Sarah Hovey, an Adobe Certified Photoshop Instructor at the California Center for Digital Arts, pushed me into and taught me the world of Instagram photography. It was the perfect storm of learning as this new skill collided with in-depth learning of Lightroom Mobile for Android Phone Cameras.
Neither activity, phone photography nor Instagram, are native to my art senses or image production. I don’t photograph dinner, have never made a selfie, and I live in a visual space that emphasizes landscape and man’s proclivity to deposit the detritus of abandoned dreams often seen in long empty buildings, businesses, and roads to nowhere. I capture with a 5D, tripod, and a backpack of gear to accomplish a given image for a given theme. My phone camera has never proved useful for this genre though the images are quite good. However, the screen glare from the sun, the clumsy ergonomics, and the lack of viewfinder intimacy keeps the device pocket bound most of the time.
I come from a generation where one’s social media ended when you got off the school bus at 3 PM.
This changed for me with Instagram and Lightroom Mobile. The latter synchronizes work with my desktop collections and allows me to perform basic post-processing for phone camera images and a workflow quite useful for Instagram. I’ve learned that Instagram demographics favor photographers between the ages of 20-32. Men (and women) of my age, have difficulty wrapping our heads around social media in general, and for those who have created art in solitary classism have been slow to embrace social media. I come from a generation where one’s social media ended when you got off the school bus at 3 PM. In the evening, you might get a few minutes of wall phone privileges to call a classmate wherein one actually used the spoken word transmitted over miles of copper line, but I digress.
Digital photography needs a digital space as well as the analog space of finished prints for viewing and collecting. Instagram is the perfect digital space and unlike Facebook, which is full of rants, raves, hate, and sugary love poems, Instagram is for images. Instantly, I fell in love with this social media, embraced it for its visual communications, and after some in-depth training from Sarah it is now an integral part of my day.
Initially designed for phone camera purists, Instagram users today often transfer images from their DSLR units to their phone by various means. I do this with a Lightroom Mobile workflow and post images from my phone camera as well. I stumbled around and eventually learned the hashtag system and in time, I found myself following fellow shooters, unknown art makers who are creating some very strong work, and I earn feedback in the form of likes and pithy comments from amateur, semi-pros, and professionals from all over the world. I have not joined hubs and some of the other activities, which may be useful, and my follow/follower growth is slow but steady. Beyond posting images, I’ve found the social connection of how others see and capture their worlds deeply satisfying (Sarah promised me this would happen).
Instagram’s search algorithm allows one to globe trot and connect to others visually;
Instagram’s search algorithm allows one to globe trot and connect to others visually; no or few words. Once you get beyond the ‘Selfies’, which is important to this demographic, you get a deep sense of visual freedom that is part of the Instagram world. Some members post snapshot images of family, friends, events, sharing a picture album of their own lives. They are photographers, responding to an increasingly depleted sense of reality, searching for a transfusion—traveling to new experiences, refreshing the old ones. Others provide creative images from their heart, sharing new photograph experiences while seeking a crisis-proof form of communication. Instagram portfolios often provide a real world of the maker and a substitute world for the viewer, keyed to exalting or tantalizing images. Work from Instagram photographers, particularly young photographers are quite revealing of what is visually important, of what they believe needs saying. In this respect, even the ‘selfie’ becomes an exclamation point to the balance of their Instagram portfolios. The odd monikers that they choose, such as pinndove, vanillahead, samysays6, for their Instagram handles connects to their images in many cases, and often provides a sense of their virtual voice.
Photography still offers the most complete satisfaction of our curiosity.
When I find a portfolio of images that indicates a new (and usually young) artist’s unique exploration with a meaningful visual voice, I reach out and leave encouraging comments. For me this is more satisfying then earning likes about my own work (though appreciated), because as Schopenhauer points out ‘the outer man is a picture of the inner.’ It is a wonder to see within this social media genre that Photography still offers the most complete satisfaction of our curiosity.