Thursday, 21 June 2012
Right. I've done it. I've just joined Instagram - something I'd been avoiding for a very long time. But what else is out there? There's Saltire-waving blipfoto which makes you feel like an illegal immigrant with an infectious disease if you post from outside Scotland (and weirdly specifies that you're ONLY allowed to comment in English... so much for photography being a culture-spanning pastime! Then there is that photography mass grave called flickr, and various others like A photograph per day which are in a class of their own (literally).
So Instagram with its estimated 50 million users it has to be. First impressions? Alas, ropey. It's certainly not right for you if you're serious about photography. More like your worst Facebook friend - you know the one that always posts photos of 4 drunken mates, all pulling faces, huge beer bottle held into the camera, caption "Whaddya say????!!"- had multiplied into the n-th dimension. "Most popular on Instagram"? Invariably blurry photos of dopey or blissed-out looking Korean girls, as if in various stages of a child pornography film. Best not look.
Filters, or as they like to call it over there "Special effects" rule the show. Purple cats, blurry, distorted faces, and possibly worst of all - the hyper-hallucinogenic shots of some humdrum piece of English countryside.
Of course there's some good photography hidden away - but it tends to be of the school that wants to create art. "Art" in the sense of the street vendor next to Sacre Coeur, selling broad canvasses of soupy West Coast sunsets with a gleaming Harley on the left and an inky palmtree on the right. All depends what your definition of art is, as Bill Clinton might say.
I know a lot of people who love filters, either for pragmatic reasons ("It makes my crappy iphone snaps more interesting", said one), or because they love to create something special. Mostly though, they tend to be British. And I was thinking: Personally I loathe filters. I want to see things are they are, and document them as they are. Light, clarity and realism are my goals in photography. In Britain however, life is infinitely harder - you need something to soften it. "Take the edge off the day", as the saying goes - which usually refers to alcohol. Filters also take the edge off things, turn an often stark reality into something fun, creative, and colourful. Run-down street? Sepia filters turn it into historicity. Horrible room? 1970's style filter make it edgy and cool,. And so on. Filters I think are eminently intercultural.