Local Instagram Shoutouts

In Design

Over the holidays you may well have some downtime in front of a screen and if you are like us you may invariably be drawn to social media. We have been trying to get more into the thriving Instagram scene for its community, content, and potential as a storytelling platform. In our explorations we came across three excellent local Instagrammers and wanted to share their work with you.


For each account we decided to present a set of questions and answers in which we found an interesting cross-section of styles and intents, some overlapping and some wildly different. Read on for an introduction to each talented artisan and answers about their work in their own words.

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Amanda Frank, Brantford, ON / amandaellewild.com / @amandaellewild
On one side of the spectrum is Amanda Frank, a photographer and model whose nature photographs feel as though they tumbled right out of a luxury travel magazine. The styling of her images and her openness to collaborate with other professionals inspires us. We were drawn to Amanda’s stream because she definitely has the composition and curatorial knack of a highly polished pro, but there is still something casual and real about where, when and what she shoots. Hear in her own words what drives her, and since many of her photographs are taken so close by, be inspired by her wanderlust to seek out or rediscover local beauty spots.

daryl-mcmahon

Daryl McMahon, Paris, ON, / darylmcmahon.com / @daryl_mcmahon
Then there is Daryl McMahon whose approach to photography is, well, minimal. His Instagram account serves as a showcase for the objects he is photographing, his dramatic art and stunning antique reproductions. It was on one of our very first Jane & Jury outings to Artefacts Salvage and Design when we found out that Daryl lives in Paris. Of course we know lots of creative talent lies within the borders of our little town but it is always thrilling to discover more people whose love for fine details and deep craft parallels our own. Although Daryl is fairly new to Instagram, we’re loving the exposure the platform is lending his work and we anticipate his follower count to continue on its steady upward trajectory.

matt-quinn

Matt Quinn, Galt, ON / mattquinn.ca / @matt_quinn
Last is Matt Quinn, one half of Ways We Work, a more technical photographer who captures the most incredible night photography. Matt’s day job as a web designer and developer clearly informs his detailed process. We first met Matt when he and Amanda Wood presented their interview series, Ways We Work, at our first Paris Lectures show and tell. It wasn’t until much later and through Instagram that we realized what a badass photographer Matt is. The lengths he goes to get the shot while we’re all sleeping is well worth the attention of anyone new to the art of photography.


How did photography enter your life and what role does it play now?

Amanda Frank (@amandaellewild)

Photography really started to become a big part of my life about year ago. I have always loved photographs especially of places and nature. I was on a trip to California and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing with my camera. The photos I took though became better than anything I could have bought as a souvenir and when I got back, looking at them made the memories come alive again. Today photography really shapes how I live my life. Always wanting to go somewhere new, and going back to the places I love. You can never really take the same photograph because nature, people and seasons are always changing.

Daryl McMahon (@daryl_mcmahon)

Until very recently, photography has only been incidental to my work. My background is in Fine Art and I am naturally drawn to chiaroscuro, contrast, texture, composition – my focus is on the subject – my work. I have never set out to take great photographs. I am attempting to show my work and its colour, surface – accurately and in the mood I intended it. I have only had a smart phone for the past 6 months, so it has only been recently that I have had a camera at the ready while I am out exploring. Photography for the sake of photography has been a happy accident.

Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn)

The first time I got into taking photographs was when my dad bought a digital camera back when I was in high school. At the time digital cameras weren’t very mainstream and being able to snap a photo and view it on a computer was a lot of fun. I was able to take photos of friends and put them on the Internet. That seems hilarious sounding now, but back when I was doing this, almost no one had images of themselves on the Internet. From there, photography went into a dormancy period until a friend of mine lent me an SLR film camera for a trip I was taking to New York City. Using this camera and composing photos was such a great experience and the pictures I took had this life to them that made me remember the trip more vividly. But it wasn’t until my daughter was born in 2007 that I decided to buy a DSLR camera.

