I've Been Instagrammified! (The Sunday Pulpit)
I'm a bit of a contrarian, tacking left when the rest of the world is tacking right. Sometimes there's a valid reason for my contrarian views and sometimes it's because I don't like crowds much I think. So if you've spent any time in online photography circles, you'll see that most serious practitioners of the hobby of photography look down upon Instagram as lowbrow, a couple of steps below even Lomography for crying out loud. There's a great video from College Humor that summarizes all of the criticisms of this photographic genre, if you can even call it that.
And this is where I start tacking left. I find it mildly ironic that people practicing what is perhaps the most democratized form of creativity would essentially say that Instagram is too democratic. I mean, didn't George Eastman get the ball rolling with the first Kodak camera, essentially kickstarting amateur photography? Did the photography professionals at the time with their unwieldy and expensive cameras and plates and tripods scoff at the small Kodak, the quality of the prints, and most critically the people wielding them? Didn't Oskar Barnack keep the ball rolling with the first Leica? I wasn't there, but didn't practitioners of larger film formats scoff at the little 35mm film that could? See the pattern?
We're way at the bottom of the hill now, with cheap cameras built into phones and tablets and people flooding Facebook and Instagram with pictures of food and duckface selfies. Look up the hill and and there's all these people staring down, each frowning at how those below them have taken photography lower and lower. Whose at the top of the hill? Ansel Adams perhaps? Maybe it's Caravaggio, frowning down upon poor Anselm for lacking the skill to depict the world with pigments? Actually, it's probably not Caravaggio, he's too drunk. Rembrandt is more likely, a solid Northern European looking down his long nose at the mountain of inferior artists.
Screw that. I say the more pictures in the world the better. Sure they are low quality. Sure they are inane, but they are visual objects for visual creatures, and people are enjoying themselves without doing harm to others. The next great photographer, the second coming of Henri Cartier-Bresson, is probably Instagramming as we speak, oblivious to the hierarchy that he's upsetting, seeing and saying things with his crappy smart phone camera that the rest of us, with all of the fancy gear and knowledge at our disposal, can't begin to achieve. So disparage Instagram all that you want, but remember, it's the photographer that takes the shot, not the camera, not the lens, not the tripod, and certainly not the app.