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Do it for the Gram: Laurie Collins

You wouldn’t expect entrepreneur Laurie Collins to be an Instagram celebrity if you asked her about her day job.

Collins works at LC Systems, an IT consulting company with high-profile clients including the United States Senate and the Smithsonian Institution.  But her second identity is @dccitygirl, an Instagram photographer with over 32,500 followers. 

“About three years ago we started a group of people who created IGDC,” Collins said of the District’s official Instagram. “And then eventually, I guess trying to promote the social networking, it just kind of snowballed.” 

IGDC, the acronym for Instagram of Washington, DC, is a  joint account where members select and feature Instagram photos found through the IGDC hashtag.  The group also organizes open InstaMeets: gatherings for Instagrammers to photograph together.  Through her involvement with IGDC, Collins’ personal Instagram gained popularity and she became a suggested user (a recommended user found on Instagram’s “Search & Explore” tab) about a year ago. 

“When I became a suggested user, I was using my iPhone,” Collins said. “I just got a big-girl camera like two months ago.”

Still, her photography endeavors have already afforded her unique opportunities, like being selected to see the Renwick Gallery’s recent exhibit before it opened to the public or going on an exclusive behind-the-scene tour of Union Station.

“It’s a great privilege and honor to be selected to do that in the first place,” Collins said.  “It promotes that ‘community first’ idea that Instagram really believes in. And what happens is, once we get inside these places and we take these pictures and we put them on our accounts, then people say, ‘Oh, man! I want to go there!’”

Collins’ efforts to connect the community have also changed her perspective on the city.  She explained that growing up in the District, she had to see all of the common tourist attractions often.

“They were always so yucky,” she remembered.  “And now it’s nice to be here and have a different perspective on it and say, ‘You know, I am really lucky to live in the nation’s capital...letting people see through [my] lens that it is a beautiful place.’”

Ironically, Collins’ daughter, Tessa McGee, does not have an Instagram account.  

“It’s kind of funny,” McGee said.  “I’m the young millennial and supposed to be good with social media, and I’m not.”  

“You know, I am really lucky to live in the nation’s capital... letting people see through [my] lens that it is a beautiful place.”  

She said her mother’s Instagram involvement exemplifies Collins’ desire to share. To McGee, “[opening] your home for a dinner party” is not too different from “[sharing] your pictures with the broader community.” 

Though Collins can’t have dinner with the entire city, she does have dinner with members of the IGDC crowd. 

“When we started this four years ago and we’d go on these InstaMeets, we would introduce each other and we’d say, ‘I’m @dccitygirl,’ and, ‘Hi, I’m so-and-so,’ and we never really gave our real names,” Collins explained. “But over the years, we have become the best of friends and we have gone to each other’s parties, to each other’s life events, to funerals together, ... and now, it’s like, ‘Hi, I’m Laurie.’ ”

Collins has seen photography connect strangers across the District firsthand. 

“Photography knows no race, no color, no religion, no sexual preference,” she said. 

“And that’s why it’s really awesome to be in a group of people who are so different in so many ways but so on the same page…that, to me, has been a big sparkle to it.” •

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