A post shared by Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn) on

A post shared by Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn) on

As a web designer & developer I spend most of my days at my desk and I often feel that I am missing out on a lot of aspects of life that I really enjoy. Photography became a means for me to get out and start enjoying the real world a little more instead of always looking at it through a screen. I lived in downtown Toronto for over a decade and I’d become somewhat disconnected from the natural world. I loved being out in the wilderness as a kid, so I wanted to get back into having those meaningful experiences and photography enabled that. Beyond that, I’ve always been a little terrified of the dark, so I thought I’d face my fears and jump into night photography.

What do you think people like about your photos?

Amanda Frank (@amandaellewild)

I think people enjoy my photos because they are out in nature and I try to capture nature mixed with adventure. A sense of getting out of a regular routine and creating a story behind each of them. Lately I’ve been trying to share more of my adventures and I hope they inspire people to get out and enjoy nature around them. This world is truly incredible and even here in southern Ontario there is wildlife, trails and new places to explore.

Daryl McMahon (@daryl_mcmahon)

To be honest, I have never really thought much about whether people might like my photos. For me, a photo of my handmade books is about the books, shown in a way that will hopefully spark interest in a potential buyer.

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First and foremost I am concerned with accurate colour, contrast to show texture, scale, etc. The rest is purely to satisfy my own need for composition and drama. In fact, until I joined Instagram I typically cropped out everything except the subject with black or white.

Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn)

I’m not 100% sure, but I hope the images create a sense of wonder in the viewers mind about how amazing our natural world is. There is so much photography in the world right now, it’s hard to stand out, but I hope my images convey a sense of reality while at the same time pushing slightly into the etherial or magical. When I’m out taking photos, the experience is so much more vivid and impactful than the resulting photograph. So when I get home and process my images, I want to push them a little further to recreate some of that vividness, but not so much that people think they are fake.

matt-quinn-white

I really want people to get inspired to go out and have their own experiences in nature so I try and maintain a certain integrity around my photos. I don’t want people to get out into nature just to be bummed out that the location didn’t live up to a version they saw in a photo of mine; ideally the experience is on par or better. It won’t always happen because light changes, but I am definitely sensitive to that aspect. As for the night sky, the motivation is the same, except that the wonder aspect is amped up. Long exposure photography allows us to augment our eyes so we can see what we normally couldn’t. So, in a way, it really is magical.

Which photos tend to get the most likes and do you know why?

Amanda Frank (@amandaellewild)

My photos that tend to get more likes are photos with a lifestyle feel or landscape or wildlife. They can relate more to the way you see the world rather than say a selfie. People want to be inspired and creatives today have a huge impact through social media. I know for me, I like photos that inspire me to get outside or ones I wouldn’t see everyday.

Daryl McMahon (@daryl_mcmahon)

I haven’t had enough experience with Instagram to know which photos get the most likes. I still have well under 100 posts, so an increase in likes can also be attributed to more exposure. I am well aware that my work isn’t as universally appealing as some, so I try to focus more on what appeals to me personally. That said, people love drawers! The more the better. Add labels and old hardware and you are getting into the realm of porn. (insert joke about drawers and knobs here.) One group may like signs, another likes apothecary bottles… and friends pretend to like everything.

Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn)

I think there is a pattern or formula for numbers success on Instagram and there are a lot of people hustling to take advantage of it because they think it leads to business success. This is totally fine of course, but it does intensify the challenge around doing work in your own unique voice vs adhering to the formula to chase likes & follower counts. I am trying hard to not know the answer to this question so I take photos I’m personally happy with instead of taking photos to harvest likes. Without a doubt, there is some joy that comes from seeing an image get shared and liked beyond any expectation, but I’d never want that dopamine rush to change the reason why I take photos. The images that are the most successful to me are the one’s that inspire people to get out an experience nature themselves.

What do you like and get out of Instagram?

Amanda Frank (@amandaellewild)

Instagram played a big part in the beginning of photography. It was a place to go and be inspired and talk to other creatives. Recently I drove the west coast and met up with some amazing photographers that I met through Instagram, which then inspired me. Instagram is place to connect and grow and be inspired especially for creatives.

