On Instagram and Photography

Some of my first photos on Instagram.

So I finally gave in and joined Instagram (I know. I’m, what, five years late to the party?). For a long time, I balked at the idea. Being limited to a square composition and the quality of a camera phone was baffling; after all this technological advancement, why would people purposely choose a medium with low image quality, filters that emulate old technology, and a limiting composition? 

Then I tried to stop thinking like a snob. When I worked at the International Center of Photography, we put on an exhibit of a man who built cameras out of cardboard boxes and took pictures of women’s legs on the street without their knowledge. So, really, who am I to judge what photography should be or how it should be accomplished? And as someone interested in photography, shouldn’t I try to expand my repertoire and try new methods? So I signed up for Instagram and began taking more photos with my camera phone. 


And I actually like it!  I think Instagram highlights the best thing about photography: it is the most democratic art form. Unlike painting or sculpture, which can require years of practice and expensive materials, photography is accessible to most of society. Almost anyone is capable of being a photographer and capturing a moment in their history. 

Me with a young photography enthusiast in Jordan. Yes, that’s my camera he has (and wanted to keep)!

Photography, however, can quickly become inaccessible with its expensive DSLR cameras and proliferation of high-powered lenses. Instagram sets us all back on a level playing field and gives everyone the tools necessary to be a photographer. Almost everyone has a phone with a camera, access to the internet to download a free app, and their own sensibility of what makes a good photograph. It enables more people to be art-creators and chroniclers of their own existence in the world. With a smart phone, the little boy I met in Petra (above) can share with everyone what the world is and means from his visual perspective. 

What Instagram is, at least for me, is a way of looking at the world in a different way. While sitting on a bus, it allows me to ask the question “what is the most interesting photograph I could take right now?” It makes me notice shapes and moments that I might otherwise pass by. It allows for experimentation and failures without the constant nagging question of “will this be a good photograph?” It’s just fun. 

My Instagram. Feel free to add me!

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