Living the lives of others, or, How I fell in Love with Instagram

You won’t find any nudity there, but yet — I have become obsessed with Instagram as a medium for snippets of this life. The “no nudity” policy, this is good and bad. Bad, because I love nudity– and good because it makes us get around the no nudity policy in creative ways– it seems to make us show a different aspect to living– a visual documentation of ones life. A life, many of us apparently have an innate need to share with others. It provides instant gratification and comes to feel technologically natural. In my Instagram world, the ones I really follow give me more, they fill me with that feeling of wanting to know a different life than my own– visually. I track different people in different places– from the South, the East Coast, Las Vegas, Paris and, of course, my own San Francisco. These users create a geographical visual representation of art, life, current events, even life and death.

Plus there is plethora of partially clad- tattooed, cinchered/corset, stocking and garter belt wearing women– with wild exhibitionist streaks running through them.

Instagram has an immediacy and intimacy that allows the user a peek into a life not their own. The blog/photoblog/re-blog has many mutated phenomenon’s, but this one is deeply intriguing to me. Unlike TUMBLR that is overwrought with misappropriation, there is a uniqueness that sets it apart. I can really see what is in ones “camera for brain” mind, albeit the photos can be instantly “enhanced”, but the essence is still there.

When one blogs, or re-blog– which is more the case– the essence of the creation is filtered, washed away– the creator often getting lost. With Instagram, used the way the app is intended, you cannot wash away the creator– the feed is live, it lives and we as users can live vicariously through these visual representations of others. Though, this will probably all change as more apps are designed to work with Instagram and as all good things will become sullied, but until then I love you Instagram.

As with every social site, I control pretty closely who I choose to follow. I have a set group of people I follow everywhere– most of them San Franciscans– and there are those in the industries in which I deal– sex, art and libraries. In Instagram I follow my usual suspects, but have pleasantly expanded from that set, getting to see different sides of the world. It’s intimate, it’s real– the aura of intent remains and it is relatively pure, despite the ability to magically edit your image, it maintains that “in the now” realism.

For me, I feel as though I have always been one of those people who see things in a different way– in sort of fragments that make the whole. Our mechanical eye has become a technological eye in which we frame and compose snippets of the lives we long to share. We are virtually bridging cultures. It is said that with the inception of reproduction we lose the aura of the original (Benjamin). With Instagram we see art meeting technological industry, on an extremely intimate level that I’ve rarely seen before.

Curtis Joe Walker explains that there is an “incidental nature” to the photos one captures. To me this is one aspect that also creates an intimacy between users, we connect with commonality, the incidentals of living– a meal, a cloud formation, our children. Walker describes these connections as having a “visual conversation” with people all over the world. Collin J. Rae who photographs much of his work using the iPhone, also sees it as connection to people. The images these artists choose to share are in real time, intimate, and immediate by design– connecting user visually, it’s modern day storytelling, told with images.

Lastly, I am going to be watching closely how those in my industry utilize Instagram. Unfortunately, in the library world there is fear of change and bullshit bureaucracy to such social sites (don’t get me started), but art museums seem to recognize the value of the sort of connection that can be made utilizing social medias. The Brooklyn Museum is fantastic at manging their social sites and have embraced the immediacy of Instatgram. The curators at the Brooklyn Museum have been CT scanning mummified animals–birds, cats, reptiles– the unknown and through Instagram the museum has been showing us glimpses into this unknown as they too discover it.

Why I love my Instagram community…

1) We are a community day dreaming cloud watchers

2) We eat good fucking food

3) We drink good booze

4) We often feel pants are unnecessary

5) We have a need to share our lives

6) We visually love our family and friends












Brooklyn Museum: Fatmi's piece "Maximum Sensation" is made of 50 custom made skateboards
Image by Paul Fetish
image by Collin J. Ra
fragments of a very bad day

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I have found myself posting more and more to in my idle moments. It is strangely addictive!

    1. Aware: It is! I feel like a voyeur of people idle moments– It brings a different connection than other photosharing sites. you can find me there at lbryvxn

  2. Roger L says:

    Thanks, DL. Your exploration of the instagram world elevates it from an iphone tech-fad to something like an art aesthetic or even, a social movement.

    It’s one thing to take a picture; but to share it among an appropriate and appreciative community can be a political act.

    Cheers, Rogerl

    1. Hi Roger! I do think it is really more than a fad, iPhone photography is so common place, well really all digi photo technology, it has changed the concept of photography and the way we see, the still image of an instant moment that was once preserved through a chemical process on paper is a fragile memory. Now we can create and delete at nearly the same moment– Instagram lets us see these moments that could other wise be deleted, or just never seen.

  3. Roger L says:

    “we can create and delete at nearly the same moment.” Powerful idea. Moving back to the “consumer” movement of photography that Kodak made their millions (billions?) on in the ’10s and ’20s, people have always wanted to capture their lives around them.

    I love how easy it is to share these moments now, instead of them ending up in a shoebox under the bed. This “social” engagement not only changes what we capture, but what we share and indeed how we document and construct our identities.

    I’m thrilled to hear that Instagram is finally ending up on the Android too. The world just got smaller/larger.


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