Get on Instagram and it won’t take you very long to find pictures of someone’s food or pictures of their feet in an airport. Apparently, at some point in time it became the cool thing to do to take a picture of the steak you’re about to scarf down, add a monochromatic filter to it and post it for the world to see. In short, Instagram has become famous for being the photography app for the food loving hipster. But, I want to think that there is more potential for it than that. I think that it can be a great tool for photographers to instantly upload photographs of breaking news situations. Take for example “Time” magazine’s decision to use Instagram to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
The five photojournalists picked by “Time” to document the hurricane were all prolific users of Instagram before the assignment. The reason that that is important to note is because it shows that any publication that is going to seriously look into using Instagram for gathering art for publication is not going to simply pick a person because they are a decent photographer. They are going to go with someone who is familiar with using Instagram. In essence, they are searching for an entirely new type of photojournalist. The iphotojournalist.
Part of Instagram’s appeal is that it provides photographs for readers almost immediately. The quality may not be as good as shots taken with a DSLR, and it is nearly impossible to get a decent action photo with the app (from my own experience), Instagram allows a news organization to put a photograph up for readers at almost the same pace as the photographer can shoot.
That was the last Hurricane Sandy related link, I promise, you get the point. Instagram can cover breaking news affectively. But, this is not the only use for the filter happy app. Lately, there has been a rise in photographers using cell phone cameras to shoot their subjects, in an attempt to blend in more and therefore capture the subjects in a more relaxed and candid way. Where a large DSLR like a Nikon D4 or a Canon 1Dx might stick out with it’s bulk and lenses, almost everyone has a cell phone. They’ve become so regular that hardly anyone notices a person waving one around. Award winning “Chicago Tribune” photographer Scott Strazzante is nationally known among photographers for his blog “Shooting From the Hip”. Strazzante has nine times been named the Illinois Photographer of the year and has worked with the multimedia pioneer MediaStorm. The dude knows his photography. The interesting thing is that the majority of the stuff showing up on his blog now is taken with his iPhone, with the help of Instagram.
However, Strazzante was not the first big time photographer to make noise in the journalism world by using a cell phone. Photographer Benjamin Lowy, one of the five photographers hired by “Time” to document Hurricane Sandy, has been covering wars in Iraq and Libya with a cellphone since 2010. Granted, he was using Hipstamatic and not Instagram, but the point remains the same. Pictures from a cell phone have won Lowy the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Photojournalism.
Put simply, photojournalists soon going to be left with a choice. Either learn to use their cell phones as well as their DSLR or, find a different profession. Besides the copy desk, photographers are one of the first people sent packing when a newspaper runs into hard times. Unfortunately for us, it’s simply too easy to get a usable photo for a news piece nowadays. A reporter with an iPhone 4 or Droid Razr can record their interview, shoot 30 seconds of video and post 3 pictures to the paper’s Twitter account in less time than it takes for a professional photographer to shoot his pictures, edit and drop them. As a photographer myself I can’t help but hate this. But, it’s the reality of the situation. At least the photos don’t look too bad.