Great Job, You're Fired!
November 02, 2012
Instagramers, I was talking about photojournalists here, not you. If your work brings you joy, carry on. There’s nothing to see here and I fully realize you can’t learn anything from an old man like me (but thank you for continuing to point this out).
Photojournalists, photo-editors and those higher up in the editorial food chain, it seems I’ve offend you also. Sadly, this could not be avoided. The Hurricane Sandy images you published weren’t very good and it was important for someone to say so.
Oddly enough, the last time I wrote about this also had to do with hurricane coverage.
You can read that post here.
--To sum it up... People get bored. You have a small window of opportunity to make an impact on your audience. You must present the highest quality of work possible when you have your viewer’s attention. You owe it to them and the people affected by the storm.
(I don’t know if it’s you or me Big Media, but one of us isn’t right in the head. We both keep doing the same thing and expect the outcome to be different. Yeah, you’re right. It’s probably me.)
Knowing it wouldn’t change anything (and it would do me more harm than good), I took my shots. Mainly at Time Magazine for their silly editorial decision to assign photographers to cover the storm using Instagram.
Normally, I’d be happy to move on but then this little number by Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici crossed my laptop.
Here’s Bercovici’s opening sentence;
“If there was still any debate about whether serious photojournalism can take place in the context of camera phones and cutesy retro filters, it’s over now.”
Really, Jeff? Just when I thought I was out you pulled me right back in. Thanks buddy.
There’s nothing in the article to support Jeff’s claim, but the piece is illustrated with Time’s new cover using an Instagram by Ben Lowy of the storm. Evidently, cover of Time equals game over.
To be sure, the cover of Time is a big deal. Lowy should feel proud and it does look good (at least at 405 pixels across). I’m not sure how it works now, but in the past every cover of the magazine was collected by the Smithsonian. Which is way cool. The extra $5,000 licensing fee also helps to pay a few bills.
However, I’m not sure the cover of Time can be used as an example of “serious photojournalism”. Nor as a closing argument for a debate that has just started.
Let me just kill two birds here and answer a tweet I received today.
“If a merely “good” photo can get the Time cover (one that many hobbyist could make) is PJ as a livelihood and pro(fession) dead?”
No dear tweeter, photojournalism is alive and well, it just means Time magazine is dead.
Here’s the deal. People subscribe to magazines to get unique content which they can’t find anywhere else. By unique I mean great. Stuff your dentist, neighbor or fourteen year old with a cell phone can’t produce. Magazines then sell these subscribers, or at least their eyeballs and wallets, to advertisers. That’s where the real money is. The subscription money just pays for (hopefully) ink, paper and postage. The content that attracts the subscribers is paid for by advertising money. This content is expensive and it takes creative people to produce it.
The flow chart looks something like this...
egg - chicken - chicken - egg
It’s confusing I know. Just think of it as a never ending Kickstarter program where you don’t have a million friends you can guilt into giving you five bucks each and every week.
What it means is this, if you don’t give people something great. You die.
Remember that movie “The September Issue”? That was supposed to be Vogue’s last fat magazine (something like 960 pages) because it came out right before the interwebs and whatnot killed the print industry. Well, this September’s issue was (honestly, I’m guessing here) just as big.
Why? Because consumers have decided they still want the printed page and advertisers have discovered they can’t sell stuff on Facebook.
It no accident that Conde Nast still spends big on it’s editorial content. Meanwhile, Time/Warner/CNN (are there more companies to list, HBO maybe), thinks they’ll impress people with Instagrams.
Later in Jeff Bercovici’s piece, Time Magazines director of photography Kira Pollack threw some numbers out regarding traffic to Lightbox's collection of Instagrams. She says it was responsible for 13% of the sites traffic during a week when Time.com had its fourth biggest day ever. She also says Time’s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers during a 48-hour period.
Hmmm. Could this be because there was a monster storm heading towards the most populated part of the country?
