Much has been made in the media of the purchase of Instagram and Lightbox by Facebook. Both applications allow people to apply a range of pre set filters to their photographs, adding contrast, grain, saturation, de-saturation, borders and more. The photos can be shared easily through various social networks. (Or rather, in the case of Lightbox, they could be shared, past tense. After they purchased Lightbox, Facebook promptly shut the service down and released Instagram for Android.)
A couple of weekends ago I was walking around Southampton, conducting a recce ahead of a wedding I was photographing last weekend. Part of Mayflower Park was fenced off and a strange figure made out of shipping containers had been erected inside. The photograph above would have been significantly less interesting without the filter applied. The camera built into my Android phone is pretty rubbish, but that shows up less on a photograph that’s been run through a filter or two. The composition is OK but the contrast and vignetting applied to the image give it an additional mysterious air. Someone on Twitter mentioned that it looked like the end of The Wicker Man. The fence in the foreground becomes forbidding rather than an irritating distraction.
Similarly, a friend recently experimented by making a ordinary photo of pasta become interesting through the magic of instagram.
I can’t quite work out what it is that means a photo treated with one of these applications seems to have more merit than the untreated image. I wonder whether by taking the extra time to apply a filter to the photograph, the photographer is somehow saying that yes, they meant the image to look that way. Acknowledging that the photograph might not be perfect, but that it has a significance beyond its flaws. Or do the filters really allow the photographer to convey their feelings about the scene to the viewer? In choosing an appropriate filter, one imbues the photograph with characteristics that the viewer can easily interpret.
What do you think? Do instagram photographs somehow have more photographic merit, more artistic integrity than the untreated versions of the same photographs? Or is it just a way to hide the shortcomings of most smartphone cameras?Pin It