The Abominable Instagram

Last year, I got into analog photography. I got myself a Diana Mini from Lomography and started shooting away. Growing up in the digital age, I view the whole process of taking pictures and getting prints as being more intimate than the point-shoot-upload process that has become second nature to a lot of people. 

Now, there’s this app for the iPhone called Instagram which people have recently taken up and is really starting to get on my nerves.

What is Instagram anyway? It’s clever really: instead of just letting a user take a picture and share it via popular networking sites (Twitter, FB, &c), the app also allows users to use filters for their image.

Here’s what pisses me off: the filters that they have essentially make the image taken become lo-fi. The images then become similar to what images would look like, say, if they were taken by a pinhole camera or a toy-camera with color filters. The same grainy, sometimes blurry, and almost monochromatic effect that is achieved by using analog equipment is achieved by the iPhone thanks to Instagram.

I guess the people who created Instagram did not get the idea behind the analog revival. It was supposed to be a reaction to how the digital age has enabled users to create perfect-to-the-grain images, which take away the soul of artistry. The digital image is perfect because of the contribution of the technology, not the user. There’s something incongruous about having a digital device give analog effects to what are meant to be “perfect” pictures. The reliance on (sometimes, expired) film, cross-processing, and analog equipment that defines the revival gets thrown out the window. It therefore defeats the whole point.

I’m not going to lie, I have Instagram on my phone. Do I use it? No. I only downloaded to see what the hype was about. I honestly can’t launch the app without cringing or cursing out the makers of Instagram.

Am I being stupid? Probably. I mean, the biggest perk of anything digital is that it’s cheap (in this case, free), easily reproducible, and user-driven. Why shouldn’t people enjoy the same results of analog photography using digital equipment?

I suppose it comes down to aesthetics. It comes down to our understanding of the authentic and the counterfeit. Some people are happy with a Coach purse from Canal Street in the City. But for some of us, counterfeit just isn’t good enough.

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