Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Visual Aesthetic We Deserve?

Lygon Street

The purchase of Instagram by Facebook the other week interested me, if only because I have been noodling around with the service myself in recent weeks. This fits my long-standing pattern of being just enough of an early adopter to leap on board something at the exact moment it becomes pass√©. At one level I can understand the incredulity about the price (a billion dollars is a lot to pay for a service thats only revenue plan seems to be “get purchased by facebook”) and about the merits of Instagram itself (Jon Stewart epitomised a widespread perspective when he described it as a “thing that kind of ruins your picture.”)

While its value to Facebook may seem dubious, I can see the merit of Instagram itself from a user’s perspective. It is true that at one level those filters are, at worst, ruining your picture as Jon Stewart says and, at best, just adding a cheap veneer of artiness. No doubt people will sneer at the Instagram aesthetic, driven as it is by gimmicks like the graininess, ersatz tilt shift, and old-timey colour filters in the image at the head of this article. Yet while the Instagram effects are in a sense cheap tricks, they are also doing something real, which is stripping the naturalism from the photo and making us see it with fresh eyes. I like that something so popular is making people look differently at their images, and stirring the realisation that even that naturalistic look from a good camera is not a neutral aesthetic choice.

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Posted in Miscellany, Photography, Urban Planning | 2 Comments