|'Phoneography' is Ruining Photography
By: Melody Weister
I’ve been noticing something disturbing in the world of social media over the past twelve months. Instead of the normal high-quality photos taken by either professional photographers, or just those with a passion for true photography, the photos being toted around the internet as “artsy” are all being taken with the same app: Instagram. Now, does this mean I don’t like Instagram and think it should never have been created? Absolutely not. For those who just want to snap pictures of their breakfast and share it with their friends every day, Instagram has given them the means. However, the word “phoneographer” and its current usage in articles treating photography using mobile phone applications as a legitimate craft is a disturbing trend.
I have a very dear friend who devotes herself to photography as a craft. She spends hours in darkrooms to attain a certain effect with film; her photos have the look and feel of a professional who has spent years honing their craft; she knows more about photography than I could ever hope to; and she’s 16 years old. What does she think about “phoneography” and the emerging Instagram-phoneographers? “Let’s just look at that term for a second there. Yeah. It’s stupid, isn’t it,” she wrote in response to the emergence of this trend.
Just for the sake of comparison:
This is one of her photographs; the jigsaw effect attained by placing actual puzzle pieces over the photo while it developed.
This is a picture of coffee that someone took with Instagram.
Here’s what I do understand about Instagram, before the flamers freak out on me for taking Instagram too seriously: I understand that it’s a fun, casual photo-sharing app. I understand that it’s a great way to connect with other people who take pictures casually and like the simplicity and ability to add filter to their own photos without having to spend hours learning how to operate a DSLR or an SLR camera. I understand all of those things.
Here’s what I don’t understand: Why people think it’s suddenly “artsy” to take a picture of a light post, a mailbox, their coffee, and random stuff they find lying around the house. The problem with this is that true photography as a craft takes hours. Even digital photography with a fine DSLR camera takes hours with proper post-processing. Photographers have spent years learning about the rule of thirds, how to take a professional photograph, and how to focus an image perfectly. They’ve learned the process of development, they know what a darkroom smells like, and they are truly devoted to taking some of the most interesting images in existence and capturing them on film. We’re losing our appreciation of photographers in favor of a love of people who snap a photo with their iPhone. Considering that photos on film are generally considered to be the equivalent of about 12–20 megapixels, even with the cheapest point-and-shoot you can find, the images you see shot with the iPhone’s five-megapixel camera can hardly hold weight as competition.
I’m not trying to say that Instagram should be eliminated entirely. I have family members who take professional photographs but also use Instagram as a casual sharing app. What I’m saying is, if you want to learn photography as an art form, don’t look to Instagram to learn it. I wouldn’t call myself a culinary artist because I know my way around a cookbook; don’t call yourself a serious photographer because you picked a filter on Instagram and took a picture of your socks.
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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