Fifty shades of purple. Photographer Justin Alber uses Instagram to convey the full spectrum of the city’s sunrises. The colorful, common theme makes scrolling down his Instagram page look like a bag of pastel Skittles just exploded above Denver’s skyline. “Life can be taken away in an instant,” says Alber, an artist whose photos convey a message about the transience of time and beauty. “By looking deeper into the photographs, I make you really appreciate how quickly these moments can slip away.”
Jeffrey Beal is young, passionate and hungry, his work powerful and colorful. The photo above (and on the cover of this issue) was taken in July off the balcony of a high-rise near Cheesman Park. “I didn’t think the sunset would be so great, but I went up that afternoon in good faith, and — boom! — all of Colorado’s beauty was there for me to capture,” he recalls.
His love affair with the Mile High City has become particularly passionate over the past year, as his Instagram account has blown up — but not as much as it should have, given its insane quality and content. “I love Denver,” he says. “I’m a native, and I love showing off our beautiful city. Once I posted this photo it kind of went viral, but I really just meant to push myself creatively, personally and just catch a nice view.
All the rest was just a bonus.”
Kelly Calvillo is one of the most recognized outdoor photographers in the state, and with good reason. She often entrances her audience with dreamy landscapes and brilliant travel quotes, donning adorable hats, swimming in front of waterfalls and painting a beautiful picture of the world around her, no matter where she is. “I think I’ve always been addicted to the photographer life without necessarily picking up a camera,” says Calvillo.
“I used to just call it ‘the travel life.’ I remember traveling through the Middle East in Jordan with just an iPhone and my wits, but no one to really share it with. When I got home, it was really hard to convey what it was like in this complete opposite place that’s a world away from home. Maybe that’s where I found comfort in documenting scenery and moments.”
In spite of what appears to be constant traveling, native Calvillo is proud to call Colorado home. “I’ve never loved Colorado more than after I picked up a camera,” she says. “I’m considered a Denver native, but it took me a while to warm up to Denver being my home. I honestly always wanted out when I was younger. It took me exploring the world to come back to realize how amazing my back yard really is.”
“This was one of my favorite moments from this past year,” says professional badass, biker babe and photographer Liz Horton. “It was taken somewhere either in Austria or Switzerland, when I was traveling through Europe with the Women’s Moto Exhibit over the summer.” Her Instagram account has enabled her to connect with other photographers and bikers around the world. But she’s just as satisfied escaping to a remote Colorado locale as riding through the Alps. “It brings me right back to the feeling of riding through so much overwhelming beauty every day and being surrounded by such supportive and inspiring women,” she says.
A rare breed, the Denver-based motorcyclist defines her own adventures. “I really started getting into motorcycle photography about four years ago, when I got my first bike, a 1984 Yamaha XS650,” says Horton. “It was something that kind of consumed me: I had found this thing that was so freeing and rebellious and fun! I loved it. I wanted to capture and share little pieces of what I was feeling, and starting shooting it as much as I could. A couple years later, I linked up with the Tiny Daggers [@tiny.daggers], a three-woman Denver-based moto crew. Social media and Instagram, in particular, really became the best way for us to connect with the community and share our adventures. We are continuously trying to inspire people to have fun, go on adventures and ride as much as possible.”
With over 46,000 followers, Horton remains humble. “We’re all so lucky to have such positivity surrounding what we’re trying to do,” she says. “It’s really a new and exciting time for women motorcyclists, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Luke Gottlieb has made his career photographing distinctive models. Every shade of beauty can be found on his Instagram feed, which has a folksy and faded vibe that’s a refreshing break from trendy fashion photography. “Finding models that I feel fit my style is much easier with a platform like Instagram,” says Gottlieb. “Conversely, my presence on Instagram enhanced my professional credibility in the eyes of models and brands; as the number of followers grows, it acts as a track record. Having a larger Instagram base and a unique style has been significant.”
He comes across as a cinematographer, directing stories inside of still images. “Instagram has allowed me to connect with other creatives in a way that no other platform has been able to do,” says Gottlieb. “It has been the best tool in opening my eyes to a wide range of artistic expression.”
And many eyes are on his work: Gottlieb has over 55,000 followers.
If you’ve ever wanted to run away and live in the woods, you’ll love Ross Cole’s Instagram. He explores the outdoors in the most authentic way possible: camping out or staying in remote cabins for extended periods of time. “I lived nearby in an A-frame cabin on Blue River,” he recalls. “It’s a remote location, but still only ten to fifteen minutes away from downtown Breckenridge. This is what made the experience awesome — because even though I was close to the rest of society, I felt secluded in the quiet, snowy Colorado woods. I would chop all my own firewood, because my girlfriend and I only used the wood stove to heat the cabin. I really enjoyed doing that; it was sort of meditative, you know?”