I wonder if these visitors to Time were satisfied with the content they received there. I mean, where else are they going to find this kind of stuff? If only there was some type of electronic device, a service one could subscribe to or something.
Content made by cell phones and already seen by anyone with a cell phone, doesn’t count. Gaining readers/viewers who have no skin in the game doesn’t count either. Get back to me a month and share the number of new subscribers you’ve generated and then we can talk.
Work in Time magazine is (or was) meant to inspire. It, along with a few others, was the place where the greatest journalist, photo or otherwise, strived to work. To paraphrase Nigel (the Stanley Tucci character in the Devil Wears Prada, yes I’m going there) Time Magazine was a place where great artists and legends walked the halls. Now it seems the players there are more concerned with appearing on MSNBC then producing a great magazine.
Listen, Instagram is a tool (not a “tool”, but a tool... oh you know what I mean). It’s great for photographing half eaten burritos, potential wedding dresses or your own feet, but it’s not the tool to use when making great, lasting, or important photographs. It’s the wrong tool for that job.
In my last post I said this;
“The worst of the offenders has to be Time’s Light Box. 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.”
Let me say this more clearly to the photographers that accepted this fool’s errand. You saw the photographs. You were standing in the right place at the right time, but the tool you decided to use failed you and more often than not you missed the image.
Digital cameras are not that hard to use. If you don’t have access to a high quality digital SLR, or if using one somehow gets in the way of you making pictures, you probably shouldn’t be accepting assignment from Time magazine.
Ask yourself, what would Jim do? If an editor asked him to shoot an important assignment with his iPhone do you think he’d do it? Do you think he’d risk his credibility like that?
You can put it in historical, pre-digital terms if you like. If Life Magazine asked Henri Cartier-Bresson to shoot a hurricane with a Brownie, what do you think he’d tell them? Yeah you’re right, and it doesn’t sound any better in French either.
Photographers, if you don’t give people something great, you’ll die too.
One more thing (I know this was long and most of you have stopped reading, still).
Time Magazine’s cover was once considered the face of the entire Time/Life corporate brand. The magazine demanded the copyright of images used on it’s cover (agencies like Contact Press Images negotiated a dual copyright agreement) and paid nicely for it. They did this to protect their brand (among other reasons). This changed several years back when they used a micro stock composite image on their cover. Now anything goes, which is best illustrated by Instagram’s Terms of Service.
" By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the Instagram Services, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channels, except Content not shared publicly ("private") will not be distributed outside the Instagram Services."
Yes, according to their TOS, Instagram could license Time's cover image to anyone they like. How does any magazine (or any photographer for that matter) agree to these terms?
Let me take this one step further, being so many publications are hungry to publish Instagrams now. As a photo editor, the curator (if you will) of a major newspaper or magazine, what’s keeping Instagram, which is now owned by Facebook, from hiring their own editors and marketing their own branded content directly to your publication?
Haven’t you put yourself in a precarious position? If Instagram, which received something like 10 images a second during the storm, were to cut that fire hose down to a digestible stream of free and juicy content and offered it directly to your publication free of charge, where does that put you?
What’s keeping them from doing this every day? Say for Thanksgiving, or a local football game? Don’t think they’re not working on this right now.
Just a thought.
For me, Time Magazine jumped the shark when they used a microstock image on the cover in 2009
Maybe keep the photographers but fire the editors.
Posted by: Libby | November 02, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Good catch. That's the cover I was referring to. I should probably change rights managed to micro stock.
Posted by: Ken Jarecke | November 02, 2012 at 02:09 AM
Thanks for giving voice to what a lot of photographers have been thinking out there. I believe that the decision to use Instagram and other readily-available FREE content (FB and Flickr) has more to do with cost cutting than anything else.
