These Are the Real Stars of Instagram

And their photos are starting global conversations.

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It's one thing to be Instagram famous, to perfect a washed-out aesthetic, get hundreds of likes per photo, have so many followers the display number has to include a "k." It's quite another to be recognized for the innovation of the images you post, to have the arbiter of archival photo research look at your photography and say, "Hey, what you're doing is both beautiful and politically necessary, here's a bunch of money."

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The Getty Instagram Grant recognizes the most talented storytellers using Instagram as their narrative platform. Each winner receives $10,000 to continue their project, gets feedback from established photographers and photo directors, and, starting this weekend, exhibition space at the Photoville photography festival in Brooklyn.

Below, meet the Instagrammers who prove just how critical the app is for telling the stories that matter most to members of our generation around the world.

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Christian Rodriguez, @christian_foto

Project: "Teen Mom"

Home Country: Uruguay

As Told to Getty: "As a documentary photographer, I am interested in exploring gender and identity, and how these issues have a huge impact on communities. I carry out a project called 'Teen Mom' on teen pregnancy in Latin America. Publishing my images on my Instagram account has helped me to get feedback and information on this reality. Besides, my images reach the community of young people who are the protagonists of this reality."

Ronny Sen, @whatdoestheendoftimelooklike


Project: "Reality"

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Home Country: India

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As Told to Getty: "I come from a middle-class family in Calcutta in West Bengal, India…The gap between people who control the resources and the rest of the consumers is increasing like never before. I want to, with photography, highlight a sense of this fundamental difference in the 21st century. This is the world of global capitalism, citizenship, neo-imperialism, minorities, exile, secularism: and these are the boundaries that need to be transgressed in the contemporary world."

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Girma Berta, @gboxcreative

Girma Berta's altered photographs show his view of daily life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photograph courtesy of @gboxcreative

Project: "Addis Ababa"

Home Country: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Figures on the street are removed from the city context and placed against jewel-toned backdrops. Photograph courtesy of @gboxcreative

As Told to Getty: "I started using Instagram four years ago. Not many people were using it in Ethiopia back then. Ever since then, I've used Instagram to share my creativity with the rest of the world. I mostly use my iPhone to capture images. For me, using Instagram is a conducive platform for self-expression. It enables me to not only share my work with the rest of the world, but it also lets me see and learn the work of other photographers as well. With my work on Instagram, I want the world to look into the eyes of a face from Addis Ababa, the city where I was born and raised."

Western advertising finds its way into every corner of Addis Ababa. Photograph courtesy of @gboxcreative

Check out the photographers' work at the Photoville festival, which runs through Sunday, September 25, in Brooklyn, NY. For more info, visit photoville.com.

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