I wanted to follow up to last week's Istagram post and a comment that I received on Instagram.
formlessness@salvarezphoto in my opinion yes that's exactly what it is, but that's not to diminish instagram in any way, twitter after all has had an important role in world events over the last few years...
I didn't mean to denigrate Instagram or anyone who uses it. In fact I put pictures up almost every day. I find it democratic and exciting. It isn't a professional platform, but it is going to effect professionals and publishers in a big way. How remains to be seen, but all "National Geographic Photographers"* now have the ability to publish photos straight to the NGM Instagram feed anytime we feel like it. For the first time in NGM's history the highly talented and tremendously skilled editors who determine what an audience sees are outside the publication process. That is a revolution, now there is no editor or publisher in between the photographer and the audience.
If I chose to put a vacation photo, or a picture from Iran onto the NGM feed is goes straight to the 127,000 @natgeo instagram followers, immediately.
As @formlessness alludes to the immediateness is thrilling. World events might look very different in a Instagram universe. How long before collectives of photographers begin covering events under one Instagram name? Imagine what @MagnunPhotos_tahrirsquare or @GreenRevolution_VII could have looked like?
The obvious question is why a collective? Why not just have everyone one at an event cover it? Try slogging through the 400,000 plus photos in #olympics and you might see why. It takes a hard working editor to sort through that volume. A group of talented photographers publishing with restraint could keep the flow to a reasonable amount and ensure that the images are reliable. Reliability is not something that you get out of #syria... but it is something that you get out of @natgeo.
Last week I mentioned that the founder of Visa had derided cell phone photography as "pure laziness" in a BJP interview. This is something apart from the instant publishing that I am talking about but lets be honest, Jean-Françios is absolutely right, cell phone photography IS LAZY. I shoot with a cell phone every day and sometimes it is just because I am too lazy to get my good camera out. Using a cell phone is SO much easier than using a DSLR. Then again using a DSLR is so much easier than using a film slr camera and using a film slr is so much easier than using a 4x5 press camera. Where do you draw that distinction between the march of image gathering technology and laziness? After all film is easier than wet plates.
Much of what we are responding to with the Hipstamatic and similar applications is the filter sets that the software adds. THAT seems to be the laziness that JFL is incensed by. I shot the image that begins this post on my cell phone and on my DSLR (here). Different photos no? The real question for the photographer is do you know what the image is going to look like before you shoot it on your phone and are you choosing the phone because it says what you want to say? If the answer is yes then go ahead and be lazy. However, realize that it is not necessarily photojournalism and that the only place hipstamatic pictures really look good is on an iphone.
Given all that I am not sure I would choose to go to Libya and just shoot with hipstamatic, but then again I am not in my 20s. Younger photographers aren't tied to the print medium just as they aren't tied to ideas about what you could or could not do in the darkroom. The rules and attitudes are seriously shifting.
Follow me on Instagram @salvarezphoto
*National Geographic Photographers is in quotes because the photographers authorized to publish to the NGM feed are not employees of the society, we are a group of about 60 freelance photographers who work occasionally for the magazine. Find out more about us here.