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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota has hit the Instagram map as the photo sharing service has grown exponentially, today touting more than 200 million users.

In Minneapolis, and across the globe, the creative community has moved from online to in person with growing popularity of Instagram meetups, or "Instameets," a chance for mobile photographers to meet in person for advice and photo opportunities.

The latest Instameet was held mid-June in Minneapolis.

"It's interesting because all the people I've met through Instagram, I feel like we are kindred spirits," said Rita Farmer, a northeast Minneapolis stay-at-home mom and avid Instagrammer known to many as "mamacita.rita."

Farmer attended her first local Instameet last fall and decided to organize her own this summer, the "#612_instameet" at Gold Medal Park on June 12, held appropriately in Minneapolis on the 6/12 date.

As a new mom, Farmer moved from taking photos of her garden and children to focusing more on architectural photos with a fine art flair. The app has become her art form.

"But that is kind of the cool thing about it, some people use it for selfies and pictures with friends and then really high art. I think a lot of people take pride in that mobile only aspect of it and in a way it's kind of neat because it levels the playing field," said Farmer. "For me, Instagram is not only a creative outlet to take pictures but a really cool way to meet people and a way to get that adult interaction that I don't necessarily have on a daily basis."

The #612_instameet drew devotees from every demographic, like Pixie Sternquist (pixstern). The Alexandria grandmother of nine calls herself an "InstaGramma," and has gained a following for capturing her northern landscapes.

"I'm not a photographer," Sternquist insisted. "I only use my iPhone."

At the Instameet, Sternquist had a chance to meet one of her first Instagram friends, Jill Emmer (shineonyoucraydiamond). Emmer is a stay-at-home mom who finds herself connecting to another world, capturing images of color and whimsy.

"I am really surprised myself, to be honest, because I really thought I was a nature photographer and now my photos are getting really fantasy oriented," said Emmer. "One lady told me my pictures remind her of vignettes, little vignettes. I guess this is my canvas now."

Instagram has encouraged Instameets across the globe for three years. Instagram's first WorldWide Instameet took place March 24, 2011 in Los Angeles.

One of the first Minnesota Instameets was organized two years ago by longtime friends Eric Mueller (ericmueller) and Eric Ludwig (vivoarch). Their talents have even been tapped to help promote Minnesota tourism, when they helped capture fall colors for Explore Minnesota.

"It never occurred to me there could be an intersection of mobile photography and fine art photography, which is how some people try to treat Instagram. It's how I try to treat it," said Mueller.

At the end of the #612_instameet, a group of around 80 Instagrammers gathered on the Stone Arch Bridge, furiously snapping photos of the sunset.

Rita Farmer watched as Instagram bridged two worlds – the beauty of both people and their pictures. Brought together by possibility, they took an instant out of time.

"Amazing, I was blown away by how many people showed up," she said.

Since Instagram launched nearly four years ago, users have shared more than 20 billion photos, uploading around 60 million photos each day.

This story has inspired KARE 11 to kick off it's own Instagram contest. Every Tuesday KARE will share the best photo of the week on Instagram, under the "instaKARE" hashtag.

Just take a picture, hashtag "instaKARE," and we'll re-post it and share it on the air. The first week's theme will be sunsets or sunrises.

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