One of the editors at TIME put out a call early on, as Sandy was making landfall, that he needed help with content on Facebook (specifically asking for Instagram photos). He went on to say that they were working with a 'skeleton crew' and needed help. Wait a minute! You have a week's notice and an exact path the storm will take and it's not 'all hands on deck' at TIME? Either he was not truthful about the inadequate staffing at the magazine, or they have cut the budgets so badly (thanks to free content) that they can no longer hire world-class photographers and editors to fill their pages with world-class content.
Until readers stop giving up their 'good enough' photos for free, and editors stop using them, I'm afraid it's going to be nothing but a long downhill slope for us photojournalists. Chalk one more up for the 'dumbing down' of our society.
Posted by: James Fassinger | November 02, 2012 at 04:46 AM
I agree with almost everything you say here and in your previous post. I was feeling like the images weren't as strong as they should/could be, too.
And I vehemently disagree with the poster who said all photos are "fake" (or however he put it) that's just an academic/artistic argument to justify an "anything goes" attitude. By that argument, there is no "truth" - there is only perception. Of course, we can argue that all day. Let's get high and revert back to our high school days. But, the point is that there are images that approach the "truth" and "reality" because of intentions, thought and technique. Gene Smith manipulated many of his most famous images. His ethical standards wouldn't "fit" today's definitions but he was also trying for a larger "truth". The problem with giving folks free reign with images is that there are those who aren't after "truth", they are only after a 'great' image that will make them famous. It's the photographers' intention/ambition that can be "fake" or "false" or "untrue". Whole argument to be unleashed here.
Okay - enough of that. Now, on to another point...
Ken, have you considered that perhaps it's not the photographers' fault.
Perhaps those photos are being produced but it's the photo editors who are just choosing the obvious stuff and either can't "see" or aren't interested in the type of photos you mentioned? Time has a great group of photo editors and they made an editorial decision with the Instagram approach. But I wonder about everyone else. Are there enough well-trained photo editors out there who are savvy enough to be looking for those kinds of images? It's very easy to be seduced by "destruction" photos. I'd like to think that the photographers who travel the world covering these sorts of disasters didn't suddenly become blind when it happened in their own back yard. Just a thought. Let the abuse begin!
Posted by: William Snyder | November 02, 2012 at 07:45 AM
Great post. One of the big reasons I've stopped even paying attention to TIME is their apparent disregard in the last few years for photojournalism in general. As a reader I rely on photojournalists (to paraphrase you) to be in the right place WITH the right equipment. People love to use that "the best camera is the one that's with you" nonsense to justify "iPhoneography". If that logic were sound, anytime I got hungry I would only eat Franco-American canned spaghetti, because it's right there on the shelf. Sure, other people have all these pots and pans and ingredients, it's so much easier to just open and eat.
Regardless of it's z-grade image quality, the TIME cover has no context for Sandy. It's a wave. It could be any wave, it could be huge, it could be tiny - it's the height of unremarkable. In perusing TIME's Lightbox gallery from the storm, it just rips my guts out that somehow we're all ok with wonky "art" filters on our news photos. "Mommy, why is that firetruck burnt orange?" - "It's ok sweetie, we like things to look retro and funky, realistic colors are sooooooooo déclassé."
Ok, I vented. I'll take my news reportage on TRI-X in D76 from a Canon F1 please.
Posted by: Mason | November 02, 2012 at 07:53 AM
As a photo editor for some years, let me add that much of this was also a result of bad editing and terrible choices/decisions. For an example of what I viewed as good photo editing regarding the Sandy crisis, I turn your attention to the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-after-landfall/100396/
Posted by: Jim Colton | November 02, 2012 at 08:14 AM
You're so wrong! If Life Magazine asked Henri Cartier-Bresson to shoot a hurricane with a Brownie, his answer would sound way better in French than English! :)
Posted by: Olivier Laurent | November 02, 2012 at 08:43 AM
Ken has smacked a hornet’s nest with his recent blog posts criticizing Time and others for using Instagram to cover Sandy. Reading the comments, it’s obvious there are compelling thoughts on both sides. I too felt like the quality of the images just wasn’t very good. This was born out when I compared Time’s Lightbox feed to the images on The Atlantic and elsewhere that seemed to have been made with more conventional or traditional cameras.
