#Accessible Art: Instagram

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("It is a new art movement of new photography facilitated by this electronic medium." From left to right: @teekolee, @jfsavaria, and @mariaaah19.)

#Letmetakeaselfie: share it with the world, gain a few likes, and gain a few followers. #Wanderlust: document your life and travels. #Goodeats: show everyone what you're eating, where you're eating, and when you're eating it. #Citylandscape: capture the beautiful city that you live in.

#Artistic movement? Instagram can be used to document the user's life through photographs. In many cases the photos are taken with precision and filters are added with tact to create truly beautiful photographs. Can this movement of photographic documentation be considered as art?

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With Instagram it's very easy to download the free app, take a picture with a phone, and share it with the world. Photos of selfies, food, architecture and landscapes litter the newsfeeds of various social media. In an article titled "Why Do People Use Instagram," by Alicia Eler, the author explains that "the hardcore users of the Instagram app are anything but lazy. In fact, they might be using this tiny app to create art and build beautiful new communities." Amateur photographers have the opportunity to share their work with others around the world, as well as the chance to document their lives through photographs. It is a new art movement of new photography facilitated by this electronic medium.

Instagram was created in 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. To the surprise and happiness of the creators, the app generated 10 million users in just a couple of hours. On the Instagram website in the frequently asked questions, it explains that Instagram is "a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.

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The intent of Instagram was to connect people; however, that quickly escalated to an artistic outlet. Instagram's goal which "allow[s] you to experience moments in your friends' lives through pictures as they happen," turned into a competition of who can capture the most artistic photo of their food or faces.

The many filters of Instagram transform regular photos into stylized art pieces. Instagram includes "stylistic filters, frames, and effects to photos, which can--by tapping one of 16 [now 20] options--turn a straightforward snapshot of a housecat into what looks like a weathered Polaroid time-capsuled from 1977," says one reporter. Becoming an amateur photographer is as simple as buying a smartphone and downloading the Instagram app, "by investing in the smartphone, you're secretly also investing in photography - and in that sense, everyone is a photographer."

Instagram is a way to get inspired and share with others. However, as with all art, there can be bad art. It is easy to 'snap' a photo with a phone and post it onto Instagram. However, the chances of the photograph being a nice picture are slim if it is blurred, overexposed, or too dark. It takes a certain amount of skill to take a photo with a phone similar to how it takes skill to use a real camera. The medium is easily accessible, but the skills are acquired through practice. Even then, everything in the app is made to be easy to learn and easy to use.

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(Instagrammers document their lives through artistic photographs. Photos by: @kaila_kaycee, @greenthumbfrank, and @hannahjost)

Not all people join and use Instagram for art and photography's sake; however, the person takes part in a new artistic movement when they share a photo. A study focusing on consumer production in social media networks shows that the main reasons people join Instagram are for "sharing, documentation, seeing, community, creativity and therapy" (McCune 58). These motivations combine to create a sense of a creative community as an "exchange of vision as an enriched cultural experience" (64). The study explains that "The culture of engaging and supporting image-making on Instagram empowers a sense of community which proves significantly motivating to its users" (67). The motivation of community allows individuals to share their lives, ideas, and photos on Instagram to create an Instagram art movement.

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("Instagram does not ruin the quality of the medium of photography because quality isn't defined by accessibility." Photos by: @alleestar, @francisduval, and @teekolee.)

Sharing photos allows for instant rewards by others 'liking' the photo. Whether it is five likes or hundreds, someone is looking at the photos and double tapping to 'like.' McCune's study explains that the instant reward is one of the motivations for people's use of Instagram. He explains that: "by sharing an image on Instagram, users may 'find out how people might react to it,' creating a feedback loop that is faster than previous photo-sharing cultures" (66). Instagram makes it easy to create, easy to share, and easy to give and get feedback: it is feel good photography.IMG_2462.PNG

If Instagram is so easy and simple does it diminish the actual task of making art? The Guardian writer, Jonathan Jones, states that "Photography can easily degenerate into a pseudo-art, with millions of people all taking pictures of the same things and all thinking we are special." If the photograph is beautiful, does it really matter if it is taken with a thousand dollar camera or a phone? A Graphic Design student studying at Dawson College explains that "our teachers tell us that everything has already been done, you just need to try to do it differently" and Instagram allows for that type of individual and creative experimentation.

