Recently,my Instagram account @thehipterrebbe got a huge boost and recognition from my friend and Journalist Sonja Sharp in her essay on Crown Heights titled My Journey to The New Jerusalem. It was a moment which validated my constant and at times obsessive dedication to the picture-sharing social network.
Calling Sukkos my favorite holiday would hardly be groundbreaking nor surprising. The holiday is a mostly festive, zesty affair without the same existential and moral pressures of its two predecessors, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Moreover, it’s by far the most photogenic of the holidays.
Sure, it lacks the pyrotechnic flair of Chanukah or Purim’s audacious masquerade spectacle, but the earthy charm compensates for the ornate and lavish decor of its counterparts. It’s the curious juxtaposition of bringing one’s life and meals outdoors while also bringing inside plants, one of which spent a minimum of three years exposed to the elements before being coveted as the most expensive. It’s the two-week-long parade of men, women and children proudly carrying palm spears upright and regal to their homes. There they will wait to be meticulously crafted into a holy bouquet. It’s men praying, wearing worn, decades old tallesim against crisp yellow esrogim. It’s a photographer’s dream.
What other medium appropriate for the expression of this yearly wonder than Instagram.
Instagram for me is much more than a vessel for the proliferation of teenage vanity in the form of self portraits and daily meal logs. It’s a crucial avenue for my self-expression and individuality. When I first started my account 146 weeks ago, while crossing Cleveland on a spontaneous road trip, I did not fully grasp the potential it had for connection. As my interest developed, I met people with a similar curiosity in the app. I would eventually go to “meet ups” with total strangers to walk around take pictures and talk. I began to explore niche communities of instagramers that shared passions for me in three areas, bicycles, Brooklyn and Judaism.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, than an Instagram is 7.14 times as efficient than any tweet.
I developed a fascination with them and a habit to follow their daily posts with great interest. My interest in Judaism took me all over the world a series of low-resolution square snapshots.
I’ve collected a strong, but by no means comprehensive list of some of the feeds that I take the most interest in. I made the list based on their having a mostly or partially Jewish theme; and having an unfamiliar interest while at the same time connecting to me.
In not-so particular order
1. Aba Abbo @rabbiaba
Russia and Religion
I’m not even sure when I we started our mutual followship of each other’s feeds, but I’ve always been intrigued. His account is not much more than a daily documentation of his life as a Chabad Jew living in Moscow. But, it’s managed to maintain my rapt attention for at least a year. It’s a charming vignette into the life of an ordinary Jew with his own personal touch of filters and interesting angles.
2. Federica Valabrega @federicavalabrega
Rome Jerusalem Brooklyn
Bikes and Balabustas
I first became interested in Federica’s feed for its cycling content. She covers many criterion races on the racing circuit. When I followed her I found an Italian-born, world trotter who spent a lot of her time photographing religious Jewish women from Tunisia to Paris to Brooklyn, documented in her book Daughters of the King. Her website is http://www.federicavalabrega.com/
4. Mariska Camp @marisharocks
Rabbis and Rockstars.
There are photographers who spend years crafting a unique style that can be instantly identified as their own. With an off-camera flash and medium to wide angle lenses, Marisha had pretty much accomplished this with her portraits, which are easily recognizable from their bright faces and dark eerie backgrounds.
Her work is also defined by her choice in subjects. She can be seen fearlessly sliding through a throng of hassidic men, capturing Crown Heights’ other black and Hispanic populations or in the Midwest documenting the citizens of America’s heartland. Her fantastic website http://www.marishaphoto.com/ carries more of her great work.
5. Abby Berman @abbyberm
Caffeine and Culture
At first glance, Abby’s many shots of her daily coffee intake would seem to lump her in with the millions of morning sharers of lattes and grandés, but she really takes an interest in her coffee; like really. Each steaming square marks the country of origin (mostly African nations) and often carries the label “fair trade.”
In addition, Abby shares the fruits of her frequent travels throughout the world including India and the African continent.
It has been an honor sharing these with you and I hope to continue again soon.