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photography

Photojournalists on Instagram: a more inclusive list

06_instagram

I’m interested in how professional image makers use social media as part of their practice. People ask if photojournalism can survive in the age of Instagram and similar services. Yet for all the industry anxiety around Instagram, and for all the legitimate concern around its terms of servicemany photojournalists have accounts that stream quality pictures, demonstrating that photojournalism and Instagram are not necessarily inimical.

The other day I tweeted a link to an article by Kate Knibbs at Digital Trends that drew attention to seven of them working in conflict areas as a way of underscoring that point:

http://twitter.com/davidc7/status/389035322635718656

John Edwin Mason responded to that quickly and correctly with an important observation:

He raised a very important point – too often the pivotal dimensions of gender and race go unremarked, perhaps even unnoticed, in photography circles.

Zarina Holmes added:

And John then noted:

So let’s widen the appreciation (also beyond the conflict remit of the original list) to include those recommended by John and Zarina, and a couple of others from me, giving us (in alphabetical order) this list:

Lynsey Addario

Karim Ben Khelifa

Marcus Bleasdale

Michael Christopher Brown

Laura El-Tantawy

everydayafrica

Glenna Gordon

David Guttenfelder

Ed Kashi

Teo Kaye

Teru Kuwayama

Melissa Lyttle

Ben Lowy

Phil Moore

Randy Olson

Ruddy Roye

Q. Sakamaki

It won’t be possible or desirable to come to a definitive record…as John said “there are so many.”

But this is surely a start on a better mix of diverse talents, although far from being fully comprehensive and inclusive.

Are their others who we should call particular attention to?

As I finished this post I caught up with another of John’s tweets:

Looking forward to that, and other, contributions in expanding the limited list that began this important discussion.

UPDATE 14 October 2013

John Edwin Mason’s post – 37 Instagram Photographers You Might Not Know (But Should Definitely Follow) – is up and its a beauty. He wants you to send suggestions for more photographers to follow too, and I will pass on any new ones mentioned here.

Photo credit: Stacy Kole, Retro Branding

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Hipstamatic angst, Instagram anxiety: time to move the conversation forward

It’s back – another round of high octane commentary on the supposedly nefarious influence of Hipstamatic and Instagram on the world of photography. We’ve had Jean-Francois Leroy of Visa Pour L’Image deride these apps as “all a gimmick…pure laziness“. We’ve read Kate Bevan in The Guardian detail how she loves manipulating her own digital images, but thinks Instagram and its fellow travellers is “debasing photography.” And we’ve seen the announcement of Hipstmatic’s plans for a photojournalism foundation scoffed at by the likes of Foto8.

There’s plenty of room for a constructive critique of how filters that replicate earlier analogue forms have become so popular. A good place to start is with Nathan Jurgenson’s analysis of “faux-vintage” photography and the way it manifests a “nostalgia for the present.” Heightened by social media’s power to view the present as always a potentially documented past, Jurgenson argues that images from Hipstamatic, Instagram and other services work to make our prosaic and vernacular images “seem more important, substantial and real.”

And there will be plenty of time to ask hard questions of Hipstamatic about whether its serious with its plans for a Foundation of Photojournalism and what benefits, if any, it might provide for the production of new stories.

But, really, it’s time to move the conversation on. This applies to both the supporters and critics, as Ashley Gilbertson tweeted this week:

The vehement opposition to these apps commonly operates in terms of ideas of ‘legitimate photography’ versus ‘illegitimate photography’, in which a supposedly new realm of popular manipulation is undercutting the cultural status of established photography, all infused with a professional anxiety about the influence of ‘amateurs’. We’ve got to get beyond this frame. I’ve long argued that we have to reposition debates about photography so we recognise the inherent and unavoidable place of aesthetics and representation in the production of each and every photographic image, no matter who is making them. I’ve written about that in relation to photojournalism generally, specific images like the most recent World Press Photo winner, as well as everyday, personal photos. If we think about the latter, we might just appreciate that popular culture has a sophisticated appreciation that images can be both produced and hence constructed, yet function as documents, evidence and records. The stale, either/or, rendering of ways to understand our condition totally fails to apprehend such complexities.

Much of the criticism directed at the Hipstamatic is profoundly ahistorical. Given that the development of the app was driven in part by an interest in Polaroid, we have to wonder whether the detractors are as critical of those photographers who choose cameras, lenses, films, printing paper, or digital picture profiles to get a particular look to their images. In other words, don’t they have to mount a critique of pretty much all photography and photographers? John Edwin Mason had a series of tweets that made this point well, starting from the revelation that Ed Kashi’s Instagrams were subject to some online abuse:

We also have to dispense with the idea that everything produced with these apps is poor, banal or the same. If you want to see a great contemporary image maker who can produce visuals with smartphones and apps way better than most, check out the work of  Richard Koci Hernandez.

One of the things that is most significant about Hipstamtic and Instagram is that they make photography popular, social and mobile. This is why Facebook is prepared to pay $1 billion for a company that has no revenue. It’s not actually about the photography – it’s about the social and the value of Instagram’s user community, which numbers 50 million or more and is growing at the rate of 5 million per week.

All that said, this post is not actually a defence of these apps. I’m not interested in being for or against. I want to put the critiques in context, understand their historical and conceptual limitations, and reframe the issue. There has been too much heat and not enough light.

The primary question has to be what stories can you tell with what tools? Do these new tools help produce more interesting visual narratives that can be connected to more people? It’s entirely possible, and could even be happening now, but those have to be the grounds on which we should judge their success or failure. Let’s move the conversation forward to that point, and dispense with the angst and anxiety.