Image courtesy of Weighty Winds via flickr.com
On the seventh day, God created Facebook, and He saw that it was good. Circa 4.6 billion years later, social media experts attempted to isolate and split a single Facebook atom in order to clone its success. The result was an unanticipated and enormous success. Instead of creating a new Facebook, two opposite descendants arose; the witty Facebook status and wall post chromosomes formed a new site called Twitter, while the mobile upload and photo album DNA became that which we refer to as Instagram. The photo-sharing app burst onto the scene in early 2010 and has been rapidly gaining popularity. How much popularity? The InstaArmy is reported to be about 100 million strong. That’s more than the population of New York City. Times ten. But what is it that makes this app so special? Is it the way the ‘Veranda’ filter can make a normal meal look like it came from a five star restaurant? Or the way ‘Hefe’ can transform a random side street into a spectacular destination? Maybe the way any filter can turn a regular girl into a #selfie-proclaimed supermodel #nomakeup #nofilter (#yeahright)? A typical post will garner at least 11 likes from friends. If you’re really good, you can get tens of thousands.
There’s no denying that Instagram can make one feel like a great photographer. When I post a photo of a black-and-white filtered landscape and it gets 70 likes, I feel like a star (The name’s Adams. Ansel Adams). But does taking a quick iPhone picture and slapping a filter on top of it qualify as photography? In the classical sense, I would say it does not. There is so much more to photography than anything one can do with an iPhone. Photographers spend days, weeks, lifetimes documenting places, events, and people. They can shoot hundreds of frames of the same shot to get what they feel is perfection. Personally, I have spent days upon weeks in the dark room working with film and printing photos so I could begin to understand the bare basics of the art of photography. No matter how much thought you put into your instagrams, the whole process maximum from taking to posting the photo takes about five to ten minutes (if you’re spending any longer you’re doing it wrong/need friends). Instagramming itself, to me, is more of a science than an art. One must figure out the proper angle and composition of the photo which makes the subject look most appealing to a viewer, which filter creates the most dramatic effect, at which time of day to post said insta to optimize the number of likes, and which hash tags to utilize to get the largest audience possible. It combines some photography skills along with SMS savvy and knowledge of marketing, including knowledge of your target audience and observation of feedback from your followers.
I don’t think Instagram poses any sort of a threat towards the art of photography; there is a clear division between what makes a good photo and what makes a good Instagram. To sum it up, Geoff Livingston said “For the vast majority of Instagram users, it’s about people sharing their lives, not engaging in photography as a profession or hobby.” I believe that while Instagram can be a good way for artists to show off their work, it does not merit any iPhone-wielding teenager a degree in photography. Digital enthusiasts and film fanatics alike can breathe a sigh of relief. (The minute you start seeing “Amaro” exhibits in photo galleries or “Lo-Fi” advertisements in magazines, then you can start to worry.)