Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Instagram: #youredoingitwrong

Allow me to be completely and selfishly hypocritical; impossible to not sound pompous and ignorant and plain stupid.
Here I go, I'm 'bout to get stupid, guys:

I feel like I sold out: I recently signed up for Instagram.
Just a few days into it, and I'm into it; I feel like I have catching up to do.
It's not that I love it or am obsessed with it.
You have to understand - I've been doing photography, real photography, for some time now.
I was first developing film by hand when I was probably 12 or 13.
That's not common for "photographers" these days.
So for technology to have gotten to the point where anyone with an iPhone and a filter-equipped app can point their phone at a cup of coffee (too many cups of coffee pics people!) and turn a simple, boring image into an artsy #hashtag-peppered (I'm very guilty of the hashtag overuse) post without an ounce of effort or creative thought...

Well, it makes my heart ache.

It's exhilarating to be a part of this new-age, social network addicted, brainless revolution of art, but it's also

I'll try to explain...
As cynical and skeptical as I can be, especially about photography, you have to trust me when I say that I actually am very happy that people can share with the entire world their day-to-day story with a simple and aesthetically-stimulating type of medium.
It's really cool to see millions of really cool images from a million really cool places.

But it's technology and outlets like this that contribute to this mentality that #everyonesaphotographer.
Before I dive head first into my rants, there's something to be said about using something like Photoshop as your art medium.
But there's a clear difference here between a 12 hour project on Photoshop, and the quick brush of my hyper-sensitive touchscreen.
You can buy an amazing camera for less than $500 now.
Every wedding I go to, I'm "competing" against Uncle Robert and the "friend with a nice camera" (actual quote from multiple clients) for space and for images and for moments.
There have been weddings where guests have brought more gear and nicer gear than I have; me, the contracted, official, paid and experienced wedding photographer (told you I'd sound pompous).
There have been weddings where I have to watch out for that friend in the background of my shots.
I've missed opportunities because that guy was in my shot.
I've had to be brusk with that guy in telling him to move or to watch out, and I don't like being that way toward people, especially when I'm trying to be fun and professional for my clients.
I've been to weddings where throughout the entire ceremony you are seeing the blinding pop of that guy's flash, or hearing the incessant machine-gun fire of their shutter set to high-speed...
blasting desperately, hoping to capture that image that will send them into the professional world with super star-status.

I'm definitely being a tiny over dramatic, but all of these examples are true experiences of mine.
But I'm being over dramatic because that's just the direction things have been going for a long time, and it makes me bitter.
There are OG's that have always shot film and still shoot film, and they've been shooting longer than I've been alive.
Those dudes would read this, or listen to me whine, and scoff at my naivety and ignorance.
I can accept that.
I respect that.

In a conversation I had last night with my social media-guru house mate Chase Reeves, I was trying to transparently explain to him my conflicting feelings following the admission that I was now on Instagram, a cult-ish movement that I resisted since I first downloaded the app when it was released and no one had it and I didn't understand it or #hashtags.
He doesn't "get it" either.
I defended my hypocritical actions, standing there like a dummy in front of the guru, fiddling with some power cable I was holding for some reason.

"It's hard not to get swept up in the storm of "getting as many followers as you can." As a photographer, the more followers I have, potentially the more people will click on the link to my blog, and visit my website, and see my wedding images. If I wasn't a photographer, I probably wouldn't care about it that much."

[Guru] "For me, it's not about how many people are following me. I'd rather have some good followers, that are really into what you do and benefit from your art."

The conversation was something like that.
The truth is, Guru's right and I'm wrong.
Here's the thing, this is why I'm wrong:
I would TOTALLY care about Instagram if I wasn't a photographer.
I'd be so into it!
I would think I was so cool taking 82 pictures of the sky and clicking on a button that adds a filter to make it look super tight.
I totally get sucked into having a bottomless goal; what I mean is, having a goal that you'll never reach, because you'll always want more.

More money: my goal is to make a million, but after my first million, I have to make more.
Why stop there?
More followers: my goal is to get a thousand people to follow me on my blog/profile/site, but after a thousand, why stop there?
More Legos: my goal is to collect all the vintage Lego sets, but after I have them all, why not get all the new ones too??? (I don't collect Legos).

Instagram is even more addicting that Facebook!
Anyone telling you otherwise is full of #bs.
With the same "checking updates and notifications" and "stalking" capabilities it gives you, IG is a simple photo app full of pics from around the world.
Pictures say a thousand words; conversely, 150 million pictures say a lot more words.
It's captivating looking through electric, over-edited and disgustingly beautiful images of the same things over and over.

Here's the other truth:
it's not about lots of followers, it's about good and devout followers.
If you're passionate about making stories and telling your stories, you'd rather have a smaller number of interested and affected followers rather than a larger number of tweens and bots and spammers (more about telling stories in the near future here at the Still Music blog).

To give credit where it's due,
there are a lot of creative IGers who are good photographers with a good eye, and their work shows it.
Also, a lot of their images look like everyone else's, including my own.
Is that the app doing that to us?
Many of these respectable leaders are way more experienced that I am, and many of them are DEFINITELY better than me, so don't picture me on a high horse; remember, I'm just bitter.
Here's a link to an interesting article about the top Instagram photographers leading this wild movement.
These are very real people who have access to tens of thousands of people globally and have very significant and honest things to say about their lives as IGers.

So I need to keep my head on straight; focus on what I really want, not what my ego wants.
Also, it means I need to use this as a challenge and to find my own obsession that stands out from the crowd (more about finding my challenge in the very near future here at the Still Music blog).
Also, I need to complain less, because people will be hurt and then will hurt my feelings back.

The other night I checked Instagram and my buddy tagged me in a quote:

"I am honored that a "real photographer" [quotes inserted by my self-depreciating self] likes my pic.
Instagram is [the] auto-tune of photography!"

That I can also respect, especially coming from a real musican.

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