most instagrammable – till death do us part

I love good photography. That’s why I hate Instagram.

mural of a guy taking an instagrammable picture with death
You’d be surprised on how many pictures death is present – even though not always visible.

It deteriorates the art of photography and makes the world a dangerous – and endangered – place. Till death do us part.

Picture Perfect

“Would you mind taking my picture?” – one of the few disadvantages when travelling solo was that I was depending 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.

having my picture taken in nuwara eliya
Being the only guest on a hotel terrace having coffee in the rain – I agreed to have my picture taken.

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?
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 on 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.
I know what the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower look like – and you and all of my friends do, too. There’s basically no reason taking 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.

Souvenirs’n’Memories?
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.

Picture Overdose

“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 they are not banned 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, 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 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.

people having their picture taken for instagram at Cristo Redentor Rio de Janeiro Brazil
Paying Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro a visit is much less contemplative than you’d expect.

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.

Renata Green in a typical pose for instagram on Lion Rock Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Guilty as charged: Sitting on the Lion Rock in Sigiriya, for once in my life I wanted a picture of my back.

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. 

Picturesque

“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 – where sometimes 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!”

Longtail Boats in Thailand
You don’t see it on my picture, but the beach behind me is packed to the brim with people – no wonder some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand were closed to the public.

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.

Guys sitting on the edge of Lion Rock Sigiriya Sri Lanka posing for instagram
There’s no mountain – and no price – high enough for an instagrammable pic. View from Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya.

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.

Tumbling Down

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.

Couple taking a picture for instagram in Galle Fort Sri Lanka
Hopefully, Saftie will save these two young people taking selfies in Galle on the island of Sri Lanka.

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.

Picture This

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.

Pinnable Pictures

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25 Replies to “most instagrammable – till death do us part”

  1. I often do not want pics of me. But hubby is like paparazzi. I delete most of them once I finally see them. And I too find it sad when people just snap pictures at an interesting places and really do not look at the place. Did they really “visit”? But we still do take a lot of photos when we travel. But then we are getting older. And our memory is not what it used to be! An interesting and thoughtful post.

    1. As a travel blogger, I do have to take faaar more pictures than I would as a 'private traveller' – this obligation comes with the job. Sometimes, after I've taken my pix, I discipline myself to forget about looking in angles but to just take the moment and scenery in.
      Pix of myself – I don't really need them, however, there are moments I want to 'store' so I ask people to take my picture….like after I walked up the 1200 stairs of the Lion Rock in Sri Lanka – but you should see me exhausted and sweaty and sooo not instagrammable 😀

  2. It is interesting how social media has changed travel. I think it is so sad how many people don`t see the places they are visiting because they are too busy getting the perfect shot. Also…common sense when taking selfies!?

    1. Exactly – often, it's not about the place or the moment but about the most instagrammable angle. I wonder whether this will pass….or become worse.

  3. I used to hate having my photo taken. I've got over it to some extent but I still don't take selfies. I prefer to concentrate on seeing rather than taking photos but then you need photos for the memories.

    1. Actually, you remember things better when you don't have the chance to take pictures or take notes 🙂 However, taking souvenir pictures of a special place or a wonderful moment is great! I just don't find it very clever to visit special places or create wonderful moments just to be able to take a picture; unless, of course, it's a professional shooting.
      Enjoy your memories – in whatever way you like <3

  4. I like having my family in photos of our travels. I don't feel bad that people are risking their life to take a selfie. I visited the Grand Canyon last week and two adult males died during that time (the day before we got there and day after). So crazy.

    1. I totally get that – that's why I emphasized that I'm mostly travelling by myself so that it would always be me in front of this or me next to that. I for instance like selfies where a large group of people is squeezed together celebrating that particular moment. This is fresh and fun and energetic instead of staged and 'candid'. Keep enjoying your family-time and -pix!

  5. I really enjoyed this article Renata. I really struggle with the notion of wanting to take pictures but also wanting to enjoy myself. I tend to like to walk around one day and get all of my pictures of a place (by myself) and then I can enjoy the rest of the time. I'm also guilty of a few cliche photos… but for the most part I can separate it. I definitely have learned to love being in photos more than I did when I was younger – less worried about the perfect aesthetic and more about remembering something.

    1. As a travel blogger, I have exactly the same issues. This concept of one picture-day and then just enjoying works well when you stay in a place for a couple of days. For instance on city trips it's hardly ever possible since I'm doing and visiting something different each day.
      And about your 'guilt': I published the picture of me spreading my arms on the top of the Lion Rock in Sigiriya on purpose – to show that #metoo….and yes, there is definitely nothing wrong with banning beautiful memories.

  6. I am such a bad instagrammer. I rarely take selfies or post pics of me. And I do still ask people to take my picture! I think I prefer to be in the moment instead of just taking photos.