I respect Kira and Paul at Time and I get the decision to focus on the immediacy of instagram. But I wish it might have been balanced with additional conventional photojournalism of a higher quality.
I wonder if in our zeal for the new and for the real time experience we’ve sacrificed craft. Some argue the iphone is just a tool and perhaps that’s true, but I think it’s not a very sharp tool, worthy of becoming the only tool in the kit.
Posted by: Robbie McClaran | November 02, 2012 at 09:38 AM
If you're going to use a cellphone to take pictures in a news environment, you're going to miss peak moments because the camera lag is ridiculous. If you're going to miss moments for the sake of Instagram, then your loyalty is no longer to the moment, to the truth or to your subjects experience. It's to your style and Instagram. To me, that betrays your subject and your viewer's trust.
Posted by: Alex Garcia | November 02, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Thank you all for you insightful comments.
William, I've tried to specifically avoid blaming the photographers, as one never knows what ended up on "the cutting room floor". I would however question their judgement in regard to the Instagram TOS.
Jimmy, Yes, I noticed that the Atlantic was doing a good job too.
Again, many thanks.
Posted by: Ken Jarecke | November 02, 2012 at 10:28 AM
I think a good image is a good image regardless of whether it was taken with a pinhole camera or top of the range DSLR
Posted by: Jason Feather2001 | November 02, 2012 at 10:51 AM
The way people make pictures and look at pictures has changed. The internet and the smart phone are bringing about a revolution; as important and far more wide reaching and a million times faster than Gutenberg did with his press. Old codgers like us remember what it was like before and we get nostalgic for the hand finished prints and gold toning; just as the old monks complained that you could not beat hand illumination and gold leaf!
This technology is new and exciting and, all things remaining equal, it sure as hell is not going away. The craft of photography is being replaced by new technology and the means of delivery is being replaced by new technology. Hand finished prints are ending up on the walls of galleries and in auction houses; great documentary photographers are selling prints, making films and books, and EVERYONE is making digital pictures. Apart from a few dinosaurs, the old style photo-journalist is finished; sorry Ken.
There are all sorts of dangers we can see coming, or here already: that the standards and ethics of the trained journalist are not deemed necessary any more; that the quality and reliability of journalistic content will continue to decline; it has and will for a while longer I guess. And sure, some of the issues effect our fundamental beliefs about society and democracy, but I don't see people getting less radical or less political; actually people seem to me to be finding new ways of empowering themselves through the technology.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work in the old ways and I'm trying hard to find a way to continue to be relevant in some new way myself. I won't be joining Instagram: handing over the rights to control my work to someone else, just for the benefit of being published, but I'll watch what people are doing with it.
In a revolution lots of new ways of doing things have to be tried out, some are a disaster, some are catastrophic and fail. Along the way many people get hurt, but ultimately, I guess what we all hope is that the greater good prevails.
I felt disappointed at the picture coverage of Sandy too; but maybe there is some other work made or being made now which will be a book, or a film, or a limited print run newspaper, or something which will blow our creative socks off. Let's hope.
Posted by: Neil Burgess | November 02, 2012 at 11:39 AM
true in the way we see instagram as a photo taking / editing tool.
but what about a sharing tool? think of next generation dslr's with direct instagram access, or another software that makes sharing faster and easier.
time's decision was wrong in terms of photo quality but it was not that bad for publishing quickly, reaching to it's readers faster than ever.
this is a very slippery matter as of now, let's give it a couple years and a lot of things will change i expect.
note: i agree with every word you say, but the facts of the world are not what we alwasy want.
thanks for the great pieces.
