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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.)

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2 thoughts on “Instagram: Creating A Generation of Fauxtographers

  1. “Digital enthusiasts and film fanatics alike can breathe a sigh of relief.” But can they? With technology increasingly taking over and media (including social) becoming a part of our day-to-day lives can we still clearly differentiate the difference between an amateur and a professional? Does this the difference even matter anymore?

    I was home watching the Presidential Inauguration and one thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the sea of digital light beaming from the crowd. EVERYONE was on his or her phone trying to get the best shot of the President and First Lady as they danced to J-Hud. Similarly, a photo showing the amount of people using their phones, iPads and cameras to take pictures at the Vatican during the revelation of the new Pope compared to 2005 with the introduction of Pope Benedict demonstrates the augmenting prevalence of technology over the past eight years. With mobile technology increasing in ability, it has been hard to differentiate the difference between what is amateur and what is professional.

    Merriam-Webster defines a professional as participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs. This sounds accurate, as there are plenty of amateurs in photography, especially with apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. However there is a problem with the definition stating “participating for gain or livelihood.” This is because today there seems to be an increasing amount of ametuers making money off of their work.

    For example, Instacanv.as (see link 1), a website where you can purchase pictures from any category such as: typography, landscapes, black and white, phone case etc. This website praises the amateur with a profit or gain, highlighting the fact that as we become more digital we are blurring the line of professional and amateur (link 2).

    This is not only present in the world of Instagram, but for professional photographers trying to provide for their family and livelihood as well. Matt Eich (link 3), a photojournalism major, has run into the problem of “the amateur” as well. Claiming he has had trouble finding work as print media, like newspapers and magazines are on the decline. However, 40-year-old mom, D. Sharon Pruitt, upload some photos of her Hawaii trip using a $99 (non-pro) camera and caught the attention of a stock-photography company Getty Images, resulting in a contract giving her a monthly salary for her work. Classic case of amateur turn professional?

    I have noticed that it has been increasingly difficult to tell the difference between amateur and professional. It is not that I am being blind or insulting pro-photographers, I am just saying that I would purchase from a newbie or seasoned vet as long as I like the picture and find it worth purchasing. I am beginning to feel that these labels matter most to those doing the long hours in the dark room and years of school work. Do these labels even matter? Or is it as important as owning a original paper of Louboutins or the knock-offs?

    As it becomes harder to tell the difference between a pro and a “wanna-be,” we are witnessing the effects of technology and its ability to bring what was once difficult to the hands of everyday people. Is good enough… good enough?(link 4) Can we save the idea of a professional or has the task of differentiating the two become a meaningless ask? Where do you think photography will lead to next?

    Posted below are links to articles:
    http://instacanv.as/

    http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/12/instacanvas-turns-your-instagram-photos-into-high-quality-artwork-vb-store/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/business/media/30photogs.html?pagewanted=1&ref=business&src=me

    http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/30/pros-and-amateurs-debate-is-photography-in-trouble/

    • This is such an interesting insight! My mom told me I wasn’t allowed to major inphotography because sometimes ‘good enough’ wasn’t ‘good enough’. How could I be garunteed a future when some of the best artists in the world were out of work, and some amateurs were already making profit for their work. I suppose you’re only as good as the demand for your type of work. iPhone photography is becoming so prominent that maybe one day film and even digital photography will be obsolete. Possibly with the release of Google Glass (and, probably Google Contacts soon there after), iPhone photography will become oboslete, too. It should be interesting what the future of image taking and processing/showcasing will hold. Thanks for the insight, Liz!

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