Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Discovering Photography on Instagram


Instagram is one of the many social platforms available for sharing photography with your friends and around the world. While some claim the sheer volume of Instagram-style filterised photography is debasing "real" photography, there exists a pool of extremely talented photographers who showcase their work to a world-wide audience via this simple app.

The claim that Instagram is somehow degrading photography is a nonsense. It's the same sort of technologically deterministic argument that has been running alongside photography since its inception: like when photo sensitive metal plates gave way to glass; glass to celluloid; view cameras to box brownies; large format to roll film; esoteric to mass market; professional to amateur; 120 to 35mm; expensive to cheap; black and white to colour; film to digital.

The problem Instagram faces is not the quality as such, but trying to find quality images amongst the everyday mass of selflies and bathed cats. This problem is not unique to Instagram, the same issue has plagued the granddaddy of photo sharing, Flickr, since day dot.

Thankfully, Flickr's API allows sites like ffffl*ckr to exist. This site assumes that the people who like the images you like probably like much the same thing as you and so it goes, producing a constant stream of usually pretty good images.

Unfortunately, Instagram as an app is difficult to navigate in the same way. It does, however, have a few handy ways of finding imagery you might like:

  1. Followers of those you follow - this might seem obvious, but the people who follow the people you follow probably produce similar imagery. In this bot-driven world, this isn't always the case but it's a good place to start. Look at the followers of the people you follow and the people they follow and so on.

  2. "Following" - yes there's a thing called "following" that isn't entirely about the people you follow. It's located in the heart/comment bubble section. Where "News" is usually selected and shows the number of likes on your images, press "Following" and it will show other images those you follow have liked.
  3. Tags - those ubiquitous # that appear everywhere from Microsoft Windows 3.1 for Workgroups to today's trending conversational vernacular "hashtag LOL!". I'm up with the Web 2.1 (service pack 3). Again, this may seem obvious, but a well tagged image is easier to find. If you like images of WD-40, then search for #wd40.

    And I'm so glad I did, otherwise I wouldn't have found this little number. How droll! 

Whether one likes it or not, mobile photography is a thing. A real thing. In a decade's time, we will be wondering why the hell anyone bothered making the arbitrary and patronising distinction between "mobile" photography and "everything else" photography. So, Guardian culture writer, get on board or go back to your wet plate tin-type daguerrotype collodion Bitumen of Juedea-driven snoozefest of conceited elitism.

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