In the fast paced digital age where new social networking sites and phenomena emerge on a weekly basis, one app has transformed the concept of ‘capturing life through pictures’. Instagram, a play on the word ‘instant’ and ‘telegram’, was described by Forbes magazine as a company with no revenue, but with soul. It allows users to capture images on their iPhone and immediately share them with friends, but not before editing them with artistic vintage filters, to of course transform ‘images’ into ‘memories’.
But it is the emergence of Instagram users who describe themselves as photo journalists and visual storytellers that epitomises the application’s true success story.
Visual storyteller Sion Fullana (@sionfullana) captures haunting yet mesmerising images of individuals in the secluded alleyways and streets of New York City.
His series of images ‘Love in Uncertain Times’ captures the hope in protest, providing a unique glimpse into the ‘Occupied’ streets of Manhattan. His images require no words, but are nevertheless accompanied by telling stories of protesters who feel ‘we’re nothing but players pretending at a Big Game. And we dress up as one while using the tools of the other.’
He paints a picture unseen by tourists, using the ‘Inkwell’ filter to effectively capture and thus humanise the plight of the average city worker immersed in a book on the Subway. He colours the image of elderly couples against a black and white background to give meaning to the concept ‘love knows no age’. Using the tools of a free iPhone app, and a limited number of filters and blurring tools, Mr Fullana adds dimension to what are perceived to be common daily occurrences.
He is not alone. Though not as popular as Mr Fullana, Theodore Kaye (@_meanwhile) places new emphasis on the word photo journalism. His array of powerful images of the citizens of Tajikistan captures the inhumanity of humanity. His simple image of an old lady kneeling in front of a Mercedes Benz, exhausted by her work with head in hand powerfully captures a land of striking wealth disparity.
Not all images are distressing. The irony behind the image of Tajik shepherds resting on sand bags while one uses his phone’s GPS system to coordinate a search for a sheep missing from his flock represents the power of photography in its commentary on our world today.
Indeed these users remind us of the importance of Picasso’s statement that art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. The beauty of this app lies in its ability to add, new perspectives on objects and beings that are not immediately appreciated by the naked eye.
In an age of notifications and instant chat, Instagram has effectively equipped and inspired its users to search for the beauty in a sky littered with clouds, and to capture the joy of a young child devouring ice cream on a sweltering summer’s day.