Why Instagram cheats the Viewer (no – it doesn’t)

In a piece at CNN, Nick Stern opines on “Why Instagram photos cheat the viewer“. It’s an interesting piece if only for the blinders the author has clamped down over his head.

He bemoans the rise of what he calls ”news images” – ones that have been altered in any number of ways, primarily through apps like Hipstamatic and Instagram. But as a professional news photographer, he should know better. Any reputable news organization does not allow that kind of manipulation to images. So his complaint is a straw man from the very start.

But his specific complain is this:

The app photographer hasn’t spent years learning his or her trade, imagining the scene, waiting for the light to fall just right, swapping lenses and switching angles. They haven’t spent hours in the dark room, leaning over trays of noxious chemicals until the early hours of the morning.

And he’s right. Technology, in any number of ways, has made many skills and talents moot. But it doesn’t mean if you don’t use those skills, you can’t/shouldn’t be taken seriously as a photographer.

I say his blinders are on because, look at what he’s doing – he’s writing on a web site. Did he hand code the page? Did he lovingly write out the HTML required to get that font just that size or that photo in just the right place? No – he used any number of tools to make the process easier for him.

He hypocritically complains about people doing exactly the same thing he’s doing – using technology to make communication easier.

I don’t consider him less of a writer because he didn’t hand code the article and he shouldn’t consider those taking good, newsworthy photos with iPhones any less of a photographer than he is. It’s not about the tools, it’s about your skills and abilities and how you use them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *