Tag Archives: photos

Omaha CVB

February 24, 2017 by

This year Boys Town celebrates its 100th year. The Los Angeles Times recently ranked Boys Town’s anniversary as one of the top-10 milestones of 2017, encouraging people to visit the historic landmark and “add cultural and historical heft to your 2017 travels.”

In 1917 Father Edward J. Flanagan, a 31-year old priest, borrowed $90 to rent a boarding house to take care of troubled and neglected children here in Omaha. Since then, Boys Town has grown into an international treasure. It now helps millions of people from across the globe. It is also one of Omaha’s best-known attractions, welcoming thousands of visitors—including presidents, first ladies, sports legends, and actors—each year.  And while the celebrity of Boys Town has certainly helped put it and Omaha on the map, it is the everyday visitor who is the constant. Visitors can explore chapels and gardens, tour Father Flanagan’s home, visit his tomb at Dowd Chapel, walk through the Hall of History, and even see the world’s largest ball of stamps. That’s right—Boys Town is home to a ball of stamps that weighs more than 600 pounds (talk about selfie gold). Boys Town offers daily tours, step-on guided tours for bus groups, and interactive tours where all you need is your smartphone. QR codes are strategically placed outside Boys Town attractions; scan the codes with your phone and instantly access facts, photos, and videos at each attraction.

With the canonization process underway, the prospect of Father Flanagan being named a saint has wide-ranging implications on Boys Town’s future and on Omaha as a visitor destination. In addition to the current $1.2 billion development being planned nearby, sainthood would mean even more growth on and around the Boys Town campus. Father Flanagan’s tomb would be honored in a new structure that would need to accommodate thousands of visitors a day.  Other developments may include a museum, shops, and possibly one or more hotels. With sainthood comes enhanced international awareness of this historic campus in the middle of the country and would make it and Omaha one of the newest destinations for religious pilgrimages.

It is an exciting time for this Omaha gem that will certainly leave lasting impressions well beyond the next 100 years.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Photo Finished

January 16, 2015 by and

I attempted to snap a candid picture of my kids on the way to school because they had just requested silence in the car so that they could read. (Did I just hear that correctly?) I wanted a rare photo of them reading instead of surfing their phones. At first, I thought they were joking. It wouldn’t last to the first stop light. But five minutes into the deafening silence, I figured that I should capture this bizarre, unnatural phenomenon for posterity and Facebook.

But Lucy caught me and begged me not to take the picture. She knew I’d post it on Facebook. Duh, why else would I take a picture?

I used to scrapbook. But then social media and the digital age came along. For the record, social media is a much cheaper and lazier way to document my family’s every move. Suddenly printing pictures to glue into a paper book seemed like a very quaint, overly labor-intensive 1950s thing to do.

I’ve noticed my kids thumbing through their scrapbooks lately. They like the idea of perusing photos and remembering the good ole days and knowing that this collective document is a unique family artifact. Maybe they show a select few elite visitors during a quiet moment of reflection; maybe they don’t. It’s up to them.

They are starting to protest that 500 of my closest friends saw them eating cereal with a very clever caption.

Reality slaps me in the face and I remember our rule No. 2 of social media: Never post a picture of someone else without their approval. The rules are for the kids, of course, but maybe not. Perhaps this is one parents should make a priority to live by.

So, instead of a New Year’s Resolution: I’m starting a revolution. Take pictures of my kids for scrapbooks or picture frames only. I’m challenging us all to a face-free social media. It’ll require
more creativity and, I think, change things up for the better while respecting our kids’ and those innocent bystanders by them. Facebook posts will be dedicated to very clever words.
Think you can do it?

I tell Max and Lucy about my big idea. They hold a stare, petrified of the consequences of rolling their eyes at me. It’d make a great picture…for a scrapbook, of course.

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Joe Shearer

August 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“I don’t hate on Nikon users,” photographer Joe Shearer declares. “I hope we can all get along. I’m pretty open-minded, but I’m going to blindly put my bias towards Canon because that’s all I’ve ever known.”

Shearer, 27, laughs easily, but at the core he’s extremely serious about his job. As photo editor of the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Gateway newspaper since 2010, he knows the meaning of hard work. He graduated from Gross Catholic High School in 2002 and went to UNO the following semester. He wasn’t sure what he really wanted to do, but he knew from his experience in yearbook class that he liked photography.

