Instagram, the Devil, and You
October 30, 2012
When a photojournalist uses Instagram, the devil smiles. He keeps it handy, in the top drawer of his toolbox, sitting right next to true love.
Like most of his tricks, it promises the user fame, fortune and the admiration of one's betters. Despite knowing this to be a lie, photographers, even the good ones, often succumb to the temptation.
After all, he's the devil and knows exactly how to play us.
To be fair, Instagram does deliver a hollow sort of fame. Not the kind of Gene Smith, ready to take a beating in the name of truth, type of fame. More like the 7,200 people saw what I had for lunch and that'll keep me feeling special until dinner, type of fame.
It delivers the fortune too, just not for it's users. Instagram became more valuable than the New York Times practically overnight without having to pay for a lick of content. That's 25% of what Star Wars just sold for and it took George Lucas a good thirty years of hard work to destroy that content.
As for the admiration of one's betters... scorn, admiration, hey take whatever you can get. There’s no such thing as bad PR, right?
Listen, I just bring this up because once again the press dropped the ball on a huge story that impacts the lives of millions of people (No, don't be silly I'm not talking about the presidential race). I've looked through the images made of Hurricane Sandy and I'm stunned by the lack of excellence.
Most of the photographs are REALLY bad. This stuff is important. It’s history. It changes people’s lives. You're not allowed to make excuses or drop the ball, but sadly most of you did.
Maybe the editors were too busy culling images submitted by their readers. Really, I gotta say it's sad to see the New York Times and the Washington Post begging for user generated, ahem, free content. (This just in.. A tree fell in Brooklyn!) Where's your sense of dignity people? These are trying times and here you are stealing desperately needed content from your local FOX affiliate.
The worst of the offenders has to be Time's Lightbox. Normally I love this site, but sending photographers out to purposely shoot Instagrams is the journalistic equivalent of stringing together an essay from a bunch of tweets. It's shameful and you should be embarrassed. Not to say these shots weren't well seen (which is the hardest part), just that they were poorly executed. Which is to say they fail as photographs.
For the record, with natural disasters you need a couple of images that show the power of Mother Nature (is it alright to capitalize that without capitalizing devil? I’m not sure). Even though it was at night, John Minchillo got a few of these. Check. Now move on to the important stuff, and by stuff I mean people and the experience they’re going through.
We don’t need more than one picture of a floating car, instead we got dozens. We don’t need to see point pictures, as if you’re documenting a crime scene or making pictures for an insurance company.
All we need is people.
Thankfully, we got a few. Chang Lee’s shot of a patient being evacuated was nice, but somehow rare. Where are the shots of babies being born by candle light and nurses manually respirating patients?
Keith Bedford had a real nice image in the Washington Post, something beyond the normal, here’s a sad person in front of devastation, picture.
Allison Joyce made refreshing images of people being people in the midst of abnormal times. Susan Walsh also had a nice one of these. Mel Evans had several.
There was a nice picture in The Daily Beast's feed of people at a bar under candlelight, but I screwed up my notes and don't remember who made it (sorry).
Still, overall I was disappointed by the lack of remarkable images.
As for you Instagramers, twenty years from now you’ll be sorry. You’ll be more sorry than I am when I look back on a picture I made twenty years ago with a 20mm lens when I should have used a 28mm.
Years from now, you’ll awake in the middle of the night and suddenly realize putting a fake border on a picture makes the whole picture fake. You’ll understand that the technical choices you made destroyed the longterm credibility of both you and your images.
Instead of having a body of work to look back on, you’ll have a sad little collection of noisy digital files that were disposable when you made them, instantly forgotten by your followers (after they gave you a thumbs up), and now totally worthless.
You’ll wish you’d have made those images on a Pentax K1000 and Tri-X (at the very least or most depending on your age and perspective), but the times you failed to record properly will be long gone.
But don't listen to me, listen to all your Insta-friends. They love you.
I like this post. Thanks for writing it. Couldn't agree more. I use Instagram for personal photos. (I'm seriously considering no longer using it). I do not upload photos taken via Instagram or my phone to my professional portfolios. I don't understand the rationalization by those who do, nor by those professional agencies that invite it. bottom dollar dictates journalism content = awful.
Posted by: Stacey Newman | October 31, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Boo-yah! Ken takes dead-aim. Now I am grinding through the interweb to see if I can actually find some great photos (none yet).
The only advantage I can see to using the iP in a hurricane is being able to keep your "camera" in a ziplock bag, and not drown a $6000 SLR/lens. I did drown an F2/24mm long ago during a giant SoCal storm, but it was a company camera ... ok buddy! Amazingly, with a good cleaning right away by a tech, it survived for many more years. Not so these dSLRs.
Posted by: Patrick Downs (@PatDownsPhotos) | October 31, 2012 at 08:18 AM
So so true and all true.
Posted by: Daniel | October 31, 2012 at 08:52 AM
As usual Ken's venom is filled with wisdom and thoughts we should all ponder. Life is evolving too quickly to comprehend at times but as Darwin said, it's not only how you adapt but how quickly you adapt to change. I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Time assignment shot exclusively on my iPhone and distributed most immediately through their Instagram's feed. My only lament in making serious and thoughtful work on my iPhone is pointed out in this thread....the quality of the files is not good enough yet. I expect that over time that will change. And let me be very clear...these are all tools to create and in my case report with. One doesn't replace the other. Experimentation is how we move forward.
Posted by: ed kashi | October 31, 2012 at 09:38 AM
I think Instgram is fun to use, I like seeing pictures of my friends world, their kids and their day...Im guilty of using it selectively and watermarked but i think its gimmicky photography, over filtered. Colors and graphics are what drives "likes" and not content. And those images look great in iPhone-insta small screen, but on regular slideshow it doesnt hold up often. You look at the TIME slideshow and you say to yourself, lot of this if shot in 35mm would not even make the edit. This storm is so historical, and to shoot it soley on iPhone because you have an assignments is a logic i don't understand. At what point is it moving forward or jumping on a trendy bandwagon? I hear from young photographers where their photo editors pressure them them to shoot iphone pictures...again, legitimizing the platform. And finally no one is talking of the TERMS of instagram...read it, its scary.
Posted by: Yunghi Kim | October 31, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Thanks to Ken for raising this and kudos to Ed for commenting about his own role. I watched my Instagram feed yesterday and it felt like New Yorker and Time were having a Sandy-off. Competing to make the most Instagram-able thumbnail impression of the chaos. Ken mentions the lack of portraits, perhaps that critique could be extended to describe Instagram as a medium -I don't think the medium really 'does' portraits in that sense. It exists to make icons of shadows and sunsets, the frame (on an iPhone) is less than 2 inches square. With all the photographer's best intentions could any reliable human emotion assemble itself from a section 40 pixels wide? If we go out with only a hammer then everything starts to look like a nail. Lastly what of the victims outside of New York? Mixing in a little coverage of the other places hit by Sandy might have made the Instagram feeds more representative. Maybe we'd be wise to be a little less generous with the hashtag #photojournalism while we try and work this thing out.
Posted by: Nick Cobbing | October 31, 2012 at 10:34 AM
Ken, you make some excellent points. I love shooting with my iPhone with the Hipstamatic app, using Instagram as a dissemination device. That combination is my preferred way of doing street photography. The files I get out of my iPhone are plenty big for my purposes and I think the quality is amazing.
However, I have drawn a line in the sand, that I will not cross.
I don't shoot news events or issue-based photo stories with my iPhone.
For me, photojournalism with a pro camera is an oil painting while iPhone images are the equivalent of doodling on a napkin. Both are valuable to an artist.
With that being said, I am spending less and less time on traditional websites and photo blogs and more time on my phone using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so, I appreciate seeing more camera phone images that are photojournalistic in nature and less of cats and latte art.
Posted by: Scott Strazzante | October 31, 2012 at 10:59 AM
In one instance smart phone photography is to the photographer what a notebook is to a writer. In another instance smart phone photography can be one stylized approach to a visual project to be shared on social media.
News orgs that legitimize consistently filtered visual content lead their readers and the pj industry down a slippery slope of misinformation fashioned by more sizzle than steak.
