ok @instagram, you win. #apublicapology

You know what, Instagram?  I’m sorry.

I cursed you and your buddy Hipstamatic for the last couple years.  You were destroying our industry, flooding our market with imagery, and making the construction and process of image-making too easy and less intellectual.  I was one of, if not the guy who wrote the blog post that started the whole Damon Winter/POYi mess.  I cursed iPhoneography, Holgaroids, and Urban Outphittography™.  Oooooh, I like that – Urban Outphittography.  Note the ™.

I’m big enough to admit that I was wrong.  Well, sort of.  Wrong is such a subjective term.

Here’s where you are right.  I caved one day when walking along a storefront and finding a little window with a mannequin head in it I wanted to shoot.  I didn’t have my 5d Mark II, nor was it a scene I really needed to break out a big DSLR and really work.  It was the morning after landing a great gig and I was happy.  I was excited about life, excited about being my own boss, and excited about being so freaking lucky to be able to be able to make pictures still after leaving my staff job a year-and-a-half ago.  Something about that window, that little patch of light, that reflection that made me want to just snap and capture it.  I whipped out my iPhone and made a frame and randomly used the Instagram app, which I had on my phone and never used – know thy enemy.  Then I posted it and was suckered into a medium I had previously put on blast.

Now, I can sit here and try to wrap the reason for you as to why I am on Instagram and why I am not a hypocrite, but I can’t.  I am a hypocrite.  I’m using and enjoying my latest foray into Instagram.  It has been six weeks and 36 frames (ironically, a whole roll of film), and I think I know why I’ve changed my mind about it.

What I haven’t changed my mind on its role in photojournalism.  I think it’s a slippery slope of ethics to be be masking and changing content for news stories.  For feature stories, illustrations, and work not labelled as news?  Sure and please do.  I think there is one last holdout of truthiness out there, though, and that is documentary photojournalism. It is a field that should adhere to its own set of rules and ethics, no matter how the world changes around it.  I’ll preach that until it dies (don’t worry, I’m not going there).

Damon Winter and Ben Lowy are two of my favorite photojournalists and friends, and more power to them for using the iPhone for evil (kidding, guys).  Their work inspires me, and consistently pushes me to be a better photographer.

There is something to be said for making pictures that aren’t important, that don’t change the world, and that aren’t perfect.  I just need to make pictures…more.  As a freelancer, I apparently spend 12.2% of my work hours making actual photos per this diagram.  That is true.  I make pictures when I am hired and honestly, I don’t pick up my cameras as much as I did at the paper.  I used to shoot 3 assignments a day for years and years.  I wore my crappy cameras out.  Now, I have gear that is nice and snug in a bag in the corner of my office and not rolling around in my trunk.  When I shoot now, it is much less frequent, but much more deliberate and important.  I’m paid more for those shoots, the risks are higher, and it’s my name on the line.  Not the paper’s.  I lose a client if I screw up.  It can be frightening, but always exciting.

Instagram lets me document random moments that don’t need 21.1 megapixels and a Lightroom bath.  These are pictures that aren’t important to really anyone but me.  They are there just to document for the pure sake of documentation.  They are slices of me with four little corners, four even lines, and some borders.  It may be just a fad, but you know what?  Participating in a fad means at least you are participating.  It means contributing the the visual history of what we put as photographers out there.  There may be a lot of it overdocumentation now, but it is who we are in the Applocracy we live in. Again ™.

They aren’t photojournalism.  They aren’t perfection.  They are just..life.

So, Instagram, please take me back.  I’ll never be mean again.

Lovingly yours,

Chip

11 thoughts

  1. I was kind of in the same thoughts as yours. I just thought it was a way to make crappy photos look cool. But it is addictive and when all your friends are doing it then it’s more fun to join the party. I was thinking maybe it would help me be more creative. We’ll see.

  2. ha–love this, chip! you’re writing is as awesome as your photos. well put. i am a recent instagramer also and i’m loving it. i am finding it to be more my style than facebook and twitter.

  3. Bonjour,
    Yesterday at my local Starbucks, I did what I do everyday, checking La Une from the printed Newspapers.. The one from The NYT striked me, as one of the featured image sounded taken with an iPhone :) Then, checking the photographer’s name, which was you, I landed on your Blog, with one post of yours talking about your thoughts on the Hipstamatic, and more precisely about Damon Winter’s awarded serie on Afghanistan. That you believed was not photojournalism and only photography…
    As I was ready to give you my point of view, as a photographer and reader, I read your recent “mea culpa” post :))
    The same debate happens in France with renowned photojournalists and to be honest I don’t understand it.. Some of them either! :)

    Damon Winter is one of my favorite photographer and his Hipstamatic serie is on my humble opinion, definitely photojournalism. Why? Because no matter what gear he used, I saw what he was witnessing. Of course, if the filter’s signature is too easy to be recognized, it can interfers the way you entering the image. But if the photograph is good, made with an iPhone or not, Hipstamatic or not, is no big deal. And if it’s not a good one? None of those filters can make it to render it better..

    I am using Hipstamatic, the same way I choose to use my Nikon D700 or my Leica: To make an image. Each has his own quality. In one year, I used most of the time my iPhone.. After, low light and resolution is an other choice to make.. Apparently, no problem for being printed in the NYT!

    Sorry for being so long :) A last point about Hipstamatic.. When used, I don’t keep the signature of it, I crop the frame and rebalance the tones, as I would do with any other filters.. Any other tools of classic editing :) Here, one of my image featured recently on La Une of Occupied Chicago Tribune (Occupy Chicago) to give an example if you are interested:

    http://p.twimg.com/Aj9pnbbCAAEVwln.jpg:large

    Instagram is cool for sharing images but I never use their filters that are to me too underlined as vintage..
    Thank you so much for reading me!

  4. Pingback: Photos from the phone… » Hendrickson Photography Weddings

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