“It all started in my sophomore year of high school,” he explains. “I didn’t really have any extracurricular activities or athletics I was into at the time, but yearbook stood out. I did design, writing, and photography and ended up enjoying photography the most.”

Armed with his first professional camera, the Canon 10D (of course), Shearer started snapping photos of concerts he attended, sporting events, and everyday life. Then he hit a few bumps in the road.

“Whatever I contribute and turn in, I don’t want it to be sloppily put together. It should be award-winning journalism every day.”

“Life is weird sometimes. I was out of school for a couple years,” he says. “I just worked and traveled while learning life lessons and seeing the real world on my own. The whole time I did continue shooting photography. I did a few things for The Reader and Gateway before I went back to school. I never stopped shooting photos. I was just trying to grow up.”

Once back in school as photo editor, Shearer forged ahead with his career. For the past three years, he’s won several first place trophies at Omaha Press Club’s Excellence in Journalism Awards. This year, he won Best Feature Story (video), Best Feature Story (print), Best Sports Photo, and Best Feature Photo in the student category, as well as the Best Photo Essay award in the professional category. He also landed an internship at KETV News, where he’s preparing for a career in photojournalism. His dream job would have something to do with ESPN, music, or traveling, although he insists he’s “not a sports nerd.”

“Whatever I contribute and turn in, I don’t want it to be sloppily put together,” he says. “It should be award-winning journalism every day. There are a lot of talented journalists and artists in the Omaha area. We have a lot of incredible television, radio, and print. It’s a very creative city. If I could be associated with all of the greats in town, that would great.”

Q&A: Valeria Orlandini

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Valeria Orlandini has made a career of preserving works on paper and photographic materials, many of which are proudly displayed in fine homes and museums worldwide. Ensuring that the rich stories, family memories, and important lessons they convey live on for future generations is a job she takes very seriously.

Q: Tell us about your work as a preservation specialist. Who are your clients? 

A: Orlandini Art Conservation was established in 2004 to provide the highest quality conservation treatment and preservation services for a broad range of paper-based objects: historic manuscripts, prints, printed documents, watercolors, drawings, paintings in all media, collages, contemporary works, pastels, and posters, as well as parchment, ivory, and photographic materials. Regardless of whether you’re a discerning collector or a family seeking to preserve precious documents, my goal is to provide all clients with the same exacting standards required by major art and archival institutions. My clients are mid- to high-end collectors and custodians of artistic and valuable and irreplaceable historic materials from holdings in museums, archives, libraries, private owners, and corporate businesses. I work in a wide range of projects and budgets.

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Q: Where did you receive your education and training in art and art conservation?

A: I hold a B.F.A. from the National School of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires; a M.F.A. from the National School of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires; and graduated in 2002 with a M.S. and a Certificate in Art Conservation in Paper and Library Science at the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum Art Conservation Program in Newark, Del.

Q: When did you first discover your love of history? Why are you so passionate about preserving it?

A: I have always been an art and history geek! I grew up with artists in my family, and as a child I would dig for old artifacts at my grandparents’ homes. I think that from that very early age, I became aware of how real history can be. Also, I come from a family of collectors and art and architecture lovers. Just about every member of my family collects old artifacts and memorabilia of previous generations. I grew up with a real sense of the importance of the past.

Every day, the vision of artists, the identity of people, and the very evidence of history all threaten to disappear. Left alone, old buildings will crumble, the Declaration of Independence will disintegrate, and the photographed faces of battle-weary Civil War soldiers will fade away, among other artifacts. The cultural patrimony, so painstakingly created over thousands of years, is surprisingly ephemeral with the ravages of time and the indifference of a disposable modern culture its biggest enemies.

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Q: How does your work interplay with home interiors and historic home preservation? 

A: As a collections conservator, I work very closely with interior designers, architects, engineers, and maintenance personnel to secure the building envelope where we protect objects from extremes and fluctuations in exterior temperature and moisture as well as light, dust, and gaseous contaminants. We frequently assess and measure temperature and relative humidity characteristics of air surrounding collections, as well as patterns of use and handling protocols. The conservation mission recognizes the need to preserve the unique character of both historic structures and artifacts. No two collections are identical.

Q: What have been some of your most interesting past projects?

A: While working in a number of studios and labs, I’ve had the privilege to treat an array of fascinating objects: Old Master paintings; Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo Period; ancient Korean rubbings and manuscripts; original newsprints from various American cities upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination from April 1865; John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” folios; original documents of the Founding Fathers; and many others.

