Vogue has given credence to Instagram as a legitimate means of image-making with the magazine’s first Instagram Photo Shoot, shot entirely on an iPhone.
Like its social media forefathers Facebook and Twitter, Instagram has morphed into an increasingly powerful self-contained brand, inspiring its own colloquial language (“#NoFilter“) and even a concept reality TV show based on a sample of its population. The pervasive presence and growing influence of Instagram is undeniable, and now with validation from the Anna Wintour commandeered style bible, it might be on the verge of transcending street style photography (e.g. The Sartorialist for Coach and DKNY, Tommy Ton for Lane Crawford) as the fashion photography trend du jour.
The Instagram app has cemented a position as one of the most popular content-sharing platforms available at the moment, reaching an exhilarating 150 million users in September this year, however, selfies and #cleaneating aside, the app has visibly made its mark in the fashion world as a valuable tool; in the introduction for its spread, Vogue explains: “Look no further than the front row at any New York Fashion Week show, where the glow of handheld devices practically lines the aisles, and it’s clear just how much Instagram has taken over our lives.”
I guess this is the question: Is there artistry to Instagramming?
For Pedestrian’s inaugural Photography Awards we unanimously agreed to include a ‘Mobile’ category to acknowledge the image-making capabilities of mobile apps like Instagram, and some of the submitted shots within that category were, frankly, fantastic and showed off work by people with talent for framing and capturing a moment. Around the time of the first Photography Awards I interviewed Andrew Johnstone, the editor of annual photography compendium Take Magazine, who weighed in on the camera-phone phenomenon and the increasing democratisation of photography, and whether or not these are good or bad for the art form.
Andrew said, “I’m kind of on the fence on this question really. I think that it’s great that everyone can easily feel the joy of taking a photo, it’s such a great feeling and is a lot of fun. But I also think that the world is now swamped with a lot of really bad photos that, for some reason, people think are great. Whenever i see these types of photos i really want to direct these people to some real (for want of a better term) photographers portfolios. There is such a huge difference between a happy snap with a filter over it (a la Instagram) and a shot by a talented professional.”
When asked if he thought it was actually possible to take a great photo without the expensive lenses and equipment of a professional he referred to a photographer’s blog post he had read that said something along the lines of my camera has never walked outside by itself and shot a great photo. “There’s no doubt that pro lenses and cameras can capture things better than a dodgy point-and-shoot or iPhone,” Andrew said. “But ultimately it’s the person who shoots and what they are shooting that makes a great shot.”
For its maiden venture into Instagram editorial Vogue left nothing to chance, enlisting art director and photographer Michael O’Neal to shoot the three “fashion stories” peopled by top models Xiao Wen Ju, Arlenis Sosa and Hilary Rhoda. But, like the models featured in these pictures, does the Instagram Fashion Shoot have legs – or is it just another Emperor’s New Clothes-type fashion fad destined to fade out before the 2014 Spring Couture season? DM me if you know the answer.
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