Instagram group aims to share Toledo with worldWritten by Danielle Stanton | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A guy who works at a local bar, a stay-at-home mom, a teacher —people from disparate walks of life are connecting on Instagram to share their love of Toledo.
@IGers_Toledo is an Instagram community of amateur and professional photographers shining a light on the Glass City’s assets. The group’s posts have drawn visitors from Ann Arbor, Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus as well as sparked connections with Instagrammers from around the world.
They’re snapping shots of the city and posting them online because they’re proud of the city, they say, and want Toledo’s detractors to change their tune.
“If you don’t like it here do something to make it better or leave,” said Jeff Jones of Snap It Photography, who co-founded the group. “I get defensive over my city. I’m like, ‘This is where I’m from and there are a lot of great things.’ It’s a matter of changing your perspective of where we are. Go take a walk in a neighborhood you’ve never been in before; see new things and opportunities.”
Instagram is a social media site where users can post photographs or videos and also share them to Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter.
The club started five weeks ago but the tightknit community of members has been meeting at what’s been dubbed “Instameets” around the city for a couple of months. Jones, who has more than 21,000 followers on his Instagram handle @ohsnapjeff, started a page and organized the meetings and the Instagram community club grew from there.
The Toledo Instagrammers — who mostly use their iPhones or Android phones to snap shots — have taken pictures of the Toledo Museum of Art, Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, Veterans’ Glass City Skyway bridge and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.
Teacher Eric Ward, known on Instagram as @littlecoal, is one of the heavy hitters, with more than 61,000 followers and more than 2,400 photos. The fourth-grade teacher for Eastwood Local Schools and father of three has collaborations on Instagram with people in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Singapore and the Philippines. Friends from Detroit and Columbus have checked out his site and paid a visit to see the Toledo of his photographs.
“For me, it’s a way … to show Toledo to people from around the world,” Ward said. “With the reach Instagram has, [allowing] people to see Toledo in a light that people go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that was here.’ For us to … say, ‘Look at the treasures we have here.’ … We’ve fallen in love with Oak Openings. Some places out there are just incredible.”
Ward and the group of Instagrammers often meet up to take pictures at a venue and then go grab a cup of coffee or a sandwich after. While they may come from different walks of life, they have some things in common like social awareness, a love of nature and an appreciation for handcrafted items, said Instagrammer Kerri Varner, a professional photographer and mother of six.
Varner, who moved to Toledo after living most of her life in southeast Michigan, likes to explore her Old Orchard neighborhood and the University of Toledo with her camera.
Her connections to the @IGers_Toledo group have made her life in Toledo exciting and a joy, she said.
“[The Instagrammers] are good at their craft and have good taste in businesses and want to know small businesses in Toledo,” said Varner, who posts as @bleuinlove. “They care about things like the Downtown area and residences. And that is very meaningful to me.”
Graphic Designer Ben Morales, an amateur photographer who gave a TEDxToledo talk on his “re-photography” project last fall, has photographed at least five Metroparks for his Instragram page, @benmorales.
“I love to walk my dog after work. That’s why I initially started going. And then I was amazed by the beauty. I wanted to explore them and go to every park in the region,” Morales said. “Every park has its own unique feel.
“Instagram has been an amazing outlet for me,” he said. “Connecting with a community and connecting with Instagrammers around the world — it’s very exciting and I enjoy every minute of it. A lot of big cities have these IG photo clubs and so I’m glad we have that in Toledo now.”
The club plans to focus not just on Downtown but on outlying communities, including Perrysburg, Maumee, Rossford and Sylvania, said co-founder Brandt Chapman of Perrysburg. He said they’re just trying to make people more aware of the area — that there’s so much to see but people may not be taking the time to look.
“There’s so much out there. I don’t know if people [just] aren’t seeing it,” said Chapman, whose Instagram handle is @brant5. “We’re just trying to advertise our city and show people how beautiful it is and get the word out there. Our main focus is to make a community out of [Instagram].”
Three people showed up at the club’s first Instameet, then five to the next and then about 25 came to the Peristyle at the Toledo Museum of Art. The most recent meeting was at the Main Library Downtown. The group also held a contest to recognize their work and are in the beginning stages of teaming up with other businesses to advertise. The @IGers_Toledo page has more than 1,600 followers, Brandt said.
The Instagrammers have been in contact with people in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Cincinnati who want to visit based on seeing their Instagram pages. Many of them have come to Toledo for an Instameet.
“I can understand people who want to get to a better climate, but it’s the people who call this place home and then bad-mouth it. It’s so frustrating,” Jones said. “I love Toledo. I love Northwest Ohio. We’re trying to raise the bar. This is our city, we’re here and let’s just love where we are.”
Tags: amateur and professional photgraphers, Android, Ann Arbor, Brandt Chapman of Perrysburg., Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, Eastwood Local Schools, Facebook, France, Glass City's assets, Indianapolis, Instagram, Instagrammers, Instameet, iPhones, Main Library Downtown, Netherlands, Oak Openings, Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, Old Orchard, Philipines, Singapore, Snap It Photography, Spain, Teacher Eric Ward, TEDxToledo, Toledo Museum of Art, Tumblr, Twitter, University of Toledo, Veterans’ Glass City Skyway bridge