Let’s give this thing a chance to change us for the better.
Your dinner is not interesting. Even with a Valencia filter on it. Your dog? It was interesting for the first couple photos. Not anymore. And there are only so many Macbook and latte #homeworksesh photos I can look at before I snap my phone in half.
Then why do we do it? We all rant about the clichés of Instagram—the typical photos that are always posted. Then we turn around and snap the exact same thing and wait around jumping at every ‘like’ that buzzes our pocket. We do it because deep down, every single one of us wants to be an artist. We are divinely designed to appreciate beauty in the world, and that experience is a brief glimpse of the divine. Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not saying that your photo feed is a transcendent journey into the realm of the supernatural, but at least now you know what to look for.
I downloaded the Instagram app the day it came out. However, I didn’t use it for about a year because what’s the point of sharing when there is nobody else to share with? Soon enough the masses started to join and Instagram came into its own. But what exactly is that?
For years, people didn’t really know what to do with digital photography. Yeah, it was cool to see your photo on a screen right after it was taken; then we put them in slideshows, and inflicted people to hours-long presentations of our five day trip to Mexico. Next, the internet came along and suddenly people had a place that they could show off their images, and we could look at them at our own leisure. We could make the slideshow go by quickly, and we could tell our friends that we went through it slowly. Everyone was happy.
The problem was that the limitlessness of the internet gave birth to a limitlessness of atrocious photos. We were so eager to share, we didn’t really give any concern for how good it looked. It wasn’t even quality versus quantity. It was just quantity. Not only that, but these quantities were being taken on crappy point-and-shoots or even crappier ‘not-so-smart-phones.’ Photography had become a sharing phenomenon again, but no one pretended it was beautiful.
Even though technology had brought us to an age where everyone can have a camera at all times, it was only the professionals with Canons and Nikons that were giving us any sort of quality. A hierarchy still existed in the photography world.
Then came the iPhone. At first, it wasn’t anything special. The first iPhone camera was two megapixels with no auto-focus. I’ve seen more clarity through my rain-smeared glasses, out of my frosted-over windshield. But it didn’t take long. Soon the quality of photos people could take straight out of their pockets was actually reasonable. We had the camera, we just didn’t think we were photographers yet.
That’s when Instagram stepped in. With sharp vignettes and warm filters, we have been tricked into thinking we’re all Ansel Adams. Of course, comparing ourselves to one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers would border on sacrilege, but to some degree it’s the truth. From an artistically critical perspective, 9 times out of 10 we are still uploading poor quality photos, but there has been a shift in the way we look at our world.
Our eyes have been trained to the beauty around us in a way humanity has not previously seen. We used to rely on National Geographic to capture beauty with a lens. Now anyone with a $200 smartphone and a finger to click believes they can do it, and, really, that’s all it takes to start: the confidence that when we click the button something good will come out the other end.
Further than that, we now spend more time than ever simply scrolling through photos. Waiting for the bus, waiting for the movie, waiting for real life to continue, we pull out our phones and scroll through example after example of the good, the bad, and the beautiful. They say it takes a certain amount of hours to become an expert in something. Well, those hours are sure getting eaten up fast when every waking moment is spent on Instagram. We see photos we ‘like’ and ones that we don’t. Soon our own personal abilities get shaped by the things we see, and before you know it, we are actually creating beautiful things like never before.
Suddenly our entire life is an opportunity to create art. The thing is, it already was. We just needed the spark of inspiration to make us realize it.