Disclaimer

Don't try this at home. Leica products can be damaged if not cared for properly.

There will be many comparisons, challenges, and circumstantial testing of Leica lenses and M-Mount camera bodies on this site. Accidents may happen, so please let the professionals do this.

It is the hope of this site to provide camera based entertainment - all for the sake of curiosity - and gosh - just good wholesome fun (whether needed or not... usually not).

 

A Crisis of Purpose in the Age of Instagram

A Crisis of Purpose in the Age of Instagram

Photographing for likes. Has the world come to this? Everyone is a photographer, and photographs are manufactured voluntarily by the thousands per second, streamed instantaneously to handheld devices around the world. We've seen everything there is to be seen. We've seen beauty in abundance. We've seen torrents of cruelty. We've seen gross excesses. We've seen notoriety. And we've seen nothing of consequence. We've seen more than we need to see, and so we've become desensitized. Nothing moves us, and nothing shocks us. We've seen it all with the swipe of a thumb.

Technology truly is the champion of simplification, unlocking the black box of photographic ability to the unskilled masses. From the perspective of the common good, it is a positive development that photography has democratized. No longer are documentation worthy opportunities lost from a lack of someone capturing the instance. In the age of Instagram, anything worth documenting will be captured from multiple angles by multiple smart devices, and shared instantly to legions of voracious followers.

But you know what they say about democracy. It's the tyranny of the masses.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not an elitist.  But I am troubled by how photography has evolved. Simply put, photography has been commoditized. What this means is that the status of photography has devalued, largely because there is an oversupply of it.

With technology making photography much less confusing, it is no longer difficult to take a decent photograph. Such inconveniences like learning the proper techniques for exposure, focusing, and even composition is no longer relevant, given the forgiving nature of digital capture. Where in the past, photographers had to rely on ability to take proper photographs without visual verification; in today's world, a person taking a picture can just click away, then double check on review to see if a redo was needed - should the selfie look bad. 

Needless to say, photography became fun.

The masses embraced the new digital technology. They couldn't believe the ease in taking a decent photograph. All this fun packaged into a pocketable smartphone with a camera that would put yesterday's point-and-shoot to shame. With a smartphone, one is always at the ready to document. There is always something to capture and there is always something to share.

I know I said I wasn't going to do street photography anymore on my site. However, in this case, it made sense, given this writeup is related to my experience on Instagram. This image was the first one I posted on Instagram. On the first day, I was able to get 19 likes. I was so encouraged with the response that I posted fifteen images that first day. I was able to get 5 followers by the end of 24 hours. Over the last three and a half months, this post has grown to 37 likes.

Another one of my early posts on Instagram. I only had 7 likes for this image. I have since deleted it, since I don't want more than 90 images on my account. I thought it was a nice image. But I guess I was wrong.

Another early post on Instagram. This one only got 8 likes. I've seen similar images like this on other people's Instagram account with more likes. I have since deleted this image.

I thought that this was an interesting capture. It had all the essential elements of a good photograph. The main subject was in white, with everyone else in black. And most importantly, the main subject was doing something notable. Nonetheless, this image got around 6 likes, as I recall. I have since deleted this image.

And thus, the sharing of pictures exploded.

However sharing didn't stay fun for long. With an oversupply of voluntarily manufactured images online, being seen became a difficult task. Before long, the objective for photographers shifted from documentation to popularization. The logic was simple. It didn't matter if your photographs were unique or meaningful. If no-one sees it, it doesn't matter.

The public's expectations have shifted. They only seem to care if the source derived from someone popular - if not already famous. It didn't matter if the image was ordinary or even substandard, given the photographic merits no longer became the metric of evaluation. What the world wanted to see was popularity. Those with more followers have more rights to have a say - given their following.

But you can't blame the world for this either, since they've already seen everything that could possibly be documented. How is the public to differentiate between two similar images? It may seem arbitrary, but the one that's photographed by the more popular person has more merits than the one photographed by someone unknown.

So, if this is what the world has become, what is an aspiring photographer to do? What purpose would make sense? The world does not want to see yet another manufactured image. The world wants to see something that they've never seen before. Something real. Something profound. Something that can go viral.

It almost seem as if unless the photographer is willing to go the distance, and be in harms way to capture a truly unique and authentic image, no one is going to care. So for all you street photographers trying to find meaning in documenting the pedestrian, the world has already seen it. To you fashion photographers seeking beauty, beautiful girls are a dime a dozen. And to you landscape photographers, if you've seen one sunset, you've seen it all.

So climb a mountain without safety ropes. Climb the highest building for a selfie at the top. Go deep into the jungle to be in the jaws of something lethal. But most importantly, make it something that will be shared hundreds and hundreds of times. Make it something that will make someone pause their thumb for a look and a double tap.

I really thought that this image was going to be liked. Shot at 21mm, and relatively close, at high shutter speed, I was able to freeze both runners in motion, without an overly distracting background. Still, this post only got 8 likes. I have since deleted it.

This was a surprise post. At the time I was able to get 30 likes. I didn't expect it. However, that was three months ago, and my likes has since climbed with increased followers. So I've deleted it.

Of all my street photography, this was my first really successful post. At the time I posted it, two months ago, when I only had 300 followers, I received 70 likes. It has now grown to 85 likes. I don't think that this image is necessarily better than my other images. But it goes to show just how much having an audience influences response.

The new normal, past 500 followers. I was able to get 65 likes for this post - which is typical, these days. It has since reached 75 likes. I suspect as my following grows, my likes will also increase. This is not to say that what I am photographing is getting better. It just means that I have more people viewing my work and thus more chances to be liked.

I know it seems wrong, but is it wrong? To be honest, there is nothing wrong with seeking popularity. It's not superficial. If anything, it's how a photographer is differentiated in a world where photography has become commoditized from oversupply. It's how value is added. A photographer may not necessarily have to risk life and limb to be noticed, but it does mean that a photographer shouldn't ignore the relevance of growing one's own popularity. It's how a photographer's work product reaches an audience.

The people have spoken. This is the democratization of photography in the age of Instagram. As for the crisis of purpose - there's no crisis if one has an audience. As long as there is an audience, a photographer can share just about anything within reason, and thus find purpose along the way. It's when the photographer is without an audience that purpose becomes elusive.

If you like what I post on my website, please don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook. That's all I ask from my readers. It's how I know that you appreciate my effort. More importantly, It's the best way to get updates of new write-ups on my site. And I'll do my best to make it interesting.

The Leica SL - Low Light Dynamic Range - Part 1 Supplement

The Leica SL - Low Light Dynamic Range - Part 1 Supplement

Leica SL + Leica 24-90mm - Being a Tourist

Leica SL + Leica 24-90mm - Being a Tourist