Columbus Museum of Art's exhibit "Mobile Photo Now" showcases Instagrams from over 5,000 users around the world.

“Rad’s World” by Claressa Page is one of 320 photos exhibited in the Columbus Museum of Art’s “Mobile Photo Now,” which showcases Instagrams from over 240 users around the world. Credit: Courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art

The Columbus Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibit, “Mobile Photo Now,” turns an app into art.

Through Instagram, the CMA asked the public to submit photos in four separate categories; portrait, street art, black and white, and community, said Jennifer Poleon, digital communications director at the CMA. About 45,000 images were submitted from about 5,000 Instagram users, representing 89 countries. “Mobile Photo Now” will feature 320 of the submitted photos taken by more than 240 photographers from 40 countries.

“It’s going to be the largest collection of global photography ever presented by a museum,” Poleon said.

The exhibit is open Friday through March 22 at 480 E. Broad St. Admission Tuesday through Saturday is $12 dollars for adults, $8 dollars for students. Admission is free on Sundays.

Instagram can act as a small window into the lives of people who live thousands of miles away. Each image can pinpoint a physical location. When you connect the geographic dots in the way that has been done for this exhibit, you get a figurative — and literal — global picture.

“It’s interesting that it’s not considered a standard art form yet; they’re not teaching it in art classes,” said Adam Elkins, a 27-year-old local photographer whose work is in the exhibit. “It’s just using your phone, but I do believe that it will eventually be respected more as an art form, and the CMA is definitely helping to start that.”

Elkins didn’t know his knack for mobile photography, which he developed a few years ago, would lead to nearly 40,000 Instagram followers or two spots reserved for his work in an art museum. He said he finds his most beautiful photos in natural lighting, reflections and by exploration.

Fostering and connecting a creative photography community was a main goal, according to Poleon, behind the CMA collection. The museum has done “photo hunts” before where visitors submit photos prompted by designated categories. The worldwide reach this particular exhibit has made, Poleon said, will bring photographers from Sweden, Iran, Brazil and elsewhere to Columbus in order to see and celebrate their work.

“I know it’s still a luxury to have a cellphone, but in the art world, it equalizes the playing field,” said Claressa Page, another local photographer whose Instagram habit led her to the CMA’s photo challenges. “I think participatory art is something that could be of our generation. More communicating and sharing knowledge, but more savvy in our ways.”

Page said she first started taking photos of baked goods when she was working as a pastry chef, and her knowledge of art history fueled the passion. The image that got her into the exhibit is reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 painting, “Christina’s World,” which depicts a woman on a field with a house in the distance. Page’s image, “Rad’s World,” uses Wyeth’s aesthetic in real life, with her 4-year-old son Rad as the main subject.

The show is co-curated by the museum, independent photography curator Lisa Kurzner and the “#JJ” Instagram community, which issues daily, theme-based photo challenges and has more than 622,000 followers. “JJ” stands for Josh Johnson, who co-founded the forum along with fellow photographer Kevin Kuster. The team contacted the CMA when they saw the museum was doing similar things as them on Instagram.

Through the powerful combination of a mainstream social media platform and modern camera-phone technology, a growing colony of both amateur and professional photographers has emerged in “Mobile Photo Now.”

“I think that often, people often say that social media isolates from one another,” Page said. “And this is really an example of how that’s not true. It’s beyond the selfie.”