The Darkroom caught up with instagrammer Jen DuMars, aka @strange_agent, about being motivated by failure, what makes a place and why most of her photos aren’t captioned.
The longtime Maryland resident, who splits time between West Annapolis and Charles Village, shoots her Instagram photos with an iPhone 4S, many while commuting to her public policy job in Washington.
INSTAGRAM HANDLE: @strange_agent
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF.
I’ve lived in Maryland most of my life and worked in D.C. for the past seven years. When I’m not commuting or walking around Baltimore or D.C. I enjoy reading, day trips, estate sales, live music and craft beer.
I’ve been shooting on digital, film and phone cameras every day since 2009, keeping a sort of visual diary. Recently my friend (@jonalexanderrr) began teaching me the more technical and business aspects of photography.
DESCRIBE YOUR INSTAGRAM FEED IN ONE SENTENCE.
Observer, hunter, picker in the land of pleasant living.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO SHOOT?
Things I see when I’m walking in the city. Lines. Light. Doors. Windows. Patterns. Found art. Absurdities. Emotion in the inanimate.
CURBS. CUBICLES. SUBWAY SEATS. ON THEIR FACE, MANY OF YOUR SUBJECTS COULDN’T BE MORE ORDINARY, BUT YOUR CAPTURE IS ANYTHING BUT. HOW DO YOU SEE WHAT MOST PEOPLE DON’T?
I don’t. There is beauty in the ordinary.
ON YOUR FLICKR, WHICH IS FILLED WITH INSTAGRAM PHOTOS, YOU SAY YOU BECAME PASSIONATE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY “AND CAPTURING WHAT MAKES A PLACE” WHILE STUDYING IN SPAIN?
I studied urban planning at Virginia Tech, concentrating on suburbanization, development and land use planning. Prior to the trip I failed a photo assignment for my architecture class “What Makes A Place” and I was determined to become a better photographer. This was a monthlong road trip throughout western Spain and Portugal with building construction, art history and civil engineering students. Everything I’d studied over the past 3 1/2 years (cities, history, land use) finally clicked.
WHAT MAKES A PLACE?
How people interact with the space that surrounds them.
IS INSTAGRAM A PLACE?
I think so. It’s a place to share your photos get instant feedback.
IN YOUR FEED, MOST OF YOUR PHOTOS AREN’T CAPTIONED. ANY REASON?
Captions tell the viewer what to see. I like when photos have a narrative quality.
SAY I JUST GOT MY FIRST SMARTPHONE. WHAT IS INSTAGRAM FOR? WHAT ISN’T IT FOR?
Instagram is like Twitter, but it’s a constant stream of photos instead of words. A lot of businesses use it as a marketing tool. It’s motivated me to sell a lot of my things after seeing photos of similar items on Instagram. It’s not for memes. I wish people wouldn’t post blurry photos they took in the dark.
NAME FIVE NEED-TO-KNOW INSTAGRAMMERS YOU FOLLOW.
1. @excusemysarcasm – Detroit. Graffiti hunter with an eye for lines, light and color.
2. @joshwelch_ – Oklahoma City. Great portrait and lifestyle photographer. Beautiful colors.
3. @flynnfinity – Baltimore – Charm City depicted.
4. @andradexcobain – D.C. Amazing street and portrait photographer. Shadows and everyday people.
5. @Holtermand – Denmark. One of my favorite photographers. Architecture and landscapes. Perfect symmetry and color.