Posted by: Güney Cüceloğlu | November 02, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Do you think they pros are still shooting and the images are sitting on a server somewhere not getting licensed?
Posted by: Byron | November 02, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Time didn't pay a dime, marketed a billion dollar company and gave the readers a chance to be a part of history. What a no brainer! Consider what had to be a deluge of unremarkable work from the pros.... just as much a fire hose as instagram. Of course, there are always exceptions, but they are exceptions. It was spot news and still it was a "real" photographers' picture on the cover, a hint that the magazine wasn't dumb enough to feature trash on its front. Time isn't going anywhere. Photojournalism isn't either. It's an uneasy truce. And you know this. We're missing your best advice: Make good work and don't waste your energy or time worrying about it.
Posted by: Sean Cayton | November 02, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Thanks so much, Ken, for posting this eloquent and thoughtful reflection on this issue. I can understand why Time decided to do this and we hope the editors will limit the use of Instagram or Hipstamatic. At the same time, it's fascinating as a sociological and historical experiment, just as Damon Winter of the New york Times and others including Michael Christopher Brown and the excellent Basetrack 8 website site photographers shot wars (Afghanistan and Libya) did. But I also appreciate the warnings to both professional photographers and PHOTO EDITORS because if Facebook can find a way to make money, they will and that might include becoming a picture source/agency. A very well thought out and reflective discussion. maggie steber
Posted by: [email protected] | November 02, 2012 at 02:30 PM
As one of the 'failing' TIME photographers aforementioned, I'd be interested to discuss with you offline. My perspective is somewhat different from my co-conspirators as I was not even on Instagram prior to Sandy. Not only that but I was well on your side of the argument. Hypocrisy perhaps? A steep learning curve most certainly. I have a different perspective on it all now though. A helluva a lot of people saw and appreciated Time's Instagram coverage after-all and far more than would consider the PJ's argument that we (and I) often get bogged down in. It's a valid argument indeed but the lines for me, in the past week, have been blurred for the better.
Posted by: andrew quilty | November 02, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Kenneth thanks for verbalizing what many are thinking. It's hard to know if it was editor's choices or whether they chose the best from what they were delivered.
It's the lack of heart that I feel is missing in the visual reports. I was hopeful when JC posted the link to Atlanta but then I felt a "wave" of disappointment. There were 3 or 4 pictures that struck me and I didn't get through the rest.
Connection. Simply put, this is for what I hoped.
I too am wondering if there are some "great" images that someone is holding for a book. There are some amazing photographers in N.Y who I want to think were shooting this tragedy, but chose to not publish in the available platforms.
It's not just the photos that are lacking, read this from someone on my facebook:
Paul Rapoza wrote,
"You know Sherrlyn, I probably read about 15 or more news articles on the storm damage today and at least as much yesterday and the whole time I found myself searching for something in them (and in me). I just couldn't seem to get behind the human suffering element That I know in my head is there. I just couldn't seem to "connect" if you know what I mean. (I'm pretty sure you do)"
Posted by: Sherrlyn | November 02, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Couple of thoughts:
1. Time would have likely used the hi-res photo saved to Lowy’s phone. At least 1900px.
2. Instagram is a distribution network. It is the wrong tool for making press photographs, it is a useful tool for sharing them.
3. I’d hazard a guess that most of the photographers were also using their standard gear. Andrew Quilty, who’s kindly responded here already, has at last count two non-Instagram photos featured on the Time site. It was just one of a few tools they were using.
4. The re-share stats are a very clear indicator that people viewed, liked that then showed other people the photos. Pretty simple. You may not like them, but the general public did.
5. Nothing is keeping Instagram and Facebook from licensing photos, and they will, and it will further disrupt photojournalism. The editors can see it coming so they are sidling up rather than ignoring it.