Of course, the cheap bottom line and the "any reporter can do it and we look hip" mantra will help newsroom managers justify using smart phone photography from a reporter rather than assigning a properly outfitted news photographer to stay the budget.
I don't mind the process as much as I mind the continued erosion of news photography when the process is misused by bean counters posing as editors.
Posted by: David A. Cantor | October 31, 2012 at 11:39 AM
so true. like Max said on 2 broke girl$: "let me sum it up: twitter is stupid. and instagram is twitter for people who can't read.".
haven't really followed the news in detail about another thunderstorm in a foreign country, there are just too many of them all year round. but there is a thing i didn't understand in your writing.. did the photographers fail or the editors who put the images together? or is instagram just so overproportionally present that all the rest gets shadowed out?
Posted by: grubernd | October 31, 2012 at 01:02 PM
You assume that all they turned up with was a phone , they didn't ....
Posted by: @nampix | October 31, 2012 at 02:40 PM
whine, whine, whine. Moan, moan, moan. You sound like a chilled that got socks for Christmas instead of something shiny from a tv commercial.
Posted by: Thelonelylights | October 31, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Yes, a chilled.
Posted by: Thelonelylightsisgoinghardinthepaintonthisone | October 31, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Please. Real photographers were hired to go out and shoot an important story, using cameras. Who cares what kind? Instagram was a delivery vehicle, who cares that it's often used for bad photos? So, use it for good photos. Are the photos themselves kind of noisy? Yes, so what. I saw plenty of very clean photos out there, some were pretty good, others quite ordinary, about the same ratio as the iPhone ones. I understand some of the individual points here, but I disagree with the underlying curmudgeonly scorn. Ed Kashi had the right mentality, to me. These are tools, let's use them, experiment.
Posted by: Bill Crandall | October 31, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Agree with Bill Crandall. And Ive already commented over on Facebook. Most of the time I agree with what you have to say Kenneth and have always admired your photography and what you have contributed to the profession. But this post just smacks too much of sour grapes....
Posted by: Kdickerman | October 31, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Many thanks to all of you for your insightful comments.
Posted by: Ken Jarecke | October 31, 2012 at 10:51 PM
The images you linked to are bad. That's the price for immediate gratification. But there will always be talented, hard working photographers documenting on a professional level. These will be the images that come out in the next days, weeks, or months after an event like Sandy. They'll be featured in print media, exhibitions, photography magazines, etc. Instagram knows it's cheap fast food, but I'm pretty sure that's the appeal. It's like being upset that you can't dine on a prime cut steak filet when you visit McDonald's.
Posted by: Emton | October 31, 2012 at 11:35 PM
iPhone-insta small screen, but on regular slideshow it doesnt hold up often. You look at the TIME slideshow and you say to yourself, lot of this if shot in 35mm would not even make the edit
Posted by: coque iphone 4 | November 01, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Bill Crandall hits the nail on the head with his comment, but I'd also like to add...
Photographers who bang on about 'the good old days' and how iPhoneography is inferior to other forms of photography are missing the point and falling behind the times. Are you really suggesting that the only photos out there that are worthy are those produced with expensive equipment? Truth is, Instagram can produce great photos and it can produce bad photos and guess what, this goes for the top of the line DSLRs as well.
If you don't embrace new technology and experiment, it will be YOU that is sorry in 20 years time.
Posted by: Jamaway | November 01, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Fabulous post - well written and absolutely spot on.
I have recently started using Instagram - but more as a social experiment. I don't use it professionally. I'm fast becoming bored with it.
I think there's a time and a place - but I don't feel the need to share my food or feet with people.
I actually started a facebook group called 'Instasham' feel free to look it up!
Posted by: Satureyes | November 01, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Here we go again.
A few thoughts, maybe photography isn't that special? Maybe people are more interested in what's happening in real-time rather than waiting for what's nice and photogenic afterwards.
I've seen plenty of dramatic storm photos. But for the first time, because of Instagram, I was able to track the storm live through the hundreds of thousands of users going through the event.
