June 30th, 2014

Far from just a platform to share selfies with your friends, Instagram continues to grow in popularity with a wide range of communities including those with a creative background and passion. Attracted to its highly visual content, artists have flocked to the platform to share their lives, work and inspiration. Among this creative influx of content is a group of artists that take advantage of the many great design, typography, photo manipulation apps & overlays available to create graphic and photo Instagram 'Edits'.

Alex Hammond, CG Lead at The Mill studio in London, is a part of the 'Edits' community and shares his process, inspiration and amazing art with us below.

Is there a name for this type of Instagram art?

The scene started fairly recently on Instagram. Referred to as 'Edits', there was a small initial group of people who started manipulating photographs and creating graphics exclusively with iPhone apps and then posting their edited picture via Instagram for others to see. As the social network site increased in popularity, the 'Edit' craze grew, allowing previously unrecognized talent to instantly get feedback on designs, and collaborate with other designers, photographers and artists all over the world.

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How are the images created?

The technique involves using various apps on the iPhone to alter and manipulate an image and then layering these images/effects together to create designs. Certain apps allow you to create geometric designs, whereas others allow more lens style effects and grading.

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For example, in the NASA inspired image 'Celestial Pilot', I took a picture from a poster on the Underground of a woman's face, merged this together with an image of a space helmet from a magazine with an app called ArtStudio, saved this image out, graded it, and then blended it back onto itself again with ArtStudio to create a multiple exposure effect. It’s sometimes a convoluted way to create designs due to the lack of intuition iPhone apps have in comparison to using computer software, but this tends to be the appeal of images created on the iPhone.

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What are the key apps you use?

ArtStudio: A photoshop style app that is key to layering up images and building collages.
Deco Sketch: The app creates geometric images with a load of different shapes.
MarbleCam: An app that creates a marble style effect from a photo, which is very cool to integrate back into other images.
Symmetry: Instantly satisfying and definitely recommended for app that produces interesting symmetry - and everything always turns into a face!?
LenseFlare: Everything deserves a lense flare and this app will create realistic looking flares and optical effects.
Mextures:Very cool alternative grading app that focuses more on layering gradients and texturing to alter the tone of your image.
Snapseed: An essential grading app with a variety of features and custom effects.

How long have you been creating these images?

I’ve been doing it about two years exclusively on the iPhone. I guess I enjoy it as a creative outlet because the outcome is solely my decision.

Is there a big community of Instagram artists?

There is a big community of people on Instagram who do this but only about twenty of them do it very well! I can't name all of them but you can instantly tell the people who put thought into their designs and the ones who rely on an app too much. That said, the iPhone should be looked at in a similar fashion to any media, in that it’s a tool to produce an idea.

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Are you a fan of other kinds of photography?

Anyone that still uses film! I follow groups on Flickr using film, Polaroid, and various lo-fi cameras such as Lomography. Any interesting light effects or multiple exposures that get produced as a result of camera misuse is always a bonus and are good references to some of the effects I mimic in my iPhone edits.

Do you ever print your photos or display them?

I often print my images because it’s nicer to show someone a physical version of an image and you will often get a better reaction as people tend to look at a printed version for longer than if it’s on a computer screen. My girlfriend and I started a wall of Instagram prints at home, which has now become our personal gallery for people to come and view. We are thinking of charging entry as it has become very popular!

I've also started keeping a scrapbook of images ripped up and sometimes drawn or painted over to produce some real collages. At the moment, I'm not sure what this will be used for but it’s something I did a lot during my Art A-Levels.

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Do you follow any interesting art / photography blogs?

There are two blogs I follow in particular: Arrested Motion because it has great collection of mixed media, and Check it for an experimental style of mixed media. Ffffound also has a good mash-up of everything, although, sometimes a bit too much to get through! Any cool images I see on the Internet get dumped into an inspiration folder and it often gets me out a small brain freeze or procrastination moment.

Who and what inspires you?

As artists go Jeremy Geddes and Phil Hale absolutely nail it every time. Jeremy's attention to detail appeals to my VFX side, and his visions of abstract themes inspire me to create images with alternate thinking. Phil has a very dark comic style and looks totally confident in the way he paints. Understanding how and why he has produced certain works is very interesting.

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Hale Spaceman 7

More recently, I discovered a local artist in Cornwall, Sarah Adams, who often promotes her art in London. She paints the Cornish coastline from the point of view of inside caves. Her art is very bold with a strong technical approach to the angular rocks and dramatic perspective within the paintings.

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I often try and get inspiration from real life as well, and have a strange fascination with the Underground. In particular, taking photos of exposed wires; they are so random that it’s hard to think anyone knows exactly where each one goes. There are also a lot of textures that can be photographed on the underground like concrete walls, metal escalators and ripped down posters, which make great additives for iPhone edits.

// For more 'Edits' from Alex, follow his Instagram @hammondo