So is shooting for Instagram, which Cole loves because it’s enabled him to connect to like-minded folks in the real world. “I’ve met a ton of amazing people through this platform,” he says. “It’s also a great tool for photography, because it allows me to see what people enjoy and what they don’t.”
“It’s the hardest thing I have ever done,” Ryan Bonneau says of his mountain photography. “I love every day of it.” And it shows, because Bonneau’s images seep into your soul and stain your memory.
“Photography was always a hobby of mine, and when I moved to Telluride shortly after college sixteen years ago, I began to take it more seriously,” he explains. “It kind of sunk its claws into me, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
Telluride is remote, which allows Bonneau to be both an adventurer and an escapist. “Adventure is a huge part of what makes me happy, and Telluride is a paradise for that,” he explains. “I would be lying to myself, though, if there isn’t a little element of escaping by living here. It certainly is a bit of a bubble we live in.”
A full-time photographer in Telluride for the past eight years, Bonneau captures crystal-clear moments, including this fireworks show on New Year’s Eve 2016. He often takes photographs very early in the morning or late in the day, as the sun retreats. “I’m drawn to vibrant colors in the landscape, and this time of day can’t be beat for that,” he says. “I’m constantly chasing perfect light, which rarely happens but is so incredibly beautiful when it does. This also fits my lifestyle well, as I love to hike or ski into remote places and watch the sunset or sunrise. Even if I don’t get any good light, I think it’s time well spent.”
Scott Wilson works from dusk ’til dawn. A photographer from Scotland, he relocated to Denver in August 2015; Wilson praises the “beautiful state, fantastic people.” Although he takes photographs of the great outdoors, he’s known for his shots of the city. “I do like urban drama,” he admits. “Some of the work I’ve done in Commerce City, for example. Do you know Cherry Creek State Park? There’s a road called Dam Road. I park in the park and climb up in the wall, up these rocks.”
And Instagram lets him share what he sees. “Instagram is more dynamic: The light, the quality, the edge you get on Instagram is like nothing else,” Wilson explains. “You’re constantly seeing great work from other people, and it kind of inspires you, pushing you on. I’m in my forties, so it’s a place to meet some young photographers; it’s sort of energizing for me.”
This shocking view was taken from his 46th-floor office. “Very rarely am I shooting once the sun is up,” he says. “It’s always dusk and dawn.” See more work by Wilson at the Denver Photo Art Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe, where he is a resident artist.
The gritty, gorgeous, Denver-centric @Theyshootn displays many powerful points of view, including those of photographers Zach Hartwig @z.stills, Sina Ghozati @mr.svndmvn and Evan @_evan303_ , to name just a few. Founders Blake Jackson (@jake_blackson) and Armando Geneyro (@armando_geneyro) began @Theyshootn two years ago and have hosted a variety of gallery shows since, most recently at Jiberish in RiNo. “More than anything, Theyshootn is why I take photos,” Geneyro says. “It means being able to have a platform to tell the stories that go untold. It means constantly chasing inspiration, and never settling. It means getting out of my comfort zone, diving into something I know nothing about. Oh, and Theyshootn is hip-hop as fuck.”
The two founders are grateful for all the incredible artists and friends they’ve met since starting this social experiment. “It’s taken me down paths I never expected to travel,” Geneyro says. “It’s given me the opportunity to curate shows that feature some of my favorite artists on Instagram, to give back to the community. It’s really given me a renewed purpose.”
The concept was never to represent Denver with one voice, but with many. “Theyshootn is really just a platform to not only express ourselves through an art form we love, but also to give others an opportunity to do the same,” Jackson explains. “Anything we’ve ever done under that brand has always been about giving people an opportunity to have their work seen and voice heard. We never want to forget the ‘they’ part of Theyshootn.”
Ty Newcomb is one of Colorado’s most daring photographers, taking intense, long winter hikes to catch glowing “magic hour” photos in Colorado’s vast wilderness. He’s even risked his life for his photos: When he took this particular shot, he barely escaped with the hair on his head. “I snowmobiled over six miles into the wilderness up to the Maroon Bells by myself at 5 a.m., only to have my sled catch fire on the way back,” Newcomb remembers.
“It happened right as I came around the final bend to get to the Bells. Luckily, I got it put out quickly, but I had to wait almost three hours for help to arrive and tow me and my sled out. But in the end, I still got some good shots, so I’d say it was worth it!”
He’s one lucky photographer. But then, we’re all lucky to be able to see his work.