Oh and I agree with you that many of the Time photos were poorly executed. But that's just five photographers struggling against the tide. Also, it's not about the filters, they will fall away, leaving an integrated global photo distribution network.
For those interested, I've been trying to make sense of the role that citizen Instagram images play in the real-time representation of a news event. I even wrote an article about how and why I curated a live feed of Instagram photos tracking the Hurricane. Here's the article.
Posted by: MishoBaranovic | November 01, 2012 at 05:14 AM
It's not that difficult to understand.
it's the iPhone ( or android smartphone ) making the pictures, Instagram just adds some filters and effects to "enrich" it.
_ in some case it is to compensate the technical disadvantage ( I have a crappy phone camera and adding some effects the pic is a little less crappy ).
_ in some others is to compensare the photography disadvantage ( I have a crappy photo and adding some effects the pic is a little less crappy ).
_ in some others more is just adding something to make the picture something it isn't. a 30 years old photo taken with a 35mm toy camera.
let's face it, Kenneth is right.
it's not that he's suggesting using a pricy camera. DSLRs aren't that expensive anymore and an iPhone or any other Android-phone with a good camera is often in the same price range of a pretty decent entry level camera.
what I get from this article is that he's just saying to be honest and really use a actual machine ( DSLRs don't look so "ancient" to me and evolve way faster than the app Instagram anyway, with a lot more possibilities ) instead faking.
most importantly, beware of the feedbacks you get! some are disposable and the appreciation lasts just the time of looking at the picture.
Posted by: giacomo gb | November 01, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Move with the times. The iPhone's camera is a tool. Use it, try it, like it or not like it. The fact of the matter is Time, NYT et al like them and assign photographers to use it.
I say at least it's healthy photographers are getting gigs at all. I wonder if any of the sooth sayers would turn down the work if they were asked to shoot hipsta style. Just a thought!
Posted by: Hipsta Smatic | November 01, 2012 at 05:43 AM
Thanks for the entry. I've been preaching this for years but a lot of people who take pictures now don't take into account the historic value of the pictures they take. When our family finally got a "real" camera- A Minolta XG-1, we finally had something to document our life and now looking back 25 years, I am thankful we were able to have something to remember those days because they are gone and will never be back.
Back then camera gear was really expensive and not something many people could afford, but now days people can buy a very capable DSLR for very cheap so it blows my mind how people pass up that, and get a gimmicky over-processed picture on their phone and post it on instagram. You're right, 20 years from now when they're not a young hipster, they'll look back and have nothing special to show their kids. Just a bunch of noise.
Posted by: Arie | November 01, 2012 at 08:40 AM
"Putting a fake border on a picture makes the whole picture fake" Seriously? Mr. Jarecke, all photos are entirely fake ... mediated, political and biased. There is nothing sacred or credible about a photograph (documentary or otherwise). Photographs can only lie because they can never show the truth. The excessive value that you clearly attach to photojournalism is a fallacy of your own projection. It's no surprise that that fetishising photographic tradition compels the rejection of Instagram, which is silly and sad. Using a 20mm lens and Tri-X film doesn't make a photograph "real". Instagram embraces the artifice of it all and moves the dialogue in an important direction. Instagram users are participating in the development of a new social aesthetic that has more meaning and integrity than your ideas about photojournalism. In 20 years the cultural influence of ideas like Instagram will be everywhere, guaranteed.
Posted by: Patrick | November 01, 2012 at 09:42 AM
The sky is falling! The sky is filtered!
Posted by: Oggsie | November 01, 2012 at 09:43 AM
100% disagree. The camera you are using has no bearing on your ability (or inability) to make a good image. The comment that all that will be left are a collection of noisy digital files is irrelevant when you consider the fact that mobile phones are packed with camera sensors that are superior to digital cameras that are less than 10 years old. Chase Jarvis says that the best camera is the one that you have. This idea that people who are using their phones as camera are not really photographers is a load of crap that originates from "faux"tographers who are more concerned with gear, lighting, and post processing than the actual art of composing and making an image.
