Instagram account offers new lens on life in Latin America

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  • October 7, 2015

By Martin do Nascimento

From one day to the next, followers of the Instagram account Everyday Latin America can travel virtually from Paraguay to Costa Rica to Mexico and beyond.

Photojournalists Elie GardnerOscar DurandDanielle Villasana and Federico Pardo created the Everyday Latin America account in July 2014 in an effort to fill a gap in the visual portrayal of Latin America by mobilizing photographers to document and share images of people and places in the region.

“It really focuses on creating and publishing and sharing media that is not typically seen,” Villasana said in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. “So we really try to break stereotypes of Latin America by showing these ‘everyday moments’ that you don’t see in the mainstream [media].”

The journalists based the project on Everyday Africa, which describes itself as “an attempt to re-direct focus toward a more accurate understanding of what the majority of Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life,” according to its website.

Everyday Latin America operates by posting multiple photos a day, primarily to its Instagram account, but also on Facebook.

Since its founding, Everyday Latin America has racked up more than 35,000 followers on Instagram.

Currently there are over 20 professional photographers who contribute images ranging from foot volleyball on Ipanema beach in Brazil to ornithology (bird-watching) in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, to brick making in Argentina.

Although the photographers are professionals, Everyday Latin America emphasizes that its images are made on cell phones.

“We’ve hung on to this idea that everybody has a phone so everyone can shoot photos with their phone,” Villasana said. “There’s something really raw and instantaneous about shooting on your phone and then just quickly editing it and putting it on Instagram.”

The project also runs photo series called #historiasvivas (#livingstories) where photographers can share long-form photos stories over a series of days.

Last year, after 43 students were disappeared from Iguala, Mexico, Brazilian contributor Adriana Zehbrauskas posted an #historiasvivas of her coverage of the town in the weeks and months that followed. Zhebrauskas has since been named one of the three first-ever Getty Images Instagram Grants winners for her mobile phone posts examining the topic.

Recently, similar projects known as “The Everyday Projects” have been popping up all over the world; there are the more straightforward Everyday AsiaEveryday Middle EastEveryday USA projects, but also niche ones like Everyday DPRK, which focuses on North Korea, Everyday Climate Change, or even Everyday Yazd, which looks exclusively at the Iranian city of Yazd.

At last year’s Photoville in New York City, a number of “The Everyday Projects” came together to create Everyday Everywhere, an amalgamation of the various projects’ work that posts only once per day.

One year after its launch, Everyday Everywhere has over 100,000 followers on Instagram.

Villasana moved to Peru after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013. Her work takes her all over the region; she has covered mining and construction in the Amazon for Al Jazeera America, travel in Latin America for The New York Times, and has won considerable acclaim for an on-going project covering the transgender community in Peru.

Still, she says that the images the mainstream media often seeks of Latin America don’t paint a full picture of the place; certain themes, like violence and poverty, are stressed far beyond others and out of proportion to reality.

“I think people are tired of seeing the expected image in the media,” said Villasana, reflecting on the public’s positive response to the everyday projects concept. “People feel really refreshed and inspired when somebody does something different in the media or when you see the unexpected.”

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.