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The Guardian: Join Instagram, join a collective act of self-delusion (Repost)

Jonathan Jones writing for the Guardian:

    I speak as a recovered digital photography addict. I more or less stopped taking photographs at all once I realised I was subscribing to a cheap self-deception about the originality, beauty and meaning of my tens of thousands of pictures. An enthusiam has frozen into revulsion. I love the convenience of digital cameras and their potential to create beauty – but I hate it, too.

    When did my photophobia begin? When I realised that I was buying into the same delusion of grandeur as everyone else. I have a decent camera and it can take lovely pictures. It has a close-up focus that can capture perfectly crisp images of a flower petal or a bee up close. So I think the moment it all went wrong was on a visit to Kew Gardens. There I was, having fun snapping water lilies, when I realised that about a hundred people were doing the same thing. Grannies, kids, babies, all with cameras and a sense of being artists. I am waiting for dogs and cats to get their own photo-sharing site for their genuinely beautiful snaps.

I think the main problem immediately lies with Jonathan Jones' perspective on photography, not with the behaviour of Instagram, in his decision to take lovely pictures of flowers and bees; the same, accessible, non-taboo, subject material that everybody else points their camera at and has done since the Kodak Box Brownie. Instagram quite rightly lets us share these images, but it certainly isn't digital photography or Instagram that's at fault here. Guns don't kill people, people kill people!

I was in Victoria Park (in Hong Kong) where there were plenty of photographers chasing the butterflies, around the greenery. The most professional, seasoned photographers seemed like they were standing at the back, resting their heavy cameras on monopods, intuitively knowing, instinctively when it was the best time to get the wining shot. In front of them was the closest you could possibly get to a polite scrum, with many younger photographers competing for space amongst themselves and those passing by, who were inspired by the silent commotion to join in for a few shots with their compacts.

Ignore the lack of his originality, something which Jones should be scolded for, but where is the imagination to make images of something more meaningful in that moment of personal crisis? This is instead of assuming 'grannies, kids, babies' are deluded artists or to blame Instagram. If one feels photography is cheap, it's because one is not spending enough time with the photographic medium.

When I saw all these photographers taking pictures of butterflies on my trip to the park, I thought it would be fun and much better to take pictures of the photographers chasing the butterflies instead and make a social commentary, it would also be a slight commentary on the spectacle of it all. 

It's too simple to get disgusted with photography. Even what you don't photograph can and will be a statement on our world.

Has Jonathan Jones stopped to think about why everybody takes pictures of what amounts to being the mundane? Surely he is aware that we the general public are socially discouraged from taking pictures of things that are not mundane, maybe more dramatic because either they are a photojournalist, weird or viewed as a pedophile. Imagine the variety of photography on our news feeds and timelines if we concentrated our gaze and interest on ourselves or on other people outside of what are still 'Kodak moments'. There is a minority of people who do, it's a shame many other people don't do that. You're not weird or a pedophile if you want to explore beyond what Jonathan Jones is arguing against.

I wished the Victorians had Instagram, because not many people know that the Victorians photographed the dead or the dying. Not in a macabre ways (though by today's standards it would be), but in a way where the dead person looked like they were in-between life and death. Victorians even dressed dead people up so as to look their best for the camera. The Victorians did this with the aim of preserving their deceased relatives beyond the physical with a belief they were capturing their soul in an image. Imagine a Victorian gaze uploaded onto the Internet mushed up with today's type of photography on your newsreader or dashboard.

The issue here stems from the larger problem of what we have been conditioned to photograph (just google 'kodak moments') and what we have come to think of are supposedly 'proper pictures' from other people's camera's. Now this isn't a call to action to photograph dead people, more of a polite request to acknowledge there is more for us to photograph out there and to photograph something different within our respective world's.

While I'm on this topics, I don't think it can't be done with single images, those that make a quick comment and are digested within seconds off a newsfeed, they need to be something longer or viewed under a differing context and not necessarily something complicated either. When I say longer I mean through a photo essay, photo series or a visual diary. Something that anybody can sustain if they spend more time with their camera than Jonathan Jones does.

In 2012 I started a visual diary; just something to show friends and family (though it's open to all) who are back in the UK, to show them what I was witnessing here in my new country of residence. I've been brought up academically as a photojournalist, working on long term projects, working with and documenting other people.

How I photographed, has changed when I began photographing in a diary format, I have taken on another awareness of the photographic medium, which makes me think in other creative ways. Again it comes with spending time and developing that awareness on a single or a few topics, I'm at an advantage to the layman, but it's a skill I believe anybody can acquire.

That is how we can solve the problem that Jones incorrectly addresses without blaming fashionably unpopular social network 'x', until we do, don't expect anything to change on your respective timeline. Instagram is here to share our photography, not teach us photography.

NOTE - This is an edited and updated version of a blog post from my old wordpress website.


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