Sorry bit of a rant. The fact is I do agree with his point that if we are using instagram as some sort of catalyst to fame, we are missing the point of photography. Also, that publishers should be seeking out the most powerful content to publish and paying for it, but suggesting that because someone took and posted an image of a hurricane with their phone that they are less of a photographer than the guy who gets out there with a DSLR? That's a load of crap. Why isn't he demanding that photographers shoot medium format? After all, isn't that what a 'real' photographer would use? Note that this is an argument that took place when photographers started using box cameras to document war.
If photojournalism is using an image to tell a story, does it matter what the tool was to capture the image.
There is, in fact a crapload of crap on Instagram. There is also a crapload of crap on Flickr, 500px, Model Mayhem, and every other place that photography is shared. Cameras don't matter, creativity does.
Posted by: Jay McIntyre | November 01, 2012 at 11:34 AM
And now on the cover of TIME
Posted by: Mk | November 01, 2012 at 11:36 AM
the only thing worse than people who take Instagram too seriously & actually believe images taken w/a mobile phone are artistic or worthy of praise are people who complain about people who take Instagram too seriously & actually believe images taken w/a mobile phone are artistic or worthy of praise, like the dribble above
Posted by: Btezra | November 01, 2012 at 12:18 PM
For god's sake, it's a Social Network to share pictures where you choose who you want to follow. Blame it all you want, but you'd do better realising that you have the same situation in real life: better and worse journalists and journals.
As for photography, I thought blaming on the gear was considered STUPID. You don't like the filters? Cool, don't use them, and follow someone who doesn't, but stop asuming you're better than someone with 50.000 followers because you have 50.001 opinions against yours just for the start.
Posted by: deBona | November 01, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Piss off - you don't define photography, art or journalism.
I bet you could find a similar rant from a similar idiot talking about how digital photographs weren't for real journalists about 10 years ago.
Posted by: Matt Rickman | November 01, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Lots of different responses left on this site. I guess we all take away different things...and rightly so.
I found the article written by Mr. Jarecke difficult to read. Not because I disagreed with his opinion ( I mostly kind of do though), but because the screen on my laptop kept fogging-up due to the passionate residue forced through my internet connection generated by his typing bloodied fingers, and the mist of heavy breathing that has been known to flow through the end of Gabriel’s trumpet. I have heard of scratch-and-sniff, but this is interactive technology at a new level. – Passion, thy name is Jarecke (with apologies).
I did not get from this article - as others have, and that’s fair - the call for the immediate death of Instagram . Although a case could be made for that since the word “Instagram” is found in the Book Of Revelations (666 times) , and is also mentioned in other great religious books; the general consensus in these traditional religious texts being that Instagram is the Devils Darkroom and the chemicals are mixed by a two-headed prostitute with a Facebook logo tattooed on her inner thigh. It is worth mentioning that in each passage of the ancient papyrus leaf books the texts are surrounded by a subtle vignette with a fake Polaroid frame.
Back to the article in question: What I read... was a passionate reminder that good journalism requires good tools. IPhones are not good tools for journalism, at least they are not at the technological level that equals the eye of a good photojournalist covering a difficult-to-tell story.
No good Editor would limit a good writer to only six letters from the alphabet and three lines, and expect a story to do justice to the subject, or be worthwhile to the reader. But it seems they are willing to ask essentially the equivalent from news photography/photographers.
When technology (and accessories) catch up to the ability of the user, the Instagram production pipeline may be the way still images are able to compete against the 24 hr. news cycle of television. At this point, as printed newspapers are swept away into the wave of techno-change, it is hard to blame any company for asking its employees to use something – anything - that might keep them afloat. If Instagram has captured the popular imagination - so be it – and so use it! Unfortunately, news photography will suffer for now until editors and accountants are able to give their employees the rest of that alphabet. When news organizations can make a viable economic effort to choose quality over the masses of ordinary free content, they probably will.
I like Instagram . I don’t use it. However, I think if you want to take pictures of your breakfast, or a seal wearing a bathing cap while kissing a monkey... go for it! Actually, I think you should Instagram the living hell out of life. REALLY make it reflect something about YOU. Some of those pictures can make a person’s day, and there is no life that doesn’t deserve recording.
So give everyone a cellphone and Instagram life. If an ugly picture happens to save a life somewhere, once-in-a-while, more power to Instagram and the like. Just don’t expect to get the WHOLE story, or one that lasts.
Photography is “easy” and in the hands of the masses now – and it should be.
Journalism is “easy” and in the hands of the masses now – and it shouldn’t be.
Cheers Kenneth, thanks for the article, although I mostly disagree, kind of.
Goodness knows you have been there and back, and have the knowledge to inform others in a public forum. I don’t think some who have commented on your article do.
Posted by: Michaelharding | November 01, 2012 at 05:07 PM
After receiving a rather nasty email, not from Kenneth Jarecke. I just want to state publicly that I absolutely did not mean to say anyhting derogatory about Kenneth Jarecke. I didnt agree with his post about Instagram and still dont. So, Ken, please accept my apology for any unintended insult. Sorry for using the term "sour grapes."
Posted by: Kdickerman | November 01, 2012 at 07:11 PM
The quote about the best camera is spot on. I don't always want to lug around my Canon DSLR bodies, lenses and associated stuff. However, I do always have my smartphone with me. When something catches my eye, do I pass because I'm not carrying "professional" gear or do I use the camera I have with me and capture that fleeting slice of time?
Today's smartphone cameras are as good as the Canon rangefinder cameras + Tri-X film that were used to document that Korean and Viet Nam wars.
Granted I don't use Instagram or any filters. However, many of the "inexpensive" DSLRs touted in the comments as "real" cameras have many of the same filters. So I guess a crappy amateur photo shot with a "real" DSLR with crappy filters is better than an Instagram smartphone photo with crappy filters? That's plain camera snobbery.
Posted by: Lvwolfman | November 01, 2012 at 09:35 PM
By the way, for non-professionals, the photos taken with smartphone cameras are just as valuable as those taken with Kodak Brownies, Polaroids, Kodak 126 Instamatic and Kodak pocket 110 cameras for the past 60 years. I guess everyone should burn all those treasured family photos as they are just noisy analog photos that were disposable when you made them.
Posted by: Lvwolfman | November 01, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Even though I understand why Instagram appeals to some people, I could only see myself using it for throwaway photos, and I HATE taking throwaway photos (even if I sometimes enjoy looking at them). When I photograph something, it's because I truly believe it's worth photographing, and worth photographing well. When I'm carrying my camera, I'm hoping that I'm about to take my best shot ever.
Posted by: Mikerobat | November 01, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Ken's central point is important. As photojournalists would we really reach for our iPhones to document this monumentally historic storm? How does this affect the act of witnessing an event like this? Most disturbing is the "call for entries" by the dailies and weeklys for people to send In their Instagrams because of the lack of staff. Franco was out there in his waders. There were lots of professionals out there shooting. Where are those images? In journalism it's been successfully argued that there's no comparison between the work of a seasoned reporter and a citizen tweeting the same event. Same is true with photojournalism. Where is the humanity from this enormous event?
Posted by: Nubar Alexanian | November 01, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Using instagram is no difference than using a $6000 camera taking snapshots on automatic mode and then throw the photo in the Lightroom apply presets. A good photograph is a good photograph, it doesn't matter what equipment you are using. Either a free app on a phone or a $6000 camera doesn't take photos by themselves. It's the photographer who make the photo. If you think instagram is a disgrace to photography then what do you think people who were using wet plate think of auto-exposure, auto-focus, digital preview/review? Instagram is just a tool invented for everyone who like to take pictures and share them. Nothing wrong with that. I know there are lots of bad photos are taken with instagram, but man, I've seen worse photos taken with a 5DMKII or other professional cameras. But I personally don't like instagram at all, I'd rather use camera+ and snapseed to do editing myself. That being said, I think there is nothing wrong with Time using instagram image or people/photographers using instagram.
Posted by: Shayne | November 01, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Absolute bull. I'm not going to freaking care about a little child born during hurricane sandy in 20 years. I'm going to want to see the flood damage, photos of the city in the dark, houses underwater, etc.
Posted by: Josiah Dunham | November 01, 2012 at 10:31 PM
So many of you missed the point. This isn't an article about the gear you use - it's about what you capture. In fact, the only mention of gear is a $30 film camera. Did anybody stop to think about that or are we all so wrapped up in our insecurities about our entry level DSLRs and iPhone cameras to notice?
It's about capturing people and emotion and how such a tragic event affects human lives, not floating cars. Ken nailed it. When newspapers demand free content they settle for crap and we all suffer. In turn, a great disservice is done to the recording of this historical event.
Posted by: OneWalterSobchak | November 01, 2012 at 11:55 PM
The problem lies not with the fact Instagram was used, but with the "professional" photographer / photojournalist (ab)using it.
It would appear to me that these "professional" photographers / photojournalists either really don't know how to use Instagram and the popular filters / apps to bring out the best in a photo, or that they took photos based on what they thought represents a typical Instagram photo to suit Time's assignment, or a combination of both.
In my eyes, these photojournalists are lightyears behind some of the top Instagramers which actually know how to compose and edit a great photograph on a mobile device.
Regarding image quality:
For a true photographer, it's not about quality, it's about CAPTURING MOMENTS. HOW IT WAS & WHAT HAPPENED?! Whether you have a mobile device or you have a DSLR with some freaking-great-lens, in 20 years, 50 years, even 100 years from now, people will still want to know HOW IT WAS and WHAT HAPPENED!?.
Do you think people in the late 1800's / early 1900's cared about the quality of their captured moments? I think not. Do we care about the quality of photos taken back then? It's a matter of authenticity. It's a matter of capturing the moment with whatever you have handy, be that a mobile device or DSLR. Yes, in this case they applied some crappy borders and filters, but what makes that any less authentic than old B&W photos which have been coloured? A photo is authentic as you want it to be.
Instagramers who know what they're doing, shoot with their mobile device's default camera or ensure Instagram's settings are configured to save high-resolution photos, so they'll have the original photo even if/when the novelty of having a fake border or whatever filter wears off.
I must say I winced when I saw the quality of Time's Lightbox photos, Hipstamatic shots, poor lighting, rarely-used Instagram filters, etc. but as if doesn't mean you can't take a photo seriously. As Patrick says ""Putting a fake border on a picture makes the whole picture fake" Seriously? Mr. Jarecke, all photos are entirely fake ... mediated, political and biased. There is nothing sacred or credible about a photograph (documentary or otherwise). Photographs can only lie because they can never show the truth."
In the event of a natural disaster, it's more likely an individual would have a mobile device (iPhone/Android) rather than a DSLR, and yes, Time's Lightbox does appear somewhat contrived, but I don't think that detracts from the legitimacy of Instagram in this day and age for documenting MOMENTS.
It is unfortunate that Time chose "professional" photographers / photojournalists to capture the events with Instagram, I think it would have been much more authentic and much less contrived if they had commissioned professional Instagramers.
Posted by: sam wells | November 02, 2012 at 12:22 AM
This article reeks of two things: snobbery and envy. Utter, barely comprehensible, nonsense.
Posted by: Lachlan Payne | November 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
"Piss off - you don't define photography, art or journalism.
I bet you could find a similar rant from a similar idiot talking about how digital photographs weren't for real journalists about 10 years ago.
Posted by: Matt Rickman | November 01, 2012 at 04:25 PM"
Perfectly well said Matt!!!!
Posted by: glamagurl | November 02, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I feel inclined to point out that most Instagrammers don't berate the professionals when they take photos. In fact, I suspect most actually respect and appreciate the work of a pro.
This, however, is a completely unwarranted attack on a brilliant tool (Instagram) built for sharing memories with the rest of the world; perhaps the photojournalists are just a bit bitter that they can't tout their gear as the difference between a great or mediocre photo? Or perhaps at the core of it, their egos are bruised because the market for paid photojournalists is withering.
Posted by: R33mus | November 02, 2012 at 01:11 AM
I agree on most fronts but what I love about instagram is that it lets me enjoy the moments I'm having so much more because I'm not carrying around a ton of photography equipment or hanging up on lighting and focus and all the thoughts that come from taking a "real" photo and just capturing a quick moment. Sure, I will always desire to shoot natural disasters and historic events or shoot high quality shots of travels... but there is that point where your SLR camera and lens is hanging on your neck and banging around and you realize it's a leash not letting you enjoy the freeking moment. Those are the times I wished I just had my little iphone to capture the feeling and then get on with enjoying the moment. thankfully, 20 years from now the iphone nano 10 will take gigapixel shots with micro nuclear focus capability all plugged into your frontal lobe with hi res telepathic projection on the back of your brain.
Posted by: Too Tall Jahmal | November 02, 2012 at 01:14 AM
what a bunch of nerds.. get over it.... did the typewriter change the great author? fuck no. it enhanced him. drop the cameras if you're so concerned ad pick up a sketch pad. no more cameras, that's such a cheat!! draw, damnit, draw!
Posted by: daniel | November 02, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Once again, Thank you all for your comments... well most of you anyway.
BTW, Kenneth Dickerman is a friend and a good guy. I did NOT feel insulted by his comment in anyway.
Posted by: Ken Jarecke | November 02, 2012 at 01:34 AM
instagram or no, what about agencies send/tempting hordes to submit photos (phone or not) and using those photos in publications rather than PAYING a professional (who understands the fundementals and has excellant equipment and needs to pay his/her bills). Just another instance where career photographers are suffering because the acceptable level of quality has been lowered by quanity.
Posted by: Bryan Denning | November 02, 2012 at 04:59 AM
I totally agree with Ken Jarecke. You "Instagrammers" (lol) are clowns.
BTW, why is there no differentiation between "Instagram" (the photo sharing side) and "Instagram" (the thing that makes every photo look like a crappy '70s photograph)?
Can someone explain to me how this whole exercise couldn't have been done via taking regular iPhone photos with the Camera app and then uploading them all to a tagged Flickr photostream, for example?
What is so special about "Instagram" in this particular instance?
Anyway. I will never understand for the life of me why people would want to document the best years of their lives with pictures that look like crappy '70s photographs. (Or in HDR, for that matter)
We live in truly amazing times. A child born today can have their entire childhood documented in 1080p (or 4K, soon come). Imagine how amazing it would be to reach age 50 (or older) and see what it looked like when you were age 5 or 15, *exactly how it looked at the time*.
I barely have any photographs of myself from the 1960s - and perhaps not coincidentally, I have an extremely poor memory and can barely remember any of my childhood - despite having grown up in the same house for 17+ years until I came out to California for college.
I would have given anything for my life to be documented in 1080p given my poor memory. And yet people are willing to document theirs in grainy GlaucomaVision™ instead. *SMH*
Posted by: Riot Nrrrd™ | November 02, 2012 at 07:58 AM
Using your logic, photographers shouldn't be using filters, flashes, or adjust speed settings. If you want 'em pure, using those devices would change the end result of the picture would it not? Really think you all are taking Instangram a little too seriously here...
Posted by: Robert | November 02, 2012 at 09:29 AM
I'm an admirer of your work, Ken, and I appreciate your perspective on the matter. In part, your work in US News over the years inspired me to be a photojournalist.
I respectfully disagree with you, though, and I would challenge you to give Instagramming a try.
Your mention of Henri Cartier-Bresson is curious because he pioneered the use of a smaller camera at a time when everyone considered 35mm inferior quality and not appropriate for the work of a professional - the same charge you level against Instagram.
A photojournalist uses his cell phone as a camera for precisely the reason Cartier-Bresson switched to 35mm - its ease of use and the ability to go undetected so as to capture moments of natural behavior. Not, as you say, for the sake of social media approbation nor for the cool retro border.
The quality, as has been pointed out before, is actually better than the first digital cameras many of us suffered through at the turn of the century.
Ken, I would love for you to try shooting this way because not only are there numerous professional advantages to using this small device, it is simply a joy to use. I suspect you'll be reminded of the reason you picked up a camera for the very first time: because it's fun. And I bet your fans will see that attitude reflected in your work.
Posted by: Dave Getzschman | November 02, 2012 at 09:50 AM