    1. I sometimes do ask people, too, since I simply like to have a souvenir from a place or a special moment. But on these pics, I stand there beaming at the camera like a fool enjoying life to the max….instead of mysteriously walking away from the lens 😉

  7. I love photography, and I loved it long before Instagram or phone cameras, or even digital cameras, existed. I have been trying to up my game, by taking actual classes with actual teachers over the last year or so. I "see" the places I visit through my lens and then enjoy so much looking through my photos afterward. And I like Instagram as a way to share my photographs with others who are interested in seeing them so I don't have to annoy my friends and family. BUT I never take selfies, and I hate the weird Instagram culture where everyone lines up to take the exact same photo of the exact same place. I hate that certain places in the world have been destroyed by Instagrammers. I don't want to take the same photo as everyone else. I loathe all of those photos of the woman walking away while holding a man's hand who she is dragging behind her. That trend seems to have faded thank God. I hate all the posing with the hat and the cute dress in an identical pose. I hate all the over-filtered photos that all look alike. And that people die to get just the right photo is so tragic and sad. Every time I read about another person dying that way, I can't help but wonder what was going through their head as they fell.

    1. Well – I guess we are totally on the same page here!
      Taking pictures, capturing moments has always been wonderful. Even if someone takes a pic of his old poodle and uploads it on Instagram to share it with the world….why not?!
      But these staged, 'candid' shots that are posted for the sole purpose to gain views and likes….Warhol's 15 minutes…..

  8. I really really enjoyed this post. I share a lot of the same opinions, but as a travel blogger, I find it difficult to strike a balance between taking photos and just enjoying the moment. I don't want to be taking photos all the time, but I know my blog posts need them! I definitely agree with the idea of being in a photo… A photo of a beautiful landscape is going to look much nicer without me in it. The "candid" Instagram shots of people looking away from the camera drive me crazy!

    I wrote an article recently about animal selfies, and how people risk their lives to take photos with dangerous animals… I didn't realise just how many people are doing it on train tracks and mountains too.

    1. Same here – I cannot have a travel blog without pictures. And blogging is different from traditional journalism so we do have to be more personal and show our face from time to time….unless we follow Banksy's example 😉
      But as you say, it's a balance. I think I gain a different quality by blogging about my trips but I also lose some serenity…always thinking about if some view might be useful or necessary for my posts.
      The 'candid' shots are just incredible stupid. Once you are walking away from the camera, please keep on walking until you're not in the picture anymore 😀

  9. ROFL. Most people want photos of themselves to remember their trip. But as travel writers it’s better that we don’t include ourselves. Unless you’re big on Instagram where it’s all about you in some destination.

    1. I will never be big on instagram: I'm not vain enough and I don't think that the world revolts around me, myself, and I – and I'm afraid these are the most important assets to become big on instagram.
      I guess you can judge from my blog's profile picture/favicon how important it is to me to show my face at any chance given 😉

  10. This is one of the most interesting post I have read today. You are so true here. Honestly, initially when we started our instagram account we used to post Landscape pictures without us and then audiences commented, that they will prefer seeing us in these shots too. So thought of adding a bit of us for making our gram grow better. And for blogs we prefer pictures without us only.

    1. I know, I'm 'trapped' in this myself. I was posting all these nice pics and interesting links on facebook, then I published one pic of myself – from my day job, in very formal attire – and that one got the most views and likes….
      Anyway, to comply with the social media world, I sacrifice myself from time to time….

  11. Oh yes. I am a travel photographer and it is a shame that something like Instagram got so popular. I run my own Instagram, because for a blogger, it is a good opportunity to promote, plus I keep in touch with my close friends. But I have unfollowed or muted all the accounts, who I think don't create value. Even on Instagram there is some fantastic work…

    1. I would love Instagram if it was like an album or a database of good and inspiring photography – no matter whether professional or not. But it is an assembly of whatever with automated likes and comments – just mindless.
      I'm making these triptychs – so a wide pic cut in three pieces so that sometimes, on one of these individual pieces, there is basically nothing to see – for instance just a piece of dark grey sky. When someone – who probably is rather something…. – likes this one pic, it's clear that it wasn't liked for the shade of grey but just because it was triggered by one of my hashtags. Where's the sense in that?

  12. Very interesting perspectives on photo taking. I love taking photos and have been into photography since I was just a kid. But I do agree people over do it and don’t take in the moments. I find myself leaving my camera at times to really focus in and have no distractions. Other times I love having photos to look back on especially photos of my children. I seem to be forgetful on small details at times and I use photography as a kind of memory bank to look back and remember the specifics of things.

  13. Renata, I absolutely LOVED this post! I can so relate! I dont do selfish AT ALL. If you see a picture on my IG with me in it, it is because I’m with one of my kids. And I’m sure as heck not in a dress while hiking, travelling, or exploring!

  14. I’m actually one of those people who take photos from behind, purely because I don’t know what to do with my face to make it look different! I can’t believe there have been so many deaths of people taking photos. I think there’s a limit to how far people should go for the perfect photo.

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