Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Virtual images

I'm pretty much hooked on Instagram. Not in the sense that I'm sneaking off to surreptitiously Instagram or that I leave my baby in a hot car while I Instagram for hours. But if you take the CAGE questions for alcohol dependence I actually have a decent hit rate re Instagram.

Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your Instagramming?
Have people Annoyed you by criticising your Instagramming?
Have you ever felt Guilty about Instagramming?
Have you ever need an Eye-opener Instagram first thing in the morning to steady your nerves?

While considering this I did feel briefly concerned. But denial is the spice of life, so I realised that it really wasn't a problem. After all, many of the finer things in life would also score quite highly on the CAGE questionnaire. Coffee, blobbing, cheese, sleep, Peppa Pig, geometry, reading, hot air ballooning and picking of the nose. How could we live life without them?

Instagram, for those you who don't use it, allows you to take or upload little photographs and gives you some basic colour filtering and highlighting tools to make them look a bit jazzier, and then you publish them to you account. It's like a blog for photos. Other users can see your photos or search for tags that you've labelled them with. You can follow other users and see their new pictures come up on your feed.

Everyone seems to use it for different things. Some people only seem to take selfies - pictures of themselves looking, allegedly, "hot". Other people seem to be obsessed with taking pictures of their food. Or their dog. Or boats. Or sunsets. Or coffee, cheese, sleep, Peppa Pig, geometry, nose picking and hot air ballooning. That's more my arena, that list.

When I first started playing with it I was mostly interested in colour and patterns, like my intermittently series of Pretty Textured Rectangles that I post here. After a while I got distracted by the small size of the photos (on my screen) and the fact that they were square, and I seem to have been conceptualising the photos as almost like tiny icons, of the computing variety. I was trying to capture the essence of the banana (for example) and nothing else.

But now, things have changed again. Now I think of the Instagram photo as like a visual haiku. For me, it's a way of capturing a tiny moment of beauty. Being mindful of the multitude of episodes in life where I catch my breath and stop for a second to dwell on something unexpected. I use Instagram to record that oasis of existence and show it to other people.

It's tempting to fall into the trap of trying to take the same type of photo over and over again. It's a visual social medium so other people can indicate that they like your pictures. And there's always part of you that wants to please other people so you'll be "liked" in some sense. So you're tempted (or at least I am) to give the crowd more of the same. Perhaps this is how the guy who takes pictures of nothing but sneakers got started.

But operating that way just makes me edgy. My fundamental principle now is that I'm taking the pictures for me. They are a visual journal of my life - not the entirety of it, but the parts of it that remind me that life goes on happening all around us and we need to notice it before it passes on, or we do.

So I'm not so different from the people who only publish selfies. Theirs of their bodies and clothes. Mine are of my thoughts and the cogs turning inside my mind to grind the grist of my perceptions into reality.


Matticus Finch said...

Can you... ahh, never mind, found it myself.
I'm more of a dogs making logs, than cogs type of instagramer.

jamie said...

I can't help feeling that you're describing my instagram account.
I promise to take more photos of things other than my cat. But he's so cute and fluffy, and I feel that I need to document this from every angle and every possible scenario.

I'll do my best to resist him. For you.

PTR said...

Matticus - you have to chase your dreams, right?

jamie - honestly I can't wait meet little Fluffy one day!