6. Oh and I agree with you that the Instagram photos from the Time commission were not the best. But that’s an issue of current aesthetic trends. In the next year or two most cameras will be directly connected to Instagram through 3/4G and WIFI. Then we will really see the true impact of the app. The filters are just growing pains.
So what’s the alternative Kenneth? How do you compete with real-time, all angle, free photo coverage as provided by Instagram and its 100m and counting users?
Posted by: MishoBaranovic | November 02, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I don't think that Instagram isn't the devil, its the desk-jockey who buys into the hype that "Instagram" is the new flavour-of-the-month app.
What surprises me is that Time would send photographers out to shoot "Instagrams" with a phone. 99% of all my Instagrams are from my DSLR, I just push them from the camera to my iPhone then post.
Posted by: Dave | November 02, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Photographers with no mobile experience assume an iPhone will lag, but it doesn't if you use the right apps for shooting. The misconception that an iPhone has a lag when shooting is due to the misconception that Instagram is an app for taking PJ photos. It isn't. Instagram is a publishing tool, the filters are optional.
There are several apps on iPhone that allow you to compose a photo with separate control of focus and exposure, as you would with a DSLR or a more traditional photographic device. Strangely,these apps are not used by many photojournalists - despite their years of experience with high end photographic equipment. These are the apps that don't lag, dont filter and will give you much finer control when creating quality photographs with an iPhone. That's why I teach people how to use them at the Australian Centre for Photography, as well as many other venues in Sydney in dedicated mobile photography classes.
Personally I don't understand why a photojournalist would use either Hipstamatic or any orher app that has to slow down the shooting ability to apply a filter or effect. The argument that these images are more reliable from a photojornalistic perspective because the processing is "pre-selected" doesn't make sense to me when for years we've accepted straight images from other digital cameras. And aesthetic preferences (minimalistic filters or other post processing) is surely okay if you're not compromising your ability to photograph the story.
I recently licensed images from my Instagram feed taken during protests in Sydney. The images were shot with my iPhone, despite having superior gear on hand which I could have used to upload to my iPhone with an Eye-Fi card. Why use an iPhone then? Because I could get the shots, and decide which were the right images to ahare, and how they should be processed for mobile sharing. And I could do this all from the one device while keeping pace with the protest as it moved through the city.
And when I was asked for permission for use of my protest photos by media outlets, I asked for a licensing fee, and if the press didn't agree to pay I said no. If you're in the right place at the right time with a camera then you're lucky, but if you know how to use the right device at the right time in the right way, then you should be paid.
Posted by: Oggsie | November 02, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Hi again Kenneth,
Further to my last comment and since I've now found 'time' to read your entire post; I'm surprised that you elected to air these opinions before seeing the print edition. Were you under the impression that smart phones were ALL that the assigned photographers used? That seems to be a common misconception amidst this debate. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear your opinion after you've actually laid eyes on the product that you're criticizing. Regarding you're comments about 'missing the picture', how is anyone but the photographer him or herself able to make such a judgement? And surely it is he or herself who will be their own greatest critic regardless. Personally I think Michael Christopher Brown in particular excelled with his chosen 'tool'. All good stuff for debate.
Posted by: andrew quilty | November 02, 2012 at 11:13 PM
And, I thought the Devil simply drove a Buick where he sat inside and ate lunch...
Posted by: You know who | November 03, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Fair enough. I'll take a look at the printed magazine when I get a chance. I've seen the opener and the cover (of course) but just digitally. I stated somewhere above that I really try to avoid judging a photographer's work by what is published because I don't know what ended up on the cutting room floor. That said, what I've really tried to do here is question the magazine's editorial decision to use the Instagram delivery system and the cell phone as the medium(s) to report this story. I also questioning the judgement of professional photographer accepting Instagram's TOS.
I wasn't under the impression that the photographers were only using cell phones. Although, I'm aware of three previous situations where Time specifically assigned photographers to shoot exclusively with cell phones while on assignment.
