An Ode to Instagram
A realisation: Instagram filters are the new rose coloured glasses.
Just like the metaphorical spectacles of old, the app offers a different way of looking at the world – the bright side in fact.
Moreover, like the pink hued proverb, Instagram cops a lot of criticism for creating a romanticized worldview. My question is, why do we problematise this?
Adding a little fantasy to our perspective could actually be key to creating authentic experiences.
We tend to associate sepia tones with nostalgia. Over exposed and light leaked photographs are reminiscent of the kaleidoscopic properties of memory – oscillating between moments and images in a blink.
In our childhood we saw through the same eyes as we do now. With hindsight, our mind’s eye distorts the scale, saturates the colours, blurs some things and enhances others.
Instagram mirrors the visual quality of memory. Therein lies the danger.
We humans have a habit of living in the past tense – we try to preserve our memories even as we live them. Nowhere is this more evident than life on the road. Every monument you see is backlit by flickering attempts to souvenir the moment with flash photography. Like alchemists we try to make our memories into something solid that we can share.
This is the inherent problem of travel photography: how do we capture the moment without living outside of it? I guess you could say that apps like Instagram blur the lines between documenting and living.
This can be tragic. It can also be life affirming. If we are always looking to document the beauty of the moment, is it less likely that we will let that moment pass us by?
Last week I was in the passenger seat, hurtling down the highway at 110 kilometers an hour. Out the window I watched the Swedish countryside pass in a blur of red houses, cumulus clouds and forest. Then – for a few seconds – a sunflower field.
I am embarrassed to admit that in those few seconds I thought that would make a good photo.
And it did.
We stopped the car, ran back, took some photos. Then I put the camera down, looked around me and thought wow. Yes, it is kind of sad that it was the urge to photograph that stopped me – but this instinct led to a moment of clarity where I saw the beauty of my situation. For that I thank Instagram.
That’s not always the case. Last night I was lying in bed when it started to rain. I looked across at my boyfriend just as he voiced my thoughts: Do you want to go dance in the rain?
Standing in the doorway it crossed my mind that light cast from the street lamp – gathered in puddles and refracted in rain – would be impossible to capture in a photo. It was all wrong.
Released from the pressure to preserve the moment, I ran outside and was absolutely drenched by it.