The recent increase in available mobile technology has allowed the emergence of countless photography apps that have revolutionized the way we capture what is happening in the world around us. Social media, whether specifically created for photography or not, has enabled its users to easily ferry images back and forth between them. We once lived in a time that sharing photos was a tedious occurrence that involved trips to your local pharmacy to get photos processed and printed. Now, taking the picture and sharing it occur almost simultaneously.
While in theory this can be viewed as a technological leap forward, many argue that these recent advancements are actually detrimental to the state of photography. Take Instagram. On paper, it sounds ideal for bringing creative people together. In reality, the app hosts millions of photo-streams which largely consist of self-portraits – selfies – coated with a wide array of filters. The same type of criticism goes for Snapchat, the incredibly temporal photography app that caught fire earlier this year. But at the end of the day, have these new applications and social media sites truly degraded photography?
It can be annoying to think that majority of photos that one will see on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram will be of something trivial. That said, it’s too much of a generalization to think that these sites are inherently detrimental to photography.
The case that needs to be argued is that these newly established sites, apps and photosharing mediums do provide a unique opportunity for burgeoning photographers to practice their craft, and do succeed in becoming databases for beautiful work. One needs to find the diamonds in the rough. It isn’t intuitively easy to find users and images that satisfy what photography “used to be”, prior to the digital age. Currently, much modern photography is used simply to portray our lives and make them more accessible to the public. Naturally, this leads to an oversaturation of photographs as even the most inane daily occurrences are duly recorded. Most of Instagram is populated by teenagers that feed off social media as a life source – however, it is in fact possible to find users that have seized the opportunity to really share their talent. Almost indistinguishable within the bland mass of ‘look-at-me’ photography on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and so on are individuals that have managed to differentiate themselves.
My advice to those that believe that “real” photography has been cheapened by new social media and applications is twofold. Firstly, apps such as Instagram and Vine should be accepted as lifestyle apps. While they were seen to hold potential to be great ways to really promote creativity and photography, the likes of Flickr and Tumblr possess more opportunities to promote photography. Secondly, like with anything worth having, nothing comes easy. As mentioned earlier, the rise of digital photography has made it so that anyone can contribute. Consequently we’ve come to a time that finding true quality isn’t as easing as opening an app or entering something into a search bar. To find photography as art, and not simply an accompaniment, one must dig beneath the surface of photo-sharing applications. That said, the ease with which photography can be practiced means that those who truly want to become photographers must go to unbelievable creative lengths and continuously improve the quality and refresh the methodology. Good photography today is unlike anything the world has ever seen – without technological advancement and the competition created by photo-sharing apps, photography never would have come this far.