'An unattainable form of magic' - How one photographer successfully uses Instagram as a business tool for her art

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#instafamous Flickr Creative Commons/[Jonathan Rolande]

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should be well aware of the impact social media sites and profiles have on scouting, marketing and even creating careers.

If it weren’t for sites such as YouTube, we may never have heard of Justin Bieber or Jenna Marbles. The social media buzz is so hyped now that the term ‘Social Media Influencer’ is actually a career – try explaining that one to your Grandma!

In the first of a series on how Instagram has helped shape the careers of travel photographers, we speak to Maddison Perrins, a young American artist who has become well known for her atmospheric, emotive landscape photography. Currently based on the road, this Montana girl is expanding her work into the travel photography genre as her social media fanbase continues to grow.

In this interview we talk to Maddison about the background to her unique art form, how social media has played a role in her career and even get some tips on travel and photography.


•• tutti frutti •• 009/100

A photo posted by m a d i s o n perrins (@madisonperrins) on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:56am PDT

Hi Madison, tell us a bit about yourself and your background. Do you think that growing up in Bozeman, MT – an area with such beautiful, untouched vastness – has impacted your work in any way?

I’m Madison Perrins, a 26-year-old artist and traveler. I earned a degree in photography from Montana State University in Bozeman, MT—an outdoor lover’s mecca. Though I photograph almost exclusively in nature now, landscape photography turned me off initially because it tends to have this cult of technical perfectionists that follow it (I blame Ansel Adams). My style is a little looser and emotive. But bit-by-bit I began to try and draw the same expressive elements I did out of portraits in the organic space of landscapes. After a while, my focus shifted to making landscapes in a playful and surreal way that I hadn’t tried before.


•• and then there are the cravings. oh, la!...she may need hours where the stars are like face powder spilt on a black marble floor. she may feel she will die if she does not dance naked in a thunderstorm, sit in perfect silence, return home ink-stained, paint-stained, tear-stained, moon-stained. •• clarissa pinkola estes

A photo posted by m a d i s o n perrins (@madisonperrins) on Jan 20, 2016 at 11:45am PST

Have you always had an interest in photography and art?

One of my strong suits is creativity, so I think even though I didn’t take that many art classes growing up, the subconscious urge to make was always there.

My mom has had a lifelong passion for arts and crafts, so watching her made me think that creating in your free time was perfectly acceptable. I think that past experience with tactile crafts lends itself to my personal style now: I want it to look as though I’ve touched the image, make marks on it, scribble here, paint-like dots there.

Your work, which combines both photography and art in a single image, is very experimental. Do you have any artistic role models or influencers?

A large influence on my work now are concepts that my classmates and I learned in a class called Experimental Photography. Many of the processes involved interaction with the print itself to transform the final look—and ultimately the meaning of an image—by flicking bleach-like liquids on it or rubbing mixtures of chemicals all over it. If it sounds scary, that’s because it is! Our professor was flat out honest that we were occasionally going to be making some bizarre-looking stuff, and I fell in love with that anarchist element of it.


•••||••• i need help naming these little creatures.

A photo posted by m a d i s o n perrins (@madisonperrins) on Jan 6, 2016 at 5:22pm PST

Your Instagram account @madisonperrins is starting to gain a noticeable amount of followers. Why do you think people are drawn to your pictures?

I can only take a stab at why people resonate with my work. It’s very personal, even if that’s not initially obvious. The natural world expresses a certain unattainable form of magic—and this is an interpretation of my relationship with that magic. I think many have similar connections to nature, and my work is an illustration of that connection.

Is social media a key part of getting your work out there and noticed, and how has it affected your photography?

Social media has 100 percent been the reason why my work has gotten in front of as many people as it has. In the past I poo-pooed Instagram, but my opinion completely changed when I saw how it can be used as a business tool by visual artists. A solid following on social media is a form of currency these days.

However, it feels, for lack of a better word, icky to let those numbers affect you in a way that you’re willing to completely change your style for more likes. It’s a tried and true thing in art: people respond to authenticity, so that should be your number one resource as an artist, however helpful social media may be. You can’t let exposure drain you.

You’re currently participating in an American Road trip, capturing the beauty of US National Parks. Tell us about this particular trip, and how you came to be involved. 

The road trip I’m doing right now actually is my job—it’s through Backpacker magazine. My partner and I applied while we were driving a VW Vanagon around South America, and a lot of the photos and video skills we were using to document our time living in Latin America translated into what they were looking for. Now we live on the road full time, making photo and video content about people’s relationships with these beautiful places.


A photo posted by m a d i s o n perrins (@madisonperrins) on Jan 19, 2016 at 9:43am PST

At present, is photography your sole career? Is travel photography something you’d like to keep doing?

Photography is my career right now—with a huge dash of copywriting and video work. I’d like to continue to do whatever will let me continue to work remotely and also continue photographing!

Right now I don’t have to work my time around travel, since travel is my job. But we do spend a lot of time working while we’re driving: writing, editing, and curating our best content. And of course, keeping up on Instagram.

What equipment do you use for your Instagram photos?

For the work I’ve shared on social media, I’ve used solely DSLR cameras and Photoshop. When photographing, I’m pretty traditional in compositions. It’s later when I sit down with several images to get bits and pieces of them to work together that things get interesting.

Being an up and coming photographer, what has been the best advice you've received so far?

The best advice I’ve gotten as a photographer? Okay, so here I have to give a nod to my professors, whose influence kept me from leaving school and giving up.

First, Chris: “Everyone succeeds at different levels at different times.”

Alexis: “If you don’t like what’s going on in your own head, you will be unhappy anywhere you go.”

Ian: “Craft.” This one’s less obvious, but Ian’s a strong advocate for that technical mastery that separates your work from others, and I’ve heard him emphasise it many different ways.

Dan: “You’re a person first, an artist second, and a photographer third.”

Where do you see yourself and your work in five years?

In five years, I hope to be collaborating on large projects with people who’ve hired me for my personal vision—I want to keep that vision true and fresh, and use it to make a living. It would also be nice to be in some sort of setting to help young women feel empowered by expressing themselves artistically.


A photo posted by m a d i s o n perrins (@madisonperrins) on Jul 11, 2015 at 9:15am PDT


To view more of Maddison’s work or order prints, click on the links below:
Website: http://www.mperrins.com
Instagram: @madisonperrins

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