As for judging whether the photographer missed the picture or not, I had a couple of clues. The main one being that many of the images Time chose to publish on Lightbox were (near) misses because of the technically limitation of the medium. In determining this, I was forced to make two assumptions. One, given a decent DSLR the photographer would know how to use it and would have avoided the limitation of the cell phone. Two, that Time's photo editors made a decent edit from everything the photographers submitted to arrive at the 50 or 60 images they published on Lightbox over the past few days.
I think it's fair to make these assumptions.
In my first post on this subject I mentioned a few photographers who I felt did a good job. While also saying I didn't like the overall production that I saw published (which I think I made clear). Once again, I didn't go around pointing out poor photographs by individuals.
I do realize some of the comments following my two post have criticized the photographers. I let them stand, as I do the many comments that criticize me.
I too look forward to continuing this discussion.
All the best,
Posted by: Ken Jarecke | November 03, 2012 at 01:24 AM
This is why I use Instagram for silly little shots of buildings, burritos and babies and this camera for the real shots. http://instagram.com/p/ROKMNiBiXu/
Posted by: Vincent Johnson | November 03, 2012 at 08:22 AM
Thanks for your response. I'm the first to agree that iPhones are NOT by ANY means anywhere NEAR the best means of documenting a hurricane or ANY event whose documentation is of importance to the public. I'm also the first to admit that my own Instagrams were not my best work - I would NEVER include them in a portfolio or present them as the work that represented what I'd like to think I'm capable of. To be completely honest, I don't think that I'll even continue using Instagram now, as an individual BUT were I given the opportunity to contribute to something like that which TIME conducted during Sandy, I'd jump on board without hesitation. Despite what the majority of those who've commented here are saying (though I've not read all) the feedback from the non-photojournalism-academie-public was overwhelmingly positive on the most part. That i think is something that PJ's always have to remember - that we're working for the benefit of the public, not the PJ community. That's not to say that I advocate 'dumbing down' what we produce. Far from that, I think we need to educate the viewing public in visual literacy so that they can discriminate between a good and a bad photograph whether they be viewing it in a printed magazine or on Instagram. I think Instagram is a new way of conducting this education because the reach into the less discerning (I can't say that without sounding pretentious I'm afraid) public is something that if it hasn't already, the printed medium will probably not influence.
You'll be interested to hear that I myself was actually interviewed by an AP journalist in Australia a few months back regarding a story on this exact subject. She was talking to Ben Lowy as the 'for' Instagram voice and me as the 'against'. I was well and truly on your side of the argument in other words. While the events of the past week have provided a nice adjunct to the AP story with Ben and I contributing to Time's Instagram feed together, it has also given me a new perspective on the issue and I'm happy with the view from here.
You might be interested to have a listen to a panel discussion that I recorded a few weeks ago - Ben Lowy, Whitney Johnson from the New Yorker and a bunch of others discussed this exact topic at the VII Gallery in Dumbo. It makes for thoroughly interesting listening and was certainly a catalyst for my changing opinion on the issue. So listen, but be warned, it may make you waver...
All the best,
Posted by: andrew quilty | November 03, 2012 at 09:01 AM
Sorry, here's the link to the recording: http://andrewquilty.com/blog/
Posted by: andrew quilty | November 03, 2012 at 09:02 AM
so wrote now for a while on this post and think there are a few other popping up which maybe say a bit of the same. anyway need to leave so here my comment:
Within your post it seems to me there is a sense that this tool Instagram ( which might be also a symbol for all those apps) is bad, generally, without considering other aspects such as composition, decisive moment (if we want to take great photographers as a reference), choosing the right tools and intention, not even considering preparation, process and post production. It seems the medium overcomes the act of taking images.
And I honestly don't understand why using a different tools with advantages and disadvantages is a reason for judging somebodys quality of work.
I think people should ask themselves what it makes them disagree about this little cameras. Is it actually the image in itself or the associations, which are coming along with that.
