I’ve been following over 50 people daily on Instagram for a couple of months and I’ve made some rewarding friendships as well as seen some wonderful and serious photography. My recent friend @meanwhile, an American living and working in Tajikistan, had one of his Instagram photos published on the CNN website introducing the announcement of Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram, the most popular photo portal for serious as well as not so serious photographers, or should I say iPhone Photographers, or should I simply say Instagram photographers on Smart Phones (Instagram is available for Android as well).
The article on CNN was by Tyson Wheatley, the CNN Sr. Editor for Digital Services, and was followed by thousands, maybe millions The majority of comments I read on Instagram on the days following the take-over have been quite moderate but some of my colleagues have been fluttered by the deal. Who swears they’ll leave and never come back, who’s worried about nasty things happening to a great platform (Instagram) and who’s fallen off their chairs in amazement that the owners of Instagram are actually out to make money and not simply give all of us casual and serious photographers a great way to communicate in real time across the globe through photos and subsequent comments. Moderate and calm reactions overtook most, like @vajra111 or @vanawaggin @heytbeth or @msc. I, like most, don’t know what’s in store for the new InstaFace or FaceGram, but what I can certainly attest to is that the world of photography I knew as a child has become the plaything of more and more people. Most are simply out for enjoyment and documenting their own private world of friends, cats, food and children. The “game” part of the app. is the set of filters which can make almost any photograph look better instantly. Basically the app. changes color balance and adds some kind of vignetting. Those changes, though, add to a major change in the quality of the images. But the app. is not just a game, it’s a community.
There are also some very exciting photographers working the iPhone media like @leoleoparis and @meanwhile which speak for the serious side of Instagram. It’s not only community, but it’s a great way to see hundreds of photographs a day from all over the world on a real time basis. When I wake up I always see both @leoleoparis as well as @meanwhile and sometimes make comments to both. Our exchanges are minimal, but refreshing. The community is based on respect and interest and, sometimes, social sympathy.
Also, seeing good photography is getting more and more expensive and is, in my opinion, one of the charms of Instagram and the social network. We get to see tons of fresh work for free. You don’t have to go to a gallery to see someone who has been carefully selected and who is showing a few pieces from the last twenty years of work. On Instagram, every day you’re inundated by refreshing work and images from around the globe. The sheer mixture of the styles and subject matter assures you that you never get tired. and if, by chance, you get tired of some users (because some tend to repeat themselves ad nausium, even if they’re good at what they do) you can always drop following and pick up on someone else. Not even TV or Life magazine in its heyday offered this kind of entertainment.
Oh, by the way, Facebook paid $1 billion for the takeover of Instagram. On an economic basis, that’s a bit absurd. Instagram is less than two years old and has 13 employees. It was started by a 20 year old and as of today has over 35 million followers. Another Cinderella story for the mythology of our times.