TORONTO – Despite having been around for a few years, photo-sharing social networking app Instagram seemed to come in to its own in 2013 – from taking us behind the scenes at the White House, to showing us views from North Korea.
Of course, none of these moments would have been possible without the photographers behind the accounts.
This year TIME magazine named Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder its ‘Instagram photographer of the year’ after becoming one of the first foreign photographers to post images from inside the country.
The secretive and isolated country has largely remained a mystery to foreigners thanks to strict controls on Internet and mobile phones, but in 2013, allowed some visitors to bring their mobile phones in to the country.
“In the past I could post geolocated phone photos to my Instagram feed by turning my online laptop into a hotspot to link my iPhone or iPod touch by wifi. But, today I’m posting this directly from my phone while riding in the back of a van in #Pyongyang,” Guttenfelder wrote on a photo uploaded to Instagram in April.
“The window on to North Korea has opened another crack. Meanwhile, for Koreans here who will not have access to the same service, the window remains shut.”
His images gave Instagram users a first-hand look at North Korean propaganda – including a postcard showing a fist smashing what appears to be a missile marked “U.S.A.” – and images of everyday life in the region.
“Guttenfelder’s year of work chips beneath the pariah state’s absurd façade. A government minder shadows him wherever he goes, but his sustained presence in North Korea has yielded a unique perspective,” TIME’s Ishaan Tharoor wrote in an article announcing Guttenfelder’s pick for Instagram photographer of the year.
But Guttenfelder isn’t the only “Instagrammer” whose account created buzz in 2013.
Pete Souza, chief official White House photographer, opened an Instagram account in July with a candid shot of President Obama.
Souza’s photos offer a unique view into life in the Oval Office and the Obama family – including the family’s dogs Bo and Sunny, who are often captured lounging around the White House.
Most recently, Souza posted a series of photographs to his account showing the White House Christmas tree arriving and a team of decorators sprucing up the president’s office for the holidays.
This year also saw Russian photographer Murad Osmann’s Instagram account go viral thanks to his wildly popular series titled “Follow me.” The stunning images show Osmann travel to places like the coast of Èze, France, and an infinity pool on a rooftop in Singapore – all while holding hands with his girlfriend.
Osmann now has over 500,000 followers on the social network, with only 200 posts.
We also met the “Instagram-pa” this year – 85-year-old Rex Redstone, who is the oldest known Instagram user in the UK. The senior posted his first photo in late September – using hashtags and all – explaining to his followers that he wished to share photos of his life so “they can keep on living.”
The self-titled Instagram-pa – who has just over 5,000 followers on Instagram – said the real thrill of using the photo-sharing service comes from sharing history that would have otherwise sat untouched in photo albums in his attic.
He said he hopes his account will help inspire other seniors to embrace social media.
It was also a big year for Northern Ontario photographer Andrew Knapp whose photo series #findmomo was featured on the Instagram blog.
The photos feature Knapp’s border collie Momo who is hidden in each image like a game of “Where’s Waldo.”
“I love taking landscape shots, and Momo is too photogenic to not be in photos. He usually runs ahead of me when I’m tossing a stick for him, and it so happened that he ended up in a couple of the shots,” Knapp said on the Instagram blog.
“I started hashtagging #findmomo and it all kind of pieced itself together!”