Memoirs of an Instagram addict

The following is an article I wrote for Melbourne based Fashion Culture mag “SEVENSEVEN magazine” entitled “Memoirs of an Instagram addict”.  It was published in November 2012 in issue 7 of the magazine.  Hope you like it!  Feel free to share, like and/or comment.

I am an addict.

I denied it for a long time and covered it up when I realised what was happening, but I can’t deny it anymore and I need to admit it to the world…I am addicted to instagram.  An #igaddict is what they call us and what we call ourselves.  How did it happen?  I’m glad you asked…

The global phenomenon, accept-no-substitute, instant photo sharing sensation that is Instagram didn’t start off as gloriously as its current market position.  The retro rehash square format smartphone photo craze started almost as early as the first sales of the original iPhone (smartphone photography exists on android and blackberry based phones but not nearly as popularly) with its 2 megapixel camera back in 2007.  Instagram rose to supremacy somewhere between it’s launch date in October 2010 to the present day, surpassing such pioneers as ‘Hipstamatic’ and ‘Camera Bag’, mainly due to it’s easy clean interface and flawless marketing.  When Facebook picked it up for a cool one billion dollars earlier this year the app exploded in popularity and features.  As well as the app itself there are now over 20 tag along apps all trying their hand to capture a slice, from extra filter apps to frame and diptych apps.  Also there was the emergence of such websites as ‘Statigr.am’ which offers online access to all of your pics, followers, stats and so much more including options to get a collage of your Instagram pics as posters, stickers and my personal favourite pillow cases!  Too far?  Probably.

Photographers quickly jumped on board seeing it as the compact, go anywhere version of what we do professionally.  In fact Damon Winter published a summer series for the New York Times using Instagram and got a third place in the ‘Pictures of the Year International photojournalism competition’ for Hipstamatic shots covering the War in Afghanistan.  Frowned on by many as it was seen as becoming a bastardisation of photography, the later tagged ‘iPhonography’ was defended by brilliant and highly accredited photographer Chase Jarvis, illustrating the point that photography is meant to be enjoyed by everyone therefore isn’t this a good thing?

Where it gets very interesting and slightly controversial for me is the point where photographers started using instagram to share their professional portfolio.  I was personally disappointed by this movement believing that it’s one or the other; Professional Portfolio through the regular means (websites, social media, galleries), or iPhonography which puts everyone on a level playing field.  This was until Facebook swooped in and created the above-mentioned boom and made it an undisputed channel of promotion, especially for photographers since the app is images only.  It became borderline ridiculous not to embrace the extra channel so I gave it a go.  Sure enough after posting a few shots from a recent studio shoot I got an extra 50 plus notifications overnight.  Impressive.  I dug a little deeper (as I was getting followers and likes from users such as “getmorefO11Owershere407” and “mcacashking3”) and discovered there are Instagram bots that can be purchased to auto follow, auto like and auto comment.  Turns out it’s big business and some people are making a good living off such promotions.  The part where I personally draw the line is posting other peoples work as your own to grow followers and likes to sell off as a marketing tool.  You’re not doing it right, have no morals or are a robot and do not have my or any other serious photographers respect.

Should we all be posting our pro photo’s and or adverts and inspirational quotes or keep it strictly iPhonography?  I feel there is a healthy balance somewhere in between.  I love the challenge of shooting and editing solely on an iPhone where the end result is based on your creativity and understanding of light only verses the quality of your equipment; but I also cannot argue with the marketing potential offered by such a streamlined and attractive app.  You can never have too much exposure, and as such please accept my shameless instagram plug @russbenningphotography.

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