Farewell to Thee, Instagram

HONEYMOON

I got my first iPhone in January of last year.  Instagram was pretty much the first app I downloaded and I immediately fell in love.  I loved its ability to connect me to others visually and I began to quip in pictures.  I loved the way the images looked on my phone and I was romanced by the filters.  I would get heady when my likes would creep into the double digits.  I shot for myself, but increasingly my steadily growing “audience.” I experimented in ways I was not allowed to for work.  I composited images and dodged and burned and really painted fantastical scenes.  It marked a rebirth of a creativity I thought I’d lost.  It was so easy and stealthy and casual and I photographed the kinds of things I hadn’t shot since I was a student- but I was a better photographer who had long been “too good” to carry a big camera with me everywhere because that’s for when I get paid.  I brought my trained eye to the iphone and Instagram made me fall in love with photography all over again.  It was a true honeymoon.  We were so in love.  Instagram even made me a featured user, bringing me over 14,000 new followers.

For all these reasons, I will be forever grateful to Instagram, but that doesn’t change the fact that I deleted my account this month.

DIVORCE

When the controversial new terms of service were announced in December, I paused my posting and sat back to observe the legions of users creating a delightful uproar.  Instagram pretended to capitulate and the storm blew over, but the veil had been lifted from my eyes.  I re-read the original terms of service and they were terrible.  The proposed “compromise” terms were even worse.  The current iteration is a nightmare and Instagram has lost a lot of daily users, but even if they revised the TOS to reflect an ideal situation for the users, they can just change them again.  As someone who advocates for photographers rights loudly and often, I had to put my money where my mouth was.  The company had shown a sad contempt for its users and I couldn’t trust them to do right by us down the line.  I couldn’t keep investing time, love, and potentially copyright in what I realized was a bit of a silly little app that was fine while it lasted, but is ultimately a distraction.  I took a closer look at my Instagram archive and realized that the files are tiny and look like total shit outside of the screen of a smartphone, especially when compared with the files of my professional camera.  While Instagram had led me to a creative rebirth, it was a toy and I was an adult.  Time to put away toys and get to work.

A NEW ROMANCE

I made a New Year’s resolution to take my real camera with me everywhere.  So far, I have.  I haven’t made many pictures yet, and I’m still not used to the extra weight during a trip to the grocery store or a night on the town, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do.  I have infinitely more control- over the technical aspects of making the photo as well as my distribution channels.  I miss the camaraderie of the app, but who am I kidding?  I’ve always been a loner.  Now it’s just me, a dslr with a pancake lens, and the open road.  I’ll drop in here occasionally to share.

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This is the largest photo post I will ever make on this blog.  I wanted an online home for some of my favorite Instagram pictures and I couldn’t narrow it down past 80.  There were over 300 in the archive, but I found myself particularly drawn to the moments.  These aren’t my most filtered pictures by a longshot.  While there are a few composites in the mix, I was surprised to see that my preference still leaned toward content over style.  Sadly, I regret that so many of these moments would have been better-served by shooting them with a better camera.

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6 comments

  1. I agree with the thought of divorcing Instagram. After their terms of service update I thought a trial separation was needed. I’m doing ok without it. Just weighing what I’ll lose in the divorce if I do decide to go ahead with those proceedings.

  2. Thank you for this – I’d been caught in a similar debate, having found a rebirth of creativity in the convenience and community if instagram. However, I used to carry my “real” camera everywhere, and the images I can create with it have far more potential than a few dozen “likes” from low-res viewers. I went ahead and turned my archive of instagram photos into a blurb book – easily integrated and now something I can enjoy for the sake of those snapshot moments. Having determined that the terms of service are not in favor of any serious photographer, I have to agree with your decision to part ways with instagram, and I’ll be closing my account too.

  3. I carry my camera with me everywhere, for the most part, but I don’t seek opportunities to photograph. I have found they (photo opportunities) find me on occasion and I am glad I had my camera at hand.

    I do have an Instagram account, but my children use my phone to shoot hundreds of photos of themselves to share, so I don’t use my account.

    Leo

  4. I decided shortly after I got my first SLR to carry my camera on me at all times as I never knew what I might find. It probably helped that I was travelling through Europe at the time so had an excuse. When I got back home, I went and purchased a sling strap and never leave the house without it. Now instead of feeling weird carrying it, it’s distinctly unnerving if I don’t have it on.

    If size/weight is a bit much consider getting a mirrorless like micro four thirds. The quality has gotten really good finally, and they generally draw less attention.

    Love your work by the way, I look forward to seeing what you produce with a proper camera out and about.

  5. Hi Melissa,
    I admire your work, but I’m happy to hear you’ve left Instagram. I believe Instagram’s success has trivialized the art of photography. Peace, Eli

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