A fair few years ago, a new type of game appeared on the market. Cleverly disguising what was essentually a marginally more complex variation of ‘Simple Simon’ as a way of pretending you were playing Guitar, it allowed non-musicians to pick up an ‘instrument’ and live our their rock n’ roll fantasies for a few minutes.
No longer did they have to spend months trying to build muscle memory in order to form finger contortioning shapes, nor did they have to go through the pain of building up calluses to succesfully press down cheesewire strings without peeling off layers of skin in an instant. They could just plug in their console, boot up the game and wait for the applause.
A large proportion of the people who had spent hours each day suddenly became infuriated. Who were these people, stealing their glory without any of the work?
As it turned out, the people playing Guitar Hero continued playing Guitar Hero. Some of them got the taste of being an axe-weilding rock star and – shock horror – started learning the real thing. The others, who didn’t really want to be guitarists, who wanted to spend a few hours being Jimmy Page rather than Dave the Sales Manager, carried on playing Simple Simon and having fun with it.
Now, a similar argument has come up about Instagram, a popular photo-manipulation / sharing app that, according to one Guardian journalist, is ‘debasing real photography‘.
The suggestion that Instagram is somehow debasing ‘real’ photography is fundamentally missing the point of Instagram. It only takes a little thought about why Facebook would spend a large amount of money buying one of the myriad lo-fi photo apps around to understand the reasoning here. Facebook aren’t that interested by the photos, or the filters, the tilt-shift algorithm that let’s you turn your train commute into a scene from Thomas the Tank