Throughout Madrid, art vendors sit on streets, caricature artists offer you portraits, and museums line the space in between. Yet we forget that some of the most relatable art rest right under our nose, on our phones — on Instagram.
Philippe González, a native Madrileño, has brought this art to life. Founder of a blog called Instagramers.com and the related Instagramers network, González has been successful in connecting people all across the world who love to take photos, explore Instagram, and support others just like them.
Having worked in the past with marketing and website content, González used his people skills and photography passion to create a new form of social art. After establishing a strong community of Instagramers through his blog work, González took the next step in helping these followers connect their experiences with others. After displaying his personal photography within an gallery, González then set up a series of Instagram Galleries, featuring the best works of those within the community.
One of those galleries is in Madrid. It rests within the Espacio Fundación Telefónica, a space dedicated to “improving the opportunities of development for people through educational, social and cultural projects, adapted to the challenges of the digital world,” as stated by the Fundación Telefónica. González´s Gallery does just that, giving people the space to display their work outside of the bounds of technology.
“Thousands of people discovered photography through their mobile lenses and started to enjoy making pics and sharing them on [Instagram]” says González. ‘However, having their pictures printed and exhibited was a dream. We started with small and humble exhibitions in bars, then … we met with Telefónica Foundation in Madrid supported by Telefónica and today we can exhibit thousands of pictures every year and make Instagram photo lovers [dreams] come true.”
Visitors to Madrid find themselves within the gallery, viewing the work of these online artists. Many have no context for what the gallery is, or why these people have been chosen.
“I didn’t know if it was volunteered from the person, or if they were just chosen at random,” said Katie, a visitor to Madrid from the UK, on her first thoughts about the Gallery. “I think if they’ve just chosen them, maybe they’re a little bit private, but that’s why I would have chosen them.”
Across the gallery wall are strung pieces that display old men and women, couples, and vibrant colors. Next to each photo is the Instagram handle of the photographer so viewers can easily find the profile of each artist’s work. Though the photos capture all sorts of different things, throughout them all rests one thing: intense emotion.
“I love all of them,” said Katie, after looking at the images. “They have quite an impact if you put them like that, rather than sort of seeing them on someone’s page. They’re quite moving, all of them, I think.”
The gallery is just one portion of the Instagramers community. According to González, it even isn’t the most important part of what he does.
“Instagramers Gallery is just a small portion of my personal engagement with Instagram,” says González. “I’m mostly dedicated to help people creating their ‘#igers’ groups around the planet, coordinate them and help them promoting communities around the globe.”
The Gallery is surrounded within the Espacio by open space. The Gallery is small, all displayed on a single wall, but the underwhelming size of the display is intentional: the space is meant for more than just viewers.
“Our Instagramers Gallery in Madrid is a place for people to enjoy a coffee, free Wifi and hundreds of Instagram pictures printed on beautiful walls,” says González. “We just want to promote artists we exhibit and follow our seven years task of promoting Instagram use.”
The permanent exhibition features 25 photographers from around the world. There are also several contests each year, held by the @igersgallery Instagram account, that allows other photographers to have their work displayed in one of the five galleries around the world. Though it is unclear whether González or members of the community determine which photos are displayed in the galleries, what is clear is that connection rests at the center of it all — there is always a focus on giving the photographer’s work a more human element than exists within the constrained reality of Instagram.
“We try to find people who have a real different style and who are really different from other users,” says González. “It opens the door to many hundreds people to have one of their pictures exhibited for around two months at Instagramers Gallery.”
The Madrid Instagramers Gallery is the only permanent gallery of Instagram photos in the world. It features photos of love, concern, and ultimately, human connection. The Espacio Fundación Telefónica is free and open to all, and has four other floors displaying photos, history, and elements of human culture that can connect locals and visitors alike.
Though the online world may connect us, there is something to be said in physical space — in being able to occupy and engage with a photo in real time. González´s gallery does just this: it gives viewers the time and space to process these moments in time as singular experiences separated from the ever-updating world of the web.
“I think the best thing is to find your own style, what makes you enjoy photography and creating what you want to create, discovering your limits and trying to push those further and further,” says González to those looking to get into photography and display their work on social media. “Then enjoy not only pictures but people you meet, and this new way of socializing and discover great people around the planet.”
Espacio Fundación Telefónica: Calle Fuencarral, 3, Madrid; Open 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.