A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...

Posts tagged "instagram"

Dec 27, 2013
I’ve found that Instagram works much like the movie business: You’re safe if you trade “one for them” with “one for yourself,” meaning for every photo of a book, painting or poem, I try to post a selfie with a puppy, a topless selfie or a selfie with Seth Rogen, because these are all things that are generally liked.

Jan 26, 2013
“The only one doing their job around here is this tree.” — @dallasclayton (via)

“The only one doing their job around here is this tree.” — @dallasclayton (via)

Oct 22, 2012

Photographers, embrace Instagram


Richard Koci Hernandez made this really nice video essay about why he loves Instagram filters on CNN.

As I’ve written before, “Making daily images — whether in a sketchbook or with an iPhone camera — makes people look closer at their worlds. And that’s a good thing.” A lot of the moaning you hear online somehow suggests that so many people taking photos is destroying photography, which, as Hernandez points out, is hogwash:

Photography is rooted in the rich culture of amateurism. What’s happening today is similar to the original proliferation of Kodak’s Brownie camera starting in 1900. An inexpensive and easy-to-use camera in every hand didn’t usher in the end of photography or automatically turn everybody into Richard Avedon.

And as far as filters being a form of “cheating,” let’s not forget that “cheating” has been part of photography since photography existed. I’ve always thought it’s best to think of photography not as capturing reality, but a matter of making images. The “truth” or “reality” of those images is based mostly on the context we put them in.

Hernandez says that because time will never bend or crack or fade his digital photos, “I add in the passage of time by using filters.” That’s an interesting take, but I like this take by Clive Thompson even more:

I think Instagram’s image-altering filters are a key part of my visual awakening, because they often take meh photographs and render them newly weird, making me look at the subjects in a new way… filtering makes me look at stuff with fresh eyes. The unaltered picture of that brownstone door was attractive enough; but after the Lomo filter I realized it reminded me of a Tardis. I began scrutinizing otherwise blasé stuff in my house, wondering, hmm, how would that look with a filter applied? […T]his, really, is what I love most about new communications tools. At their best, they encourage us to pay attention to our lives in new ways.

Filed under: Instagram

Apr 03, 2012

On Instagram

Making daily images — whether in a sketchbook or with an iPhone camera — makes people look closer at their worlds. And that’s a good thing.

Filters? Filters are great. If I want reality, I’ll go stand at the DMV.

The same people who complain about Instagram filters would tell Jimi Hendrix to get rid of his distortion pedals. “Keep it real, Jimi!”

More on Instagram →

Feb 05, 2012

Dec 30, 2011

Dec 20, 2011

On judging Instagram photos

My friends The Butler Bros asked me to judge their #instabros Instagram photo contest for November. I happened to be reading Errol Morris’ Believing is Seeing at the time, so I went a little overboard and wrote a long-ish essay that they had to chop. Here’s the whole thing:

"All photographs are posed."
Errol Morris

How do you judge a contest? You must have criteria, or a criterion.

I figured judging a competition for my friends The Butler Bros would be simple: I’d just adopt their tagline, “It’s time for non-fiction.” I’d pick the Instagram photos that suggested stories that looked the least like fiction. Photos that were honest, truthful, authentic.

Using that criterion, I immediately become skeptical of photos that looked too good. Photos that looked like they were taken by expensive DSLRs and later posted from the phone were out. (But how do you tell? New iPhones take ridiculously nice photos these days, and Instagram reduces photo resolution to a point where you can’t know for certain what the photo was taken with…)

And what about filters? Are filters a fiction? What about Photoshop and 3rd-party apps on the iPhone?

What about cropping?

What about captions? To fake a photo, all you really have to do is change the caption.

Perhaps, as Errol Morris suggests, to try to find truth embedded in a photographic image is an act of folly:

The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. Photographs are neither true nor false. Uncovering the relationship between a photograph and reality is no easy matter.

No easy matter, indeed. In the end, I went with another (way less ambitious) criterion: I picked the photos I liked.

Here are 3 of them:


If all photos are posed, this was the least-posed in the November #instabros batch: a mosh pit at Fun Fun Fun Fest. It’s rare to find Instagram shots with so much energy—for one thing, something has to be happening, and a lot of times when we Instagram, nothing is really happening: think of all the lattes and sleeping dogs in your feed…


Captioned “lonely guy.” What’s his story? Who took the photo? (You never know, the photographer could’ve been dining with him, instead of behind him. Wouldn’t that be interesting…) Would I feel the same way about the photo without the caption? Once I read the caption, it’s impossible to know.


@Vanchocstraw’s bio is accurate: “a lot of walking the dogs in Austin, TX,” but I just couldn’t get away from this photo of the Top Notch sign against an Austin sunset. Does it suggest a story? No. Sometimes a photo just looks pretty…and that’s enough.

Nov 09, 2011

Here’s the deal: if you tag an Instagram photo #instabros, it’ll show up on the homepage of my friends The Butler Bros. Every month they have a contest—this month they talked me into judging. So post cool stuff, and maybe you’ll win a t-shirt.

(Source: vimeo.com)

Sep 04, 2011
A tag is the soul of the Internet.
— Derrick de Kerckhove, quoted by Clive Thompson in his piece on Instagram tags (Clive, who previously wrote one of my favorite pieces about Instagram, continues: “Tags are how everything online — from packets on up to entire documents — are recombined and made new sense of.” I’m a meticulous tagger—I’m pretty much writing my book just by going back through Tumblr tags.)
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