Most notably in 2010-11, I participated in the conservation treatment of the Thomas Jefferson Bible Project at the National Museum of American History, at the Smithsonian Institution. I worked with a team of conservators and scientists, conducting materials analysis, assessing aqueous stabilization treatment options, considering appropriate micro- and macro-environmental conditions, and a variety of other tests to help preserve this national treasure.

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Q: What projects have you worked with since moving here?

A: I have treated several objects from the Durham Museum. This museum stands as a magnificent reminder of a bygone era and allows generations to come together to learn, to share, and to remember.

Also, a very rewarding project that I carried out last fall was the treatment of an original Wright Brothers Patent Document [No. 821,393] for the “flying machine,” circa 1903-06 that was brought to my care from a private collector in Iowa. This was a really interesting study piece about the history of aviation and contains five original signatures hand-inscribed in iron gall ink by the Wright Brothers: Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912), witnesses, and attorney.

Q: What advice would you give those looking to preserve family heirlooms? 

A: The American Institute of Conservation and Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) has developed guides for caring for your treasures at conservation-us.org. There’s also a book by Heritage Preservation entitled Caring for Your Family Treasures that can provide folks practical advice and easy-to-use guidelines on how to polish silver and furniture without diminishing their value, as well as creating safe display conditions for artworks, ceramics, dolls, quilts, books, photographs, and other treasured collections. These are tips with clear and understandable information on how to care for beloved family treasures.

Caption Throw Down

August 26, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It all started Christmas 2011. Ten siblings each brought a few old photographs to the Carta family holiday party upon the urging of sister Kathy Peters. Sibling Susan Kruse wasn’t sure what they would use the photos for, but she knew her family could make a game out of them—she just didn’t know it would soon spark a business plan.

“There are 11 kids in our family, and we grew up playing games. I’m sure it kept our parents happy…we were out of their hair,” Kruse says with a smile, then glances at brother Mike Carta as she recounts how her company came into being.

A week after their family Christmas, Kruse invited her brother over for dinner and presented him with an idea. She wanted to turn the game that their family invented with those photos into something that everyone could play.

“Are you out of your mind? You want to start a company to do this?” laughs Carta as he recalls his initial reaction.

“Sure, it’ll be fun!” Kruse had responded.

On New Year’s Eve 2011, Dixie Moo Games, LLC, was born, along with their flagship game, Caption Throw Down. The game is a version of the entertainment that the Carta family had created just the week prior. Carta suggested they name the company in honor of their mother, lovingly nicknamed Dixie Moo. Kruse chose the game’s moniker.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules.” – Susan Kruse

Now in its second edition, Caption Throw Down is well on its way to becoming a game cupboard staple. To play, one player chooses a photograph from the stack provided, then displays it for all players to see. Each player then submits a funny, witty, or insightful caption for the photo. Finally, the individual who chose the photo selects their favorite submission. Winners of each round are awarded points, and the game continues as long as players remain engaged.

“The best games are the ones where you make your own rules,” Kruse says. For that reason, Caption Throw Down contains limited instructions and guarantees that no one has to be eliminated. “I didn’t like games where everyone [continues] playing while you had to sit out. It was no fun,” Kruse shares.

In addition to many of Kruse’s personal family photos that have made the cut, Caption Throw Down includes photos picked up at local antique stores and estate sales. “We can tell if we start laughing right away, it’s a keeper,” Carta adds. Dixie Moo Games also encourages home players to submit their own family photographs via the Dixie Moo website, granting permission for the photos to be used in future editions of the game.

While the family comes together to assemble the individual boxes, all game parts are printed separately around the Midwest. Their picture printer is in Lincoln, their labeler in Omaha, and their boxes are created in Ohio.

Company sales have been driven mostly by word of mouth, says Kruse, the sole owner of the company. She has arranged several Caption Throw Down game nights through local bars and churches, which have been a huge success. Additionally, she created a Facebook page (facebook.com/captionthrowdown), where she uploads pictures for anyone to caption.

Asked whether there are more games in the future of Dixie Moo, Kruse smiles and admits that while she does have ideas, she won’t be sharing them—one of the most difficult parts of having such a creative business, she says.

Caption Throw Down is available for sale online at dixiemoogames.com. The game can also be purchased at retail locations listed on the website. 