Daryl McMahon (@daryl_mcmahon)

What I love about Instagram is that it gives me access to an entirely different circle. Let’s face it, there are “types” that tend to be drawn to particular social media. My Instagram followers are entirely different than those for Pinterest, Blogger, Facebook etc.– Instagram may be a smaller circle for me at the moment, but it feels like a better fit. Of course I love the visual nature of it, but because the social aspect goes on behind the scenes it is somehow far more intimate and less artificial. There is also just a shit-load of beautiful stuff out there!

Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn)

Instagram is probably one of the most amazing places to share images and experiences with others simply due to its reach. The thing I love most is connecting with others who love to do the same thing I do. I was really happy to see the addition of the stories element to Instagram. It put a bit of reality back into the platform that was becoming a little too polished. It allowed you to connect with others in new and more authentic ways. Sometimes an Instagram feed doesn’t really tell the true story of the photography, so I think the stories adds that much needed dose of reality to the situation.

Can you share some of the process behind one of your photographs?

Amanda Frank (@amandaellewild)

The process behind my photography starts before I even leave my house! I want to see new places so I will either go to maps or on Instagram and search places around me.

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I don’t always plan though. Sometimes the best photos are taken just by going on your way and shooting what you happen to see.

Daryl McMahon (@daryl_mcmahon)

Daryl's version of Jan Lieven's Study of an old man. Acrylic on canvas in an antique frame.
Daryl’s version of Jan Lieven’s Study of an old man. Acrylic on canvas in an antique frame.

I must admit that more often than not, photographs are an afterthought. I have a tendency to labour over my work and get caught up in the details. A good percentage of what I make never gets photographed because it is finished in the wee hours before a show or needs to be boxed for shipping. If it does make it in front of the camera, chances are it is a mad rush to take several quick shots — fingers crossed that one will be workable. And often I will forget about the photos altogether and stumble across them later in my phone, start playing with contrast, colour, saturation and hopefully come up with something presentable. Occasionally I do get a chance to set up a vignette, play with lighting and composition, but so far those photos have felt forced and uninspired.

Matt Quinn (@matt_quinn)

My process is fairly organic at first but then it becomes more intentional as I find locations that I have great experiences in. It’s a lot of driving around and going places I haven’t been before. So much of it is exploration which is what makes the process so fun. When I’m at these new places, I seek out interesting light, either at dawn, dusk or at night. Sometimes a grey rainy day leads to some amazing shots as well, overall it’s really about the experience I am having, the location itself and what the atmosphere is like.

Once I find a location, I’ll look for ‘the shot’ and setup my gear. I might walk around a little scouting for alternate shots, but most of the time I’ll be in a single location and be waiting for interesting light. Sometimes a great composition appears on a hike and I’ll just shoot what I see. In some cases, I’ll find a spot and then return when the light is doing something really nice. Since I’m not out as much as I’d like to be, I have to roll the dice most of the time and see what I get. Sometimes I don’t get a single shot and others I’ll just get one or two. However, there are these times when everything lines up and you have this really great experience.

Once I get home I’ll process my images in a way that keeps the integrity of the location intact while at the same time injecting some of the magic that I experienced back into the photo. Since I want to inspire others to have similar experiences, I won’t doctor my photos to generate scenes that don’t actually exist in the world. I want to create this sense of wonder and I think when it’s revealed that a photo is doctored that it leads to apathy or disappointment instead, like they’ve been cheated or fooled. To this end, my photography is really a blend of documentation and art; one part reality and one part magic. I’m still early in the process, but I feel like I’m starting to get a sense of what I want my final images to convey.

Other local favourites

There are of course many other wonderful local Instagram accounts (including us! Follow @janeandjury). As the local social media scene continues to evolve and become ever more influential – Piper & Oak is one local business who has opted for an Instagram account over a website – we hope you will add these artisans to your lists.

Do you have an Instagram account you want to share? Feel free to comment below!

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