Waco photographers and adventure-lovers met for the sixth InstaMeet Waco Saturday at the 18th and 17th Street bridges near Franklin Avenue. Now that school is back in session, meets will be held monthly.
InstaMeet Waco, an open gathering formed around Instagram users, brings the social aspect of social media to life. Anyone who is interested can meet at a random, unexplored location in Waco to take pictures, explore and find creative community. The event is advertised through the @discoverwaco Instagram account as well as personal accounts.
“The whole idea behind the InstaMeet is to build a community of creativity,” San Diego junior Graham Dodd said. “There is no membership to it. A place and time is provided and people show up and it’s fun to see who does show up. We’ve had high schoolers and we’ve had people who live in Waco who are older than most of us college students. I love to take pictures, so I go to create. We create better together.”
Nancy Magaña, a Waco local, organizes and leads the InstaMeets. She is the creator of a popular hashtag, #wacoisawonderland. There are over 10,000 photos tagged with this phrase.
“My whole thing with #wacoisawonderland was trying to get people to see beyond the Baylor bubble and see what Waco really is,” Magaña said. “So with the InstaMeet, it was a really good way of putting that into practice.”
Magaña said the next InstaMeet will be in early October. The time and location are to be announced. For more information, follow @discoverwaco or @nlmaga on Instagram.
She also said the InstaMeets are about loving the city and situation you’re in. Even before she was into photography, she said she would explore to find a “different” Waco.
“We were down in these two tunnels nearby,” Magaña said. “There’s this insane graffiti. The best graffiti I’ve ever seen in Waco. I remember thinking, ‘Waco is a wonderland.’ That’s where it began. Yesterday, it was really sweet wanting to do an InstaMeet there, because that’s where it all started.”
Once in college, Magaña said, she wanted to develop her own creative skills. Now, she wants to provide a safe place for people to do that, even if they’re not at the same skill level.
“People come for the adventure part too,” Magaña said. “That’s cool, you always need someone to take photos of.”
While some people bring expensive gear, others simply take along their iPhone.
“When the second InstaMeet came around, I was really intimidated about going; I only knew one person and I didn’t even have a “legit” camera,” Abbey Sapp said. “But by the end of the night I was so glad I went. I had made new friends and had a great chance to be surrounded by other creative people.
While there are a few regulars that come to every InstaMeet, the group dynamic varies every time. Usually there are 30 to 40 people, Magaña said. This recent InstaMeet attracted high school students, a family, young professionals and the usual majority of college students.
“At every InstaMeet, there’s a different vibe,” Magaña said. “It all depends on the people. This time’s vibe, people were just stoked to be there. They were excited to be together. Sometimes people come, and they feel like they have to put on the face that says, ‘I’m a really good photographer.’ Yesterday, people were just like, ‘I don’t care, let’s explore together.’”
Magaña first experienced Instagram as a community bonding tool during a trip to Mongolia. When looking for a way to relate to a different country and different people, Magaña said she discovered an InstaMeet Mongolia account.
“This was a cool way of building community because they were all different styles of people,” Magaña said. “You know, I wouldn’t put them together. I came back and thought, we need that. Waco needs that.”