For the past two months, a strange amalgamation of words has started popping up next to iconic pictures of Santa Fe on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
A red sunset reflected by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. #howtosantafe.
A meaty burrito smothered with green chile. #howtosantafe.
Zozobra bursting into flames in front of a cheering crowd. #howtosantafe.
It’s all part of a social media movement primarily on the photo-sharing service Instagram, aimed at boosting national interest in Santa Fe.
Adam Shaening-Pokrasso of 12 FPS Studio conceived the hashtag movement, which started in July. He said it has reached 4 million people.
He is happy, even surprised, at the quality of submissions so far, Shaening-Pokrasso said. “I anticipated seeing more bad photos.”
Instagram is a social media service similar to Facebook and Twitter. The twist is that Instagram is focused on photo sharing via smartphones. Like Twitter, users can attach search filters — commonly called hashtags — and that’s where #howtosantafe comes in.
12 FPS Studio received a $47,000 contract from the city of Santa Fe to promote the social media movement. Shaening-Pokrasso said that money has been spent bringing professional Instagram users to the city and on website development, administrative costs and other assorted fees.
“How to Santa Fe” is both declaration and question. Some of the responses play to Santa Fe tropes.
On howtosantafe.com, there are plenty of shots of Zozobra, chiles and sunsets. You also can find photos of friends posing for a selfie while wearing Western attire, artwork of Our Lady of Guadalupe and dogs frolicking in the wilderness. Other images show gleaming classic cars or well-worn wooden doors.
But some images also tap into Santa Fe’s curiosities. Photographer Katherine Morgan submitted photos of an aerialist’s performance over a dry riverbed. In the shot, the performer is spinning from a bridge while entangled in white fabric. Onlookers wear formal attire while resting on slate-gray river rocks.
A photo by Zoe Blackwell shows a crown cactus with a sheet tied to the middle of the plant and fastened to a wall.
There are images of scrawled graffiti, wild red mushrooms, dilapidated vehicles and even a dead frog.
While subject matter varies greatly, Shaening-Pokrasso said he has noticed that many participants are uploading nature or scenic shots. He said that shows Santa Fe can market more than just its museums and restaurants.
Shaening-Pokrasso is trying to ensure the #howtosantafe hashtag is reaching beyond the city. He has twice recruited professional Instagram users who have hundreds of thousands of followers to present their views on the city. And these Instagram celebrities also participate in “Instameets,” gatherings where fellow Instagram users meet up and snap photos.
Shaening-Pokrasso also creates themed contests. The most recent one focused on movement and action. And the newest contest asks participants to submit their best photos of cars or other modes of transportation.
A large amount of traffic comes via professional Instagram users and contests, but Shaening-Pokrasso said he is more thrilled by the local participation.
Morgan is one of those local participants. She studied photography in college and now works for the Española Valley Humane Society. She said she first heard of the campaign after seeing a post on Mayor Javier Gonzales’ account. Since then, she has periodically tagged her photos with the hashtag. She strives for images that show a less-observed side of the city.
“I like the Santa Fe that has a beat-up car in the yard that’s been there for the last 25 years,” she said. “That’s the Santa Fe I feel a connection to.”
In addition to the aerialist photos, some of her #howtosantafe tags include curiosities such as a portable basketball hoop standing in the middle of a residential street and, yes, a sunset.
Morgan said she has noticed more people using the hashtag, and some do it daily. But a lot of people, she said, are still confused.
“It’s generating some curiosity in the community,” Morgan said. “Maybe a little down the line, they may do it themselves.”
Joseph Hart, a wedding photographer and an employee at The Shed restaurant, also recently found himself involved with the campaign at the behest of some friends.
“How do I Santa Fe?” Hart asked. “I took it personally. This is how my world looks.”
For him, that means photos of the Plaza filled with people enjoying Fiesta, or wide shots featuring lush evergreens surrounding a river where someone is fly fishing.
Hart also said the campaign has helped increase his presence on Instagram. He said he’s not interested in becoming a professional Instagram user, but he does hope people will see his work.
One of the city’s most notable Instagram users, Ja Soon Kim, has 72,000 followers. She is a yoga instructor at Yogasource who had no formal photography training when her daughter installed the application on her smartphone two years ago.
“I was upset at her,” Kim said. “But it has got me very interested in photography. My daughter said she created a monster.”
Many of Kim’s photos feature sticks, leaves and other foliage against a white backdrop. She also creates nature collages on her table.
Kim said Instagram appeals to younger users — she hasn’t seen many of her friends using the app. And she said she sees the “How to Santa Fe” campaign as a realization by the city that it needs to embrace new marketing methods.
“All the smart marketers are using it,” Kim said. “I know where I want to stay based on Instagram.”
Contact Chris Quintana at 986-3093 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CquintanaSF.
On the Web
• To learn more about the social media campaign or to view the photos in the campaign, visit howtosantafe.com.