Instagram: Good or bad for photography?

Step back, take a moment, and think about the one device that you always have on your person. Most likely you are picturing your phone, which has become a man-made appendage.

Our society is so dominated by social media that if you cannot constantly be answering text messages, checking Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you feel as though you have completely cut yourself off from the world.

While some may see this reliance as detrimental to society, our constant dependence on our phones has allowed us to capture moments that would have gone unseen without this technology. Through the social media photo-sharing website, “Instagram,” we are able to share raw footage of either personal or worldly events as they unfold.

When the recent mega-storm Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, people turned to Instagram to share their photos of the event.  There was such an influx of photos being sent in that a separate website, “Instacane,” was set up to group together all of the photos tagged with terms such as “Sandy” or “Hurricane.”

The Boston Globe teamed up with the MIT media lab and set up a wall within their office that displays every Instagram picture posted in the local Boston area and uses it as a source for their stories. The wall, referred to as “Snap,” provides a fascinating insight on the city of Boston, offering pictures of different kinds of activities, age groups, races, and ethnicities from various parts of the city.

These are pictures posted by regular people with a desire to capture a moment and share it for the world to see. Photojournalism has significantly grown in importance, as often it is the photo, not the text, which creates the story. Instagram has given the power to the average citizen to become a photographer.

Although about 80 percent or so of the pictures taken with Instagram are nothing more than a bad photo with a filter on it, the other 20 percent of pictures make people think about the factors that go into making a good photograph, such as lighting, color, framing, blur and focus, and perspective.

With this knowledge, people are able to capture intimate photos of their home life, loved ones, pets, or daily activities that are more personal and expressive than those photos normally on other photo sharing sites such as Twitter and Flickr. Instagram has spawned a kind of simulated drone journalism that has given us a peek into people’s everyday lives.

While some people may feel the need to jump the gun and critique our society’s heavy reliance on technology and lack of genuine photographic skill, Instagram has bestowed the power upon the everyday citizens to share their perspectives on newsworthy events.

So next time you want to criticize someone for getting in your way while you are walking down the street because they are taking a picture of something. Take a moment and reflect because this person might just be capturing an unforeseen newsworthy event that could change the course of our world.

All photos by Gillian Freedman

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