Lets talk about Instagram; Contemporary art practice? Or filled with wannabe photographers?
Recently a friend and I were discussing Instagram, I’m an avid user. He, on the other hand, is not. “The problem is” He says, “Instagram makes anyone think they’re a decent photographer, they just put a filter on an image and add some hashtags and they think they’re a pro.” I understood his point but we clearly differ on what we consider to be a problem.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Instagram is a social media platform, which has grown in popularity and success in recent years. It is a mobile phone or tablet app that allows users to upload photographs direct from their smartphone and add filters on top of the image to change the colours, contouring, or brightness etc. Similar to Photoshop and other photo editing software but in a hugely sped up process; in a few simple clicks an image can be embossed and enhanced to a reasonable standard, and then can be posted among a closed network of accepted ‘followers’ or can be posted publically. Adding hashtags increases the visibility of the image and gives it the potential of being viewed anywhere in the world. It works essentially as a social media platform but simply for photographs.
In recent months Instagram photography has made its way into the headlines when artist Richard Prince sold images exhibited in his USA show of 37 Instagram screenshots. The images sold at the New York Freize show, are said to have fetched in the region of $90,000 – the catch of course the original images were not taken by Prince and were not granted permission to be exhibited or sold, thus sparking a fierce debate with the photographers and Prince who dismissed any wrongdoing by suggesting he doesn’t “see any difference between what I make and what I collect.”
I think Instagram on a personal level at least holds great potential; it encourages everyday moments to be captured and documented in interesting and surprising ways, while, at the same time it also produces a unique record of images to look back on. @Trashytackythings, an instagrammer based in West London says she uses Instagram “To capture the mundane aspects of everyday life and make them beautiful.” Although she also admits, “It’s not really about having a skill as photographer, anyone can have a go it’s really simple to use and that’s a nice thing about it.” I asked her whether she felt that Instagram was doing a certain degree of injustice to trained photographers in making anyone with a smart phone think that they can produce beauty in an image. “Not really.” She said, “Not everyone can take good images on Instagram, and, in any case, perhaps it uncovers photographers that wouldn’t have been found otherwise.”
It is not particularly difficult to make something visually appealing via Instagram as @mr_tedi_88 a professional photographer and Intsgrammer working in London remarks, “Instagram makes non-photographers look good. Anyone that can take a real photo can be outdone on Instagram.” Although @mr_tedi_88 also suggests that that is not always necessarily a bad thing “I do think Instagram encourages people to see the possibility of aesthetic beauty in the things that surround us in our day to day lives.” The fact that it’s so accessible through use of a smartphone only adds to this potential. Instagram holds great artistic scope in that it makes its users interact in new ways with the world around them and the cities we inhabit. Photography is no longer reserved for holidays, Christmas, birthdays or other special events, Instagram is used on your commute to work, when you are bored in the university library, or capturing that sunset when you nipped out to the shops.
The debate around Instagram is two-fold and has many conflicting arguments. While perhaps it does take the emphasis away from photographs in the traditional sense who once held the forefront of the visual sphere, it does allow everyone to have a go at photography and to explore themselves and immerse themselves in the medium. For me, at least, the platform invites an aesthetic form of expression from anyone who uses it and this far out ways the negatives, keep instagramming you never know what you might capture.
All of the images have been reproduced with permission from the Instagrammers; @nicolallucy @hanhuds @saraboytchev @mr_tedi_88 @joannallouise