Instagram: Love or Loathe?

Image:  Kai Chan Vong.
Image: Kai Chan Vong.

Although the opinions I hold on Instagram have mellowed over recent months, this was not always the case. When it first appeared on the mobile app scene, I despised it. I hated the ridiculous hashtags, I hated the menial and repetitive pictures of the same subject (pigeon-toed shoes, food, selfies, food, nails?!) and I hated the idea that people thought they were photographers simply by photographing the average and slapping an instant filter on it. They were proving that you could in fact polish a turd.

Since those initial thoughts, the app has snowballed into the mainstream and all of those vile traits have continued. Celebrities have also adopted the app and along with Vine they have provided a visual counterpart to the twitter celebrity obsession. The creators of Instagram identified a social network based upon images and it paid off for them.  Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion in April 2012 and then that was that. My hatred was confirmed forever. Or was it?

No! It wasn’t! I have mellowed, and for good reason. Regardless of all the irritating results, Instagram is a great creative outlet for everyone. It’s instant, it’s easy to use and despite its turd-polishing ability, it adds something fun to your phone camera that allows you to capture an image and instantly share it in a social setting. It appeals to the people that Flickr doesn’t. Fellow ‘proper’ photographers may grumble, but photography shouldn’t be a castle of creativity guarded by Nikon warriors and Canons. Everybody should be encouraged to have a sense of creativity in their life and rather than just taking a picture and being done with it, Instagram encourages a person to at least take a second look at an image and see how it can be modified in an aesthetically pleasing fashion.

There will always be a strong link between cameras and images that may be seen as ‘pointless’ or ‘irritating’ and there will always be grumbles over the modification of images, but these should be swept aside once and for all. You only need to peruse Tumblr for a few minutes to find countless selfies, pigeon-toed converse, food and nails – all of which are taken on cameras ranging from old-fashioned film to top of the range DSLRs. Give people the opportunity to record endless aspects of their life and they will do it. As for the modification side of Instagram, there is a slight underwhelming ease to it, but is this really that far removed from taking a picture on your snazzy Nikon and then unleashing Photoshop upon it and doing sneaky things. Photoshop and Lightroom users, were the Skegness sands really that vibrant in October? I beg to differ. At least on Instagram there is no real mystery on the filter front.

Aside from the obviously irritable traits that are inherent form of a ‘social network,’ Instagram should be accepted for its ability to give a creative opportunity. Anything redirecting people’s attention away from Flappy Bird to that beautiful sunset beaming through the top deck of the 25 is worth a bit of love.


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