OK, so my last word about instagram was not my last word about instagram…
However, it was worth breaking cover again on the subject just to get this off my chest as I have been a little pissed about the large swathe of people suggesting 'well, why would anyone want to buy someone's bad photos of their dinner anyway?'
Before you read my diatribe, go check out the article at this link: The Guardian's Jonathan Jones, giving us his opinion on how Instagram was just a collective act of self-delusion.
Now, here's my take on what he says and, given my Anglo -Saxon heritage, I warn you that there is some colourful language ahead……
Plenty of mediocrity all over the web. IG nothing special in that regard. Plenty of mediocre books, films, tv shows, newspapers…. journalists.
Jones' is an interesting article partly because the guy is living in some sort of treasured, sepia-toned, dad's private slideshow in a dark living-room, dust-covered past and he has fixated on the mediocre everywhere instead of looking for the jewels. Those jewels are still there. If this guy slipped into mediocrity when he used his digital camera, that is his issue. If he got the impression that IG is some sort of litmus-paper or bell-weather for the mediocre, content-overload world we live in… his mistake.
He also has some issues with his own creativity, which he is getting confused about and now trying to tell us are issues with OUR creativity.
So, anyone here ever walked into a bookshop and thought 'fuck, this place is crap: all cooking books, cheap chick-lit and coffee-table fodder with pictures of cats, cute dogs, naff angles on some post-modern building in them'.??
Maybe if you'd walked further in, past the stuff the sales people had put at the front for the special offers week, you might have found the 'art' section at the back… a Martin Parr or Richard Avedon book sat there for just a few Pounds, Dollars or Yen. Bargain. Fuck me. Never would have thought I could find such a book here!!
Sure, loads of people on IG are shooting their feet, their dinner, their cats, the usual selfy shots staring up into the camera, millions of pics of people's fucking Starbucks latte….yawn. I agree.
But, on IG I also found a lot of seriously good photographers. Those were the people I followed and I would like to think that at least 50% of the pics I put there were about something informed; subject and execution-wise.
"Lazy photography and lazy perception." – our Guardian fella is certainly guilty of both.
Maybe we should throw 'generalization' into the things people are guilty of?
Mr Jones would qualify there too…
"Only with online/digital dissemination most people don't know how to look around.. * That's the problem with giving people freedom of choice, instead of searching they often trivialise and generalise because it's easier."
Good point but you could put someone in a large record shop or library/book shop and they may have the same problem.
'Hmm, what WAS that Berlioz symphony someone once told me I should check out? Oh, fuck it, let's grab that new Pet Shop Boys compilation instead of asking the sales assistant in the classical section to help me….'
There are few problems or situations that are new. Most are just re-workings of something that has happened before.
Brings us back to mediocrity. There may not be more of it, just that we get to experience first-hand Sindy Fardvark's brand of South Kentucky mediocrity on our smartphone, whilst sat on our toilet in Dagenham. Whereas before it would have taken an expensive plane-ride, hours of driving and some measure of bad luck to have ended up in her home town, sat in her living room watching and listening to her thumb through her awful holiday snaps. 'Duelling Banjos' on in the background, the stench of last night's meatloaf mixing with tobacco and her cheap perfume…. as we held on tight to the edge of the armchair [still covered in the plastic it came delivered in], resisting the urge to tear off her overly-painted nails one by one and as slowly as possible.
Now I can just choose not to follow her pictures……result!!
Mediocrity is what a lot of snobby fuck photographers, writers and critics used to [and still do] call 'the vernacular'. Photography by 'real people', amateurs, hobbyists.. call them what you choose.
Complaining about mediocrity could be just like staring at the TV and complaining instead of changing the channel to something less mediocre.
Let's end by looking at Mr Jones' final paragraph:
"My camera gathers dust. The act of picking it up fills me with embarrassment. Taking a picture feels like signing up to some mad collective self-delusion that we are all artists with an eye for beauty, when the tragicomic truth is that the sheer plenitude and repetition of modern amateur photography makes beauty glib. If Instagram did deny that its users are the authors of their robotic images, it would only be stating the obvious."
Mr. Jones, you are a snob.
You are a snob that swallowed a dictionary with some long words in it.
Don't bring your own issues with creativity to the table and suggest I might be the one who is delusional….
I joined Instagram because it reminded me of shooting a Polaroid camera in the old days: square photos, instant, limited set of parameters.
It was like having that Polaroid attached to a global publishing deal. There were also friends to make, other people's work to follow. Sure, there was a lot of mediocre stuff and inane rubbish. Is the rest of life any different?
I was guilty of shooting a picture of my dinner from time to time. But, hey, I used to be a chef many years ago so I can cook a decent dinner.
Most of the time Instagram was, for me, a stream of my visual consciousness. It was a way for me to shoot unfettered by a large, heavy camera. It was square and after years of growing up shooting twin-lens-reflex film cameras, like the Rollei and Mamiya, it was nice to get back to a square format with digital convenience.
I left Instagram because I am a professional photographer and I don't want people owning my work just because I have put it in their gallery. That's not how it works in the real world, shouldn't be how it needs to work in the digital realm either.
Whether IG's terms and conditions really meant they could/can/will sell people's photos without giving them a cut is irrelevant to me now. Facebook owns IG. I choose not to put photos of mine onto Facebook as I don't like the idea of them managing my creations in any way. I was waiting to see what would happen after IG sold[out] to Facebook. This week their hand was shown. I can see what's coming, so I left.
No tears. No regrets. Plenty of stuff to shoot, work to do, places to post it where it won't be at risk of someone just doing what they want to with it.
Join Instagram, join a collective act of self-delusion | Jonathan Jones
Comment is free. Wednesday 19 December 2012 15.16 GMT. Join Instagram, join a collective act of self-delusion. Instagram claiming ownership of every image would be a logical next step – no individuali…
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