A tall, dark pine forest blocks out light from the bright sun, allowing odd glimmers through the branches. A flowing river crashes wildly among scattered rocks, splashing white foam across the glimmering, water-shined banks. A coffee cup trembles gently alone on an uneven table in a dimly lit café.
Everyone knows pictures like these – the type you see in advertising brochures for parks or businesses. They’re clichéd, but well presented nonetheless.
And they’re often framed or filtered via Instagram. I hate it.
Instagram is only something I’ve become in tune with over the past few months, simply because I cannot escape its usage. Wherever I turn, some iPhone addict has attempted to turn into an artistic photographer by simply shoving a pre-loaded filter onto an otherwise mundane picture.
As society turns its attention to ‘vintage’ – and this whole moronic idea that things are better new, just a little worn – Instagram has thrived. Welcome to the have-a-go, filter addicted, let’s-snap-something-rather-banal world of photography.
The nostalgia is not progression. It is regression. Everyone takes the same shots, with the same filters, and the same result – abhorrent, retro dullness.
Now, I’m not saying that filters do not work – they do, and used appropriately they work wonders with visuals of any kind. But on every photo? No.
Instagram has become a plague – a fast spreading craze turning our attention away from the natural beauty of the world and onto a realm of digital fakery.
That is my main problem – the lie of it all. Has everyone forgotten how to take a photograph? Has everybody forgotten the delights of skilled digital photography or, one better, old-fashioned film? Or did a vast majority of people just get lazy?
I work as an Online Journalist and, in this role, pictures become half of my existence. While posting text online is one thing, it’s nothing without illustration. A lack of colour leaves the mind blank.
In this role, I collate copy from a variety of sources and publish them on the company website. Pretty simple, standard journalism – newsgather, write, and publish.
However, I cannot be everywhere, and as such I cannot always be responsible for taking the photographs I need to accompany my pieces. No big deal – just send someone else to do it.
And I do. With a little persuasion, and direction, my colleagues gladly assist in my endeavour.
While I like to think I am pretty handy with a camera (having been a part-time motorsport photographer for a while), I am by no means fantastic. While the shouts of ‘Oh, look at David Bailey’ ring through the office from time to time, I am not a professional. Never was, never will be.
Yet I do know what pictures I like, and what pictures I need, and generally these tend to be rather generic shots of people, buildings, and actions, full of natural colour and flair.
Instead, the ever-increasing trend in my inbox is this – a tea-stained snap, or a well-worn film footage grain, or some sepia toned mess, plastered all over an otherwise acceptable, standard photograph.
Great – now I have something that looks barely recognisable, full of stupid contrast and brightness adjustments, and just downright eye-bleedingly ugly.
Yet I am a culprit too. I do impose black and white filters, odd contrast tones, and strange frames to some pictures. The difference is that I do not do this on all pictures, because sometimes there is no need. Less really can be more.
Not enough redness in the evening sky? No matter. Leave it. It’s still beautiful. Not enough darkness emanating from the compacted forest? Again, leave it alone.
Do not, whatever you do, adjust your set. You would not gladly photoshop a person, so why automatically do it to anything else?
So Instagram addicts – you may think you are the next David Bailey, but you are not. And all the time you peddle the digital lies of shading and enhancement, you never will be.
Words: Ashley Scrace