photos I can take -but it wasn’t until Instagram that I started seeing value of mobile photography.”
That doesn't mean de Guzman hasn't experienced the downside of online photography sharing. His famous shot, "Opening Skies", which detailed the twin beams of light rising from the remnants of the Twin Towers, was stolen from him and re-published by the New York Post without credit - or even his knowledge.
was the one who pointed it out to me," he recalls. "There were people who were genuinely nice and there were assholes who said, ‘That’s what you get for putting something on the internet.' I confronted the guy who stole it, and he initially taunted me, then he was getting hammered (by critics), so he went private and didn’t respond. Twitpic never got back to me about the copyright claim either."
Currently working new digital products for a news organization, de Guzman, who studied engineering, has a huge artistic appetite that has found expression in media beyond photography. He also sings, acts, writes, and composes, and released his own album in 2009, Aiming To Climb
. Experiencing his work -indeed, the man himself -made me think that, amidst the dreamy romanticism, he’s determined to blaze a new creative trail in the twenty-first century, a trail that wholly integrates new technologies and older artforms into a wider social experience that everyone can be a part of. Ergo, the appeal of Instagram.
“It’s about compressing that whole process into seconds for me,” he explains, “it’s processed and it’s shared, not only (as) a simple process but shared into an extremely supportive community that values good photography. You start fitting this huge city into a square, which is really challenging. All my photos are squares -I don’t like having crops, it drives me crazy, but when you have the challenge of fitting something tall and wide into a square, you start practising with different muscles.”
Those muscles got a work out at Fashion’s Night Out
in 2011. "There were fifteen or twenty of us running around the city," he says, recalling the evening. "We blew up Instagram! It was great."
Now he and the founders of Instagram NYC
are considering the business implications and the possibility of spinning the real-time-photography app into a professional venture. They'll be holding an art exhibit at the W Hotel May 1st
"It's a competition around our work, picking our winners," he explains enthusiastically. "They get a free stay at the hotel and dinner. It's things like that, where people are figuring out networks to advertise or broadcast... I’m really open to anything."
His propensity to see business opportunities in no way clashes with his artistic instincts, however. "I take a mean picture, can write a sassy song and write a story that'll keep you on the edge of your seat. I can also write a good business case for a new product."