Above: One of the best parts of early mornings on the Rio Grande is the migratory birds. Photograph by Aaron Blanc.
If we’re doing this right, we’re staying at home and keeping our distance. So we could all use some healthy ways to connect — not just with the people, but also with the places we love. For good or bad, that’s meant a lot more screen time (and thanks to our iPhones, we have the weekly reports to prove it). For us, Instagram has been a place to reflect on the beauty in the world and connect through what unites us. Here are five accounts we’re turning to for inspiration.
Aaron Blanc, @aaron_b_photos
The Albuquerque-based amateur photographer’s colorful feed is packed with high desert imagery—cacti basking in a lavender sunset, snow-covered pines, and dawn reflected in the Río Grande Bosque’s waters. Cast with stark contrast, the details in his images pop. Blanc loves night photography, so he’s up early and out late (follow his stories for fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses of how his images come together) capturing the milky way and sparkling night skies. “I am obsessed with space,” he says. “So astrophotography is an area of focus for me.” Aaron says: “I have felt the need to change how I caption the photos. I’ve tried to engage with my following to create conversations about how people are staying occupied and busy. I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that the colorful images I post bring joy. … To me, that’s what photography is all about.”
From the Organ Mountains to Camel Rock, Alexis (who keeps her last name private) hikes everywhere she can, filling her profile with outdoor photos from throughout the state. There’s a tactile quality to her images that makes it easy to imagine standing where she’s standing—and putting yourself in her place. Scroll through and you’re immediately transported to the winding paths and high sandstone walls of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks or the soft alabaster dunes at White Sands. But we especially enjoy her snappy, often-inspirational captions as well, such as her “Guide me to the light” with a close-up of a sphinx moth or “Take me back to the good days when my worries were chasing sunsets” with a fiery Albuquerque sky. Alexis says: “I feel like I help my followers connect to the places I visit, because it reminds them of home. Some people move from New Mexico and miss the beauty it holds. I enjoy inspiring people to go outside.”
Petecia LeFawnhawk, @lefawnhawk
Influenced by the Land Arts movement and the Light and Space movement of the 1960s and ’70s, the Taos-based artist makes collaged photographic works, layering images to create landscapes that seem pulled from a future world. She takes pictures in the desert, what she calls “this everchanging sculptural landscape,” and overlays them with massive geometric shapes, some of which look like bridges and others like ethereal chapels. Sometimes she appears in her work, perched on a dune, dressed in all black, alongside one of her architectural creations. The world she’s building delights her 81,000 followers, and she hopes to recreate some of these imaginary pieces as real installations soon. Her favorite things about New Mexico? “It’s incredible skies, its vast painterly landscapes, and its richness in history.” Petecia says: “Social media allows us to connect on many levels, whether it’s through posting, going live, DMing, and organizing group hangs. ... I love to see how people are using it to connect and building a thriving community in positive ways.”
Collette and Kim Marie, @hikenewmexico
As the force behind this collaborative feed, the sisters feature images by photographers from throughout the state. As native New Mexicans, they grew up exploring the Chihuahuan Desert, connecting to the land and local culture. “With this pride for our homeland, we started @hikenewmexico to revere the majestic beauty of our state while raising awareness about issues affecting our people, land, and wildlife.” That means posting more than pretty pictures of blooming yellow poppies and roaming buffalo (though we're partial to the one above by Erik Contreras @erik_contreras23). They are also keeping us connected with helpful resources, such as information about the Roadrunner Food Bank, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collette and Kim say: “Through hiking, we connect to a peacefulness within ourselves and our place in the world. Sharing our hiking experiences online is a powerful tool for fostering relationships—not only with ourselves, but with others who have shared that experience. Many of us have visited the same trails, iconic parks, and monuments. As we observe others enjoying these outdoor spaces respectfully, it teaches us how we are one with the natural world and with one another.”
Valles Caldera, @vallescaldera
The Valles Caldera National Preserve, near Jemez Springs, has some of the most stunning landscapes in the state. Verdant with billowing green grass in the summer and a snow-covered expanse in winter, the nearly 14-mile-wide volcanic crater provides a tectonic example of nature’s year-round beauty. So while you’re sure to get sweeping landscape images, like the river melting in mid-March, you’ll spot an abundance of wildlife (who knew mountain lion cubs were born with spotted coats like leopards?), bubbling hidden springs, rustic cabins, and even a few rangers in action on the group-run feed. “COVID-19 has not changed what we post, but it does affect what information we provide with the post,” says Kimberly DeVall, chief of interpretation and education at the preserve. Ranger Seth says (from a March 28 post): “We hope that you can live vicariously through these images during these uncertain times. May our content give you something to look forward to experiencing.”