How an Old School Photographer is Kicking Your Butt on Instagram

jim-richardson-03Social media is supposed to be the realm of the young, and in this realm, Instagram reigns as visual king. It’s easy to imagine skinny jean-wearing hipsters snapping filtered squares of their perfect lunches and summer skinny dipping soirees. So it might surprise you to find that an old school National Geographic photographer has unlocked the keys for Insta-success.

Jim Richardson (@JimRichardsonNG) is a contributing photographer to National Geographic and has shot over 25 stories in a storied 30-year career. Although he continues to work for the magazine and pursue personal topics of interest like light pollution, Richardson has also amassed an Instagram following of over 80,000 people – outpacing the majority of his contemporaries, as well as online photo “celebrities.” The ever-cerebral photographer and I have been discussing Instagram and its meaning and implications for over a year now, and we recently traded some notes on the topic.

PS: What compelled you to create an Instagram account?

JR: At first I thought Instagram was totally frivolous. But then I started seeing that photographers were using it to make real statements. And then National Geographic started the @natgeo feed, and early on I could see that there was broad interest. It was gaining an audience. So I jumped in — not the first of the National Geographic photographers to do so, but pretty early on. I just figured that I didn’t know how this thing was going to work, but I needed be in the middle of things, trying to figure it out.

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Never Be Comfortable: The Experiences of National Geographic Photographer Cory Richards

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Cory Richards is now an athlete for North Face and a photographer for National Geographic, but he was once a homeless high school dropout as well. When he set out to find out how he was meant to make his way in this world, his path took him to the Himalayas in Pakistan. There, him and his crew nearly died from an avalanche on his descent from the mountain. But while for one moment he truly thought it was over, the next he realized he was still breathing. Right then, he took a self-shot that ended up putting him on the cover of National Geographic.

This is a video done by Blue Chalk in cooperation with the photographer; it’s almost a moving portrait of Cory himself, utilizing his ambitions, his voice, his experiences, his photography, and his humor. It’s a story of a man’s experiences, and why he shot what he shot; it’s his message, as a professional photographer, of why his job is important to him in the first place. With the experience of traveling to every continent in the world, meeting people who hold history most of us may never hear about, and managing to show a few of them to the world, I think we could all benefit from watching this short video. Check it out after the break.

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