The Break-Point Generation

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not an uncommon tradition. The Roemmich family gathers every year for a reunion. It’s also not uncommon at such reunions to have boxes of black-and-white photos of family members no one can identify any more.

So Ron Roemmich decided to create a video cataloging all the family he and his siblings still could name—a historical record for the younger generations.

Just one problem. Ron didn’t know how to create this video.

Ron and his wife, Berdeen, signed up for a movie-making class at Metro Community College. Their class was taught by Laurie Brodeur, a semi-retired Millard teacher who now leads six technology courses in Metro’s continuing education curriculum.

Although Brodeur was “very gracious with senior citizens,” Ron admits to feeling behind the other eight or nine students—and like he was taking up a lot of Brodeur’s attention during the class period.

“I suppose the real confession is: We had her come back and help us after the class was over,” he says.

“We’re kind of the break-point generation. People 10 years younger than us are probably okay. But anybody over 60, I bet 50 percent know what they’re doing [with computers].” – Ron Roemmich

Having a project with a firm deadline made learning the program an imperative goal. “It was fun, but it would be desperately frustrating if you didn’t have a goal,” Ron says. And though they had 500 photos, “It was not gonna whip us.”

The Roemmiches were pleased with their final product. In fact, they made two more videos for a reunion of Ron’s doctoral classmates, making good use of their new movie-making skills.

Even so, Ron says, “We’ve explored I’d say 1 percent of what a computer can do for us.”

The Roemmiches do have a Facebook account but only check it when their kids tell them to. After checking their 100-200 e-mails per day, Berdeen says, “you don’t want to go on Facebook. You’re just tired.”

“We’re kind of the break-point generation,” Ron says. “People 10 years younger than us are probably okay. But anybody over 60, I bet 50 percent know what they’re doing—or would that be 20 percent? Not a lot.”

It doesn’t take much to fall behind in technology. “When it could have burst open for me,” Ron says, “would have been in the ’80s maybe. But my boss was afraid of computers, so he told the rest of us we should leave them alone. So we really got behind. And now we don’t even know the language.”

Along with computers are phones, televisions, and other electronic systems. Like the DVR the Roemmiches got for Christmas and don’t really understand how to use.

Asking people for help is the best way Berdeen knows to learn something new. That and practicing. “You just have to keep using it and trying different things,” she says.

Brodeur is one of those people the Roemmiches will ask for help. And she would agree with Berdeen: Practice and patience are key.

“Students can see their progression from one class to the next and enjoy being able to go home and try their skills and return to the next class in the series with questions.” – Emily Getzschman, marketing and media relations manager with Omaha Public Library

Among her Metro classes is a series of technology update courses for seniors (although non-seniors are of course also welcome). The first class is broad, covering things like the difference between a browser and a search engine; the many uses of Google; and introductions to some sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Hulu. It helps students become comfortable using the computer.

Exploring those sites is important, Brodeur says, because “you can use Google and YouTube to learn how to do almost anything on your computer.”

The second and third levels help set students up with Facebook accounts and learn more and more about using the program.

Brodeur loves to see her students have an “aha” moment and tries to always stress that no question is a stupid one. This is important, because adults rarely like to admit when they don’t know something. Overall, she says, it is a very positive experience because her students come eager to learn with optimistic attitudes.

Omaha Public Library also offers computer classes for beginners and older adults. OPL partners with AARP for a series that gives an introduction to computers, including training on Microsoft Word, e-mail, and the internet. Seniors who are not new to computers can take classes for specialized software to manipulate photos, create greeting cards, and learn how to use social media tools, like Facebook and Pinterest. Classes can even aid seniors who are unexpectedly re-entering the job market.

Emily Getzschman, marketing and media relations manager for OPL, says that the introductory classes offered in a series are very well-attended. “Students can see their progression from one class to the next and enjoy being able to go home and try their skills and return to the next class in the series with questions and to build on their new computer experiences,” Getzschman says.

Classes are free, with no limit on the number of times you can take them. And they’re offered every month.

Like at Metro, the library class instructors strive to make students feel supported, never stupid. Getzschman has heard students say the instructors “were patient and let the student work at a comfortable pace.”

 

A resource guide for seniors can be found at http://guides.omahalibrary.org/Seniors.

Ekapon Tanthana

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When worldly local photographer Ekapon Tanthana isn’t at a glamorous photo shoot or rubbing elbows with the fashion elite, he drills teeth. Mild-mannered dentist by day. Fashion photographer by night.