Anyway just a thought: why being annoyed about another medium, which is for everybody (also for pjs) accessible and kind of (with some, as usual, exceptions) affordable and usable without having too much knowledge, but at the same time difficult to use because of a lack in control over aspects such as lightening, distant, color reproduction, aperture, shutter speed, plus also have a much slower process of taking images (and I a sure the pictures we actually see are well taken images)? Is it not also the aim of journalism to inform and is it not about the medium but rather the knowledge and the content which makes the difference?
And is it not about, to be totally idealistic, to have the best work out there, which communicates in the best way possible? Considering also the fact that there is a bit of a crisis of a general audience (which I at least would ideally like to inform, rather than other pjs or intellectuals, who would know a bit about the topic anyway) being interested in photojournalism. And would it not help to find new approaches that people are actually looking at images and might be Instagram, for example, not a good way of approaching a certain audience.
In terms of the Time Magazine release:
The general idea of Instagram within this context: Using a very stylist aesthetic within such a serious topic is a high risk of romanticizing and styling such drastic event. Crucial not so happy about that, but actually looking at the quality of the images I think for a stylistic app the colors and contrast is actually very low and it does not seem to much focused on the sylist idea but rather underlining the idea of the instant moment and every day life (which I can remember Eggleston combined very well in his colour snapshot images)
I think it is also funny to compare the series with the Atlantic presentation, cause they serve actually two totally different purposes by two different approaches. The Atlantic issue is focusing on a general quick coverage, limited pictures and very narrow edited. Times edit is very personal, diverse, from every day life till news orientated. If that is a good idea within the general coverage is a different and maybe personal question- to compare it, might be difficult. My personal opinion: I think the mixture will do. Atlantic and the Times work well together.
My only issue is the choice of just allowing Instagram images. I guess it is probably an editor decision for whatever reason ( I can assume the reasons and makes sense but not important enough) I think not allowing slr picture is the same than not allowing Instagram pictures. It is exclusive and therefore decreases the images to a question of a tool but not a question of good image. (And i think that's part of the reason why we have this discussion)
I guess in general I think the discussion you arise is a bit of a for me a tiny bit unproductive, but could be actually a very productive one about the advantages and disadvantages of using an app like that and maybe learn from it and next time make a better work (why not using some of the Instagram ideas within your pro camera- eg.?)
For me it seems a bit like the last swansong to the slr camera, which does not have to be the last swansong but rather a nostalgic looking back at traditional methods. I can also remember the crying after analog cameras vanished from the pj landscape, which opened up so many other opportunities as I can see at least now.
p.s. I think also sometimes it is important too look at good examples of using small cameras and apps such as the documentary agency Drik which wasable to hand over little I pods to pjs around Bangladesh who were suddenly able to make there own movies, because of having this little magic (fairly cheep) tool which could do everything from making movies till rough cutting them. It is not Instagram, but also one of the little cameras.
Posted by: evi | November 03, 2012 at 09:15 AM
These debattes about the pros/cons of photo-apps are so bullshit.
Since when does the guest of a restaurant care, which PANS and POTS the cooks use?
Since when does the reader/viewer care, which TOOLS a photographer used to shot his photo?
The german car magazine AUTO BILD recently printed a 10-pages story about some new cars, shot by a professional photographer woman just using iPhone, tripod and HIPSTAMATIC.
Sign of the times, huch?
Posted by: David Zwadlo | November 06, 2012 at 05:46 AM
There is absolutely NOTHING keeping Instagram®/Facebook™ from marketing content directly to "your publication". In fact this is only a very short time away!!
Very sorry to say, there is ABSOLUTELY no stopping this freight train from hauling-ass, right over your (our) very poor ($$) photojournalist's ass(es).
Unfortunately, professional photographers need to eat.
Sad but, VERY true.
Posted by: danny bright | November 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM