Yes, this is a rant on how Instagram deteriorates the art of photography to death. But it also makes the world a dangerous – and endangered – place.
I love good photography. That’s why I hate Instagram.
“Would you mind taking my picture?” – one of the few disadvantages when travelling solo was that I was dependent on the kindness of strangers. However, I have two pictures of myself from a three-week trip to the island of Bali. Just an example.
I could have many more: Often when people see me taking pictures of an attraction they ask if I want a picture of me with it. I practically always decline.
Why should I have a picture of a beautiful building with me standing in front of it?
Will the building become prettier with me as a prop?
Will it not be there if I don’t point at it?
Or do I need a picture that proves that I was actually standing in front of this building?
Honestly, I see no reason why I need to be in a picture of a tourist attraction.
Images – Stored in My Heart
As a matter of fact, before I became a blogger, I travelled without a camera. New York? Not one picture. Paris? No pix. London, Berlin…left me pictureless.
I travelled by myself.
I don’t need a picture of me to know what I look like; I have mirrors.
Also, I know what the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower looks like – and you and all of my friends do, too. There’s basically no reason to take pictures of these iconic buildings.
And in case I forget what they are like, there are trizillions of professional photographers who already took pictures of them – mostly from a far more interesting angle, so I’m good.
I carried them in my brain. In my heart. In my soul.
They’ve been there for decades now – beautiful and safe.
However, since many others do not share my oblivion to amateur photography, in 2010, God gave us Instagram. Since then, 800 million Instagrammers worldwide are uploading 95 million photos and videos every day.
What can I say, I’m one of them: Two years ago, I started this blog and since people who know better than me told me to, I halfheartedly got me an Instagram-account.
“Would you mind taking my picture?” – with the invention of phone cameras and eventually the notorious selfie sticks, this question becomes obsolete.
Today, photography is available everywhere.
You don’t even have to take your time to wait for the best moment or look for the most interesting angle. You just shoot away – hoping for a chance hit.
It’s like people and places do not exist as long as you don’t ban them on a storage chip.
Unfortunately, this independence – and the bottomless availability of photography anytime and everywhere is leading to some pretty much mindless shooting.
I find it pretty strange – a bit ridiculous, a bit sad – when someone rushes into an art gallery, and doesn’t even properly look around. All I hear is click-click-click. And then he’s gone.
What will this visitor possibly do with these pictures of random paintings?
Does he have friends who want to see them?
What does he tell them? “Look, paintings!”?
Does he look at them himself?
If so, why doesn’t he look at them while at the gallery?
Questions upon questions.
Fatally, the pictures’ quality did not increase according to the quantity. No problem, there are fancy programs to ‘edit’ pictures – and if you’re in a rush, you just slap a filter on it and you’re practically Steve Mc Curry 2.0.
Life in Crazy Colors
Since the invention of filters, I hardly ever see skies in sky blue or meadows in grass green. The colors are tuned as if the planet is constantly suffering from nuclear accidents. They are virtually glowing. As I look out of my window, the natural colors look like they were washed out.
So obviously there is not enough beauty in nature. Not only do skies, meadows, and oceans have to be pimped. Mainly human features need to be optimized. Ladies aren’t carrying raincoats, sun protection, and a bottle of water with them when going on a tour, no, now they are bringing floral dresses and strappy sandals. And then they walk on the city walls of Dubrovnik and the boyfriend takes these totally natural oh-I-had-no-idea-someone’s-photographing pictures; mostly from behind to emphasize the oh-I-had-no-idea-someone’s-photographing appearance.
I wouldn’t even mention it if I had seen it once. Or twice. But I cannot even count how many walking women I’ve seen from behind.
800 million Instagrammers and yet such little variety of poses. However, something really original, creative, and artistic came from the motive-monotony as an anonymous artist and filmmaker from Alaska started to group these almost identical pictures: Check out her account insta_repeat…and then maybe use a little imagination.
After I had halfheartedly uploaded a couple of pictures to my Instagram account, I realized that I didn’t have what it takes, namely a signature visual language. Then I came up with these lengthy stripes – triptychs made of one panoramic picture cut in three pieces – bada bing: Unique feature.
“Would you mind taking my picture?” – there are these places that are incredibly beautiful – so we do want credentials. #metoo
Proof that these places exist! That we’ve been there! That we exist?!
Problem is that we destroy what we love. There is an entire list of once-hidden gems that were published on Instagram so that today people are standing in line to get an epic shot. One of the most famous of these sold-out spots is probably Trolltunga in Norway. Up there, dozens of travellers are standing in line to sit for a minute on this impressive rock, pretending to enjoy their solitude amidst wild nature. Until they are woken from their dream: “Move it, we don’t have all day!”
In some regions, travel guides urge visitors to turn off the geotagging – and, actually, there are more than 1,000 posts uploaded with the hashtag #nogeotag.
Isn’t it more exciting, anyway, to discover the world by yourself, finding hidden gems by incident instead of searching for them on Instagram just like in a catalog – and eventually standing in line with a fraction of the other 800 million Instagrammers?
Let’s protect this planet’s beauty – in every sense.
The Big Picture
“Would you mind taking my picture?” – come as you are, say cheese, and wave merrily to the camera was yesterday. Today it’s “Bring a change of clothes, bring props, walk away from the camera….but watch it, don’t walk too far!”
According to a study from 2018, between October 2011 and November 2017, around the world, there were 259 selfie fatalities – most of them in India. People are falling from the mountains of Machu Picchu in Peru as well as World’s End in Sri Lanka. They risk their lives for the one shot.
I just came back from Sri Lanka, the country with the most scenic train ride where people are holding on to windows and doors while taking pictures of each other and themselves.
In 2018, there were 450 deaths on Sri Lanka’s rail routes.
There are no reliable statistics on how many were caused by selfies. Obviously, it can be only a fraction. However, an official selfie ban was passed, but still has to be implemented.
Meanwhile, there even exists an App called Saftie – kind of a baby-phone for the selfie-shooters: It names 7,000 places around the world where selfie-taking is dangerous. It even warns the photographer when standing close to a precipice or water.
It’s irritating that people – adults! – have to be protected from their own vanity.
Talking ’bout vanity: Last year, Thierry Frémaux, director of the Cannes film festival, had banned red carpet-selfies.
Frémaux, famous for strong statements, claims that selfies not only cause delays but are ridiculous and grotesque.
Je suis tout à fait d’accord.
We are all entitled to a personal opinion and this post tells you mine.
However, I’m very curious about your experience with selfie-shooters and picture overdose and would love to read your comment in the section below.
While I strongly dislike this mindless snapping, I totally understand that also solo travellers want this one picture of themselves in this iconic place. Therefore, you’ll find the best ways of how take self portraits in my post Solo Travel: Pictures of Yourself – More Than Just Selfies
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Note: This post is being regularly completed, edited, and updated – last in June 2023.
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