There is a method to his madness. Meticulous about his craft, he plans every detail of each shoot, carefully sketching out the images he wants to capture. His work has a signature look. It is, at times, dramatic with flights of whimsy. Always tongue-in-cheek, he likes to push boundaries. With everything from nude models to bondage themes, it becomes clear after seeing his work that he is not your typical photographer. He’s an artist.b

Tanthana did fashion photography for the first Omaha Fashion Show in 2006, which won him the Omaha Visual Arts Award. He has worked in L.A. and New York but prefers Omaha. He is enamored with the Old Market and marvels at the explosion of creative energy on the local scene in recent years. He’s excited to be in the thick of it: creative people coming together to create art for art’s sake.

“Great thing about Omaha is everyone’s friendly in the community and helps each other out,” Tanthana says. He has befriended all the local photographers in town. They help each other out by sharing equipment and contacts.ekaponfinal

He chooses his work with great care and has to really be inspired by a project to pursue it. His eyes light up as he describes bringing his vision to light, that aha! moment when a vision is captured. “There’s that moment when everyone in the room just feels it,” he says. “I want my work to look like a still from a movie, to tell a story.”

Locally, Tanthana has shown his work at the Professional Darkroom Gallery, Jackson Street Artworks, and Nomad. He’s also had his art featured in local magazines, publications in his native Thailand, as well as Omaha Fashion Week. He’s even been invited to be a guest speaker on his art at Creighton University and BW Thai.

Tanthana first discovered his passion for film at age 12, while attending boarding school in England. He has gone on to do artistic and fashion photography, most of which was shot locally on a shoestring budget. He worked with supermodel Samantha Gradoville at a shoot at the former French Café in the Old Market. He works with Rhodora, a local makeup artist who trained with Chanel and is a guest makeup artist for the brand. He has also worked with Payton Holbrook, a local hair stylist who has since moved to New York and does editorials and New York Fashion Week hair.F

Tanthana says that juggling full-time dentistry with his numerous creative projects takes planning but is well worth the effort. Seeing his vision come to life is gratifying.

“I think of these images. They just come to me. Then I have to capture them,” he explains. “To me, being a success is someone being influenced by you, as you have been influenced by others.”

He says he couldn’t do photography full-time because he is so particular about his work. True to his art, he is ruled by inspiration—not always an option for a working photographer. He also adds that it can take time to fully dream up the visual designs he later creates.Elisafly

Like his photography, Tanthana takes pride in his dental work. He shows off pictures of some of his patient transformations. One photo titled Meth Mouth is the before picture of a patient’s rotting teeth. The after picture is a stunning Hollywood smile. Beyond creating a beautiful, healthy smile for patients, Tanthana is touched by making a real difference in someone’s life.

Whether planning a shoot or crafting a smile, Tanthana leaves his distinct trademark of perfection.

Arranging Wall Décor

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It might seem like it’s less stressful to just throw photos and artwork up on the wall quickly to get decorating out of the way, but it won’t be in the long run. You’ll always notice that one frame is slightly higher than another, or that the pictures don’t really fit the theme of the room. Besides, the point of decorating your walls is to emphasize a room’s décor—not to simply fill wall space.

Here are some tips for hanging arranging photos in your home:

  • Before you put holes in the wall, figure out your photo or artwork layout. If it helps, cut shapes of the frames out of paper and tape them to the wall to get a feel of the space. Keep arranging until you find the right layout, and then hang the real frames.
  • When hanging frames in rows, make sure they are level and identically spaced.
  • Create a theme when hanging smaller photos or artwork together. For example, pictures from all of your vacations can be grouped together.
  • Wall décor should be between 66 and 75 percent of the width of the furniture they are above, as it will better utilize the wall space and bring balance to the setting.
  • Hang larger photos or artwork of landscapes on the wall to make a small room or small area look bigger.
  • Find similar color frames when hanging photos or artwork in the same area. The frames don’t need to be the same style, just the same color, as it will make your walls look less cluttered and more organized.

Remember the biggest rule of decorating your walls—if it doesn’t have a purpose or a meaning, don’t hang it on the wall.

Make Any Photo a Great Gift

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Framing a photo for your special someone can make for a great Valentine’s Day gift. But why just settle for a regular frame and print when you can get creative with your gift? Canvas prints, puzzles, t-shirts—you name it! There are plenty of unique ways to share photos with your sweetheart this holiday.

Rockbrook Camera

If you’re thinking about getting a big photo gift, consider Rockbrook Camera’s wall-size Presentation Print or Gallery Wrapped Canvas Print. They’ll print from negatives, slides, prints, or digital files. Canvases come in Rolled Canvas, Stretched, or Gallery-Wrapped Canvas, and Textured Fine Art Prints. The service time for a canvas print is three working days for unstretched and five working days for stretched or gallery-wrapped. Depending on the size and the type of canvas, projects can range from $49.99 to $269.99.

But Rockbrook Camera has more than just canvas prints for photo gifting—they also have photo memorabilia options. You can have photos crafted into a beautifully bound 11×8½ book. Covers come in black, royal blue, burgundy, or metallic silver, and cost $29.99 for 20 pages or $39.99 for 40 pages. You can also have photos printed onto puzzles ($13.99 for 110-piece or $26.99 for 252-piece), t-shirts ($16.99-19.99), woven pillows ($75.99 for 17×17), woven throw ($129.99 for 50×60), ceramic mugs ($12.99-16.99), and many more gifts.

Rockbrook Camera at Rockbrook Village
2717 S. 108th St.
M-F/9am-7pm; Sat/9am-5pm; Sun/12-5pm
402-397-1171
rockbrookcamera.com

Rockbrook Camera at Legacy
2909 S. 169th Plz., Ste 100
M-F/9am-7pm; Sat/9am-5pm; Sun/12-5pm
402-691-0003
rockbrookcamera.com

CanvasPop

If you’re more of an online bargain hunter, check out CanvasPop, which often has great deals on its photo gifts. Since 2009, CanvasPop has been providing customers with the highest quality canvas photo prints anywhere. Unlike other photo printing locations, CanvasPop can create canvas prints from images beyond negatives and digital files. They can actually access your Facebook or Instagram accounts or pull photos directly from your mobile phone! With every canvas print you order, CanvasPop can also send you a free digital proof by e-mail so that you can see exactly what you’re getting.

Depending on the size, the type of canvas, and the framing, photo projects with CanvasPop can range from $30 to $419 (not including the flat rate of $14 for shipping and handling). If your order over $150, however, you can get free shipping. And if you don’t love it, CanvasPop will either reprint it or give you your money back.

CanvasPop also has multiple options for photo presentation. Photo collages can incorporate 3-20 photos (starting at $60); photo mosaics can incorporate 9-200 photos (starting at $60); and panoramic photo prints are available in 18×48, 24×72, or any custom size.

CanvasPop
1-866-619-9574
canvaspop.com

Instagram Builds Brands

November 25, 2012 by

Instagram is this non-assuming app that is a snap to download and use on your iPhone or Android. It helps us makes the most of our increasingly busy, visual, and social lives. And people love it. According to a recent Forbes article, Instagram saw “remarkable growth” in the first half of 2012, going from 15 million users early in the year to 80 million in July. That’s a 400 percent increase in users.

Founded by two Stanford grad geeks who majored in Management Science and Symbolic Systems with a focus in Human-Computer Interaction, the inspiration they got from working at Google, Microsoft, and a few start-ups led to the big idea—an easy way to take a photo, give it a cool effect, affix your location, tag your friends, and share with the world (or at least your world) through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more. With Instagram, you can broadcast a visual experience to thousands in a matter of seconds.

That’s what the world’s major brands like about Instagram.

The Starbucks and Redbulls of the world may be obvious early adopters of the cool Instagram technology. Performers, fashion companies, and sports teams use Instagram to showcase what they do best. But savvy marketers in the halls of General Electric and other corporations are leveraging this tiny tool to make big waves in building their brands. Here’s how GE did it:

They birthed their Instagram account by sharing photos of their innovative jet engine and health care technology as “art.” Then they launched a contest inviting Instagrammers to share their photos of items that illustrate any of GE’s four main areas of innovation (moving, powering, curing, and building). Contest photos were marked by a hashtag (that groups and feeds similar photos to users) “#GEInspiredMe,” and shared on GE’s Facebook page. This allowed other Instagrammers and Facebook fans to see and vote for the best photo. The winner was flown to Germany to photograph a world-class jet engine plant. A little ingenuity and a lot of creativity helped GE emotionally engage thousands of prospective customers and  grow brand awareness and sales.

To see the more than 4,000 user photos submitted to GE, search “GEInspiredMe” from your Instagram account.