Instagram is NOT the future of Street Photography

I felt compelled to write this post in response to an article written by ‘street photographer’ Eric Kim in which he states/believes/whatever that Instagram is the future of street photography. I won’t link to the article, as I don’t agree with what he is saying – if you want to read it, you’ll find it via Google.

But, I have to say from the outset that he is completely wrong and I will list my reasons why it isn’t the future of street photography in response to his reasons why he believes it is.

His statements are in bold.

“1. You will start seeing more street photographers emerge than ever before”
First off I’d like to say that just because you take photos on the street, it doesn’t make you a ‘street photographer’. I do wonder if Eric actually knows the meaning of the term. Taking random pictures of people or situations happening around you isn’t what street photography is about. Yes, the images you take may feature people going about their daily lives – but street photography is really just a different way of describing documentary or reportage photography.

Street Photography images have to sit within a ‘story’ or context; you’re documenting something. A sneakily taken photo on a mobile phone of an old man asleep on a park bench and hastily uploaded to Instagram does not make it a street photography image.

With the increase in the number of people taking photos on their mobile and uploading them to Instagram, you will see an increase in the number of people believing themselves to be street photographers, but not actually being street photographers.

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“2. Street photography will be focused on single images, not sets”
Eric doesn’t actually give any particular reason as to why he believes this other than Instagram doesn’t allow for sets (like Flickr for example). He calls Instagram, “Flickr on crack” – not sure why to be honest. But, as I’ve already said, Street Photography is all about documenting life, reporting on a situation or telling a story through images… Now, how many documentary photo stories or photo reports have you seen with a single image? None! You can’t convey a situation or story in a single image. You might submit a single image to a group set on a theme, but there it is sitting within a context or story. A single image of a bloke with a sign or a child holding a ragdoll is just that, a bloke with a sign and a child with a ragdoll – it isn’t street photography.

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“3. Instagram is simply easier, more streamlined, and faster”
I can’t actually disagree with this statement as a way of describing a method of getting low-quality, square images out into the public domain. However, to give it as a reason why Instagram is the future of Street Photography is just silly. Instagram is a great app for sharing images that you’ve either taken on your mobile or imported from another source (scanned film print, other digital image) but it’s speed and ease-of-use is no way linked to Street Photography. In fact, if you’re a prolific Instagramer, then your images will soon get lost under any new images you’ve uploaded. And after a while you’ll be pages deep in thumbnails.

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“4. Editing will be ditched for instantaneousness”
No, No, No, No and NO! If you can capture a perfect image that doesn’t need cropping, some slight level adjustment, sits well within a square frame and has actual ‘content’ everytime and all the time, then yaaaay Instagram might be for you. However, even the best photojournalist, street photographer, etc etc still does a bit of post-processing prior to uploading any images. A good photographer can tell a keeper from a binner and that takes time – just uploading shot after shot without actually understanding if the image has good content and is composed well is doing yourself no favours.

Now, you may be thinking why I believe my thoughts on this are correct and Eric’s incorrect. I don’t; this is my opinion on the subject and everyone has their opinion. However, I am basing my writing on a number of different things, including experience in visual medium and time I have spent with professional photographers, film makers, and photography magazine editors. So, I like to believe (whether rightly or wrongly) that I know a wee bit about what I talked about above.

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2 comments on “Instagram is NOT the future of Street Photography
  1. Interesting post. As with everything, technology and social media is constantly evolving, and it was only a matter of time that photography went this way. At the end of the day, a crap photo is a crap photo, no matter what filters you put on it. I’ve only just got onto Instagram (Android!), and it’s a good way for me to document my life. For me, it’s a bit of fun. Instagram has made photography even more accessible and might spark people with no desire in photography to take a closer look and find out more.

    • martin says:

      Thanks for your comment and I agree with you on all your points; Instagram is a great tool for documenting one’s life and it is fun! (which is what photography should be) – If you enjoy it, do it that’s what I say. And yes, the likes of Instagram and Facebook has made photography more accessible and I hope they do ignite a photography flame in some people.

      My post was not about Instagram as a tool, it was my thoughts on using Instagram as a way of documenting street photography/the lives of others.

      I use Instagram on Android too, and I love it.

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