Instagram, photography, and the artist’s meal.

26 05 2011


when i first heard about Instagram last year, i rolled my eyes and thought “oh just what the world needs, another social networking app”.  ok, so this one’s focussed on photography, but still, at first it seemed like a bit of a yawn.

in a somewhat unexpected change of heart, shortly before J & I headed up to Byron I signed up for Instagram.  in retrospect, something subconscious was telling me it might be a good way to “remember to breathe”, by consciously looking at my heavenly surroundings, seeing how they could be photographically captured, and sharing it with the world.  and i’m glad i did!

you see, i’ve never really been into photography.  i’ve had digicams for a decade, but either i rarely remember to use them – even if i remember to have it with me – or i take shitty not-even-amateur shots with them anyway, and they gather dust in an obscure folder on my computer, diligently backed-up for years on end.

the best camera to use is the camera you have with you.  and most of the time that means my iPhone.  and being an iPhone4, it takes a bloody good picture considering it’s a camera in a device whose primary function is not taking photos.

if you haven’t got a clue what i’m taking about, Instagram is an iApp, it’s free, and it’s a lot like Twitter, but with pictures instead of short sharp sentences and without most of the bad attitude you find littered on Twitter.  you take a picture with your iPhone (or import a pic from any camera into your iPhone), choose it from the picture library, optionally apply one of several photographic filters to give it a classic analogue camera feel, give it a caption &/or a geotag/location, and then post it for all the world to see.  and you can do all that in less than 30 seconds.  you can cross-post to several other online services (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, etc), and being automatically and instantly online, it’s always there to look back upon.

there’s a whole lot more could be said about Instgram’s features and community, but you can check that out for yourself.  there’s something else i’ve become even more aware of, thanks to Instagram, than i already was.

Who are the 21st Century Professional (that is, for money) Photographers?

there are a huge number of “gifted” photographers these days.  forgive me if i’m underselling truly talented, gifted photographers, but after cruising around Instagram (and especially you quickly realise that there really are an awful lot of people out there who know how to take a good photograph (i’m not one of them!), get the lighting and composition right, apply filtering appropriately, and many other subtleties, not the least of which is seeing the world from a different perspective than simply having your head – and camera – six feet off the ground and hoping for the best.

for a long time i’ve seen this as a devaluing of the traditional role of both professional and amateur photographers.  and i still think this is true; some traditional avenues to make a living from photography have shrunk dramatically.

for one niche example, just ask my dear friend Peter, the eye behind PetezImagez, someone who’s been honing his skills for longer than the 17 years i’ve known him, spending untold thousands of dollars on up-market gear, and who’s all but given up trying to get people to pay for the ‘vox-pop’ pictures he’s regularly employed to take of drug-fucked party bois n girls at gay dance parties (including the world renown Mardi Gras parties), or the wanna-be-model portfolio pictures he obsesses over.

being good at something isn’t enough, especially when so many Tom’s, Dick’s and Harry’s can put up such solid competition armed with only a mid-range digicam and Photoshop Express.

but perhaps the internet has opened up new opportunities too?  public image-banks, self-publishing, and online media are all new avenues for deriving income from photography.

but i think it’s ultimately broadened the gulf between professional and amateur photography.  not in the quality of their output, but in the intent and marketing of their work.  countless people can walk around with a point-n-shoot and undermine the income of “2nd-job photographers”.

unless you’re working in publishing or event photography, it’s those who posses the combination of education, technique, artistry, and compelling visual material with entrepreneurial flair who’ll be the money-makers from the title Photographer from now on.

here’s a few thumbnails of my pics posted to Instagram!