Instagram is a movement of people coming together and showing each other their lives and artistic skills. Instagram is "a virtual museum of art," explains the Graphic Design student. She explains that although Instagram diminishes the aesthetic feeling of photography, it brings the art to a more human and recognizable level because of its social availability. She describes that Instagram "has become a museum for aspiring artists." Instagram encourages individuals to be creative and share what inspires them. Francis Duval, an avid Instagrammer from Montreal, explains in an interview that: "when Instagram came out, [he] found inspiration from a lot of photographers and designers and architects. [They] were all using the same tool, the iPhone [or smartphone]." Duval uses Instagram to help inspire his own work. Instagram does not ruin the quality of the medium of photography because quality isn't defined by accessibility.

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("A virtual museum of art." Instagram is used to share art to encourage or gain inspiration. Photos by: @supersmashmegh, @hannahjost, and @alleestar)


Along with an access to instant photography come abusers. Some Instagramer's feeds are filled with photographs of themselves and only themselves. A selfie is now a thing in photography. Narcissistic Instagrammer's make it difficult to consider Instagram serious art medium. However, selfies can also be creative and challenging. A cat beard selfie, for example, is both interesting and challenging. Selfie is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary. It is defined as: "A photographic self-portrait; esp. one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media." Overall, a selfie is just a self-portrait, whether taken with a tad of narcissism or for comedic objectives. It is easy to take one and now it is even easier to share it.

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("Combine self-portrait with diary and now something is really happening: art." Photos by: @caitlynnainsley with a couples selfie, @brockohurn with a instagram portrait, and @coma.noir with an unconventional selfie.)

Everyone has that one follower who cannot resist taking a selfie a day and it can be pretty annoying. The Graphic Design student explains that: "If you have only selfies on your Instagram feed it can be very telling of a person, it is like an open diary." Combine self-portrait with diary and now something is really happening: art. In the past self-portraits were always done, but they were painted and not as accessible. Now everyone can have one easily.

Instagram allows for the expression of oneself through photography. It's easy, it's accessible, it's telling, and it encourages creativity and community. Welcome to #modern #photography, express yourself, share your photos, and inspire others' artistic ventures.

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("Amateur photographers have the opportunity to share their work with others around the world, as well as the chance to document their lives through photographs." Photos by: @jfsavaria, @o_robi, and @alleestar.)

Bibliography:

Abu-Qaoud, Malak. "Interview with an Instagrammer: @francisduval." TheMain. Jan 28. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.themainmtl.com/2015/01/28/instagrammer-francis-duval/>

Eler, Alicia. "Why Do People Use Instagram?" ReadWrite. 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2015 <http://readwrite.com/2012/03/14/study_why_do_people_use_instagram>

Eler, Alicia. "The Rapid Growth of Instagram-Powered Art Shows." ReadWrite. 2 May. 2012. Web. 8 Fed. 2015. <http://readwrite.com/2012/05/02/the-rapid-growth-of-instagram-powered-art-shows>

"FAQ" Instagram. n.d. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <https://instagram.com/about/faq/>

Jones, Jonathan. "Why Does Our Instagram Generation Think its Snaps are So Special?" TheGuardian. 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/feb/03/instagram-generation-amateur-photographers-art-plagiarism>

Lagorio-Cafkin, Christine. "Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Founders of Instagram." 30 Under 30: 2011. Inc Magazine., 9 April. 2012. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.inc.com/30under30/2011/profile-kevin-systrom-mike-krieger-founders-instagram.html>

McCune, Zachary. "Consumer Production in Social Media Networks: A Case Study of the 'Instagram' iPhone App." Diss. University of Cambridge. Jun 9. 2011. Web. Feb 20. 2015. <https://www.scribd.com/doc/58386692/17/IV-Six-Types-of-User-Motivation>

"Selfie" Def. Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford English Dictionary: University Press, n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.


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(A cat beard selfie is both artistic and challenging. Photo by: @waronmachines.)

4 Comments

Very relevant topic...I mean, who doesn't use Instagram?! Beautiful photo choice and layout...very appealing.

So true about Instagram making everyone a photographer. I'm glad you discussed how some people use the app as an art form while others use it to showcase their everyday lives.

Not only is this article relevant but also well researched. The question of what is considered art has been debated for a long time, especially Marcel Duchamp's "the fountain." Recently social media has once again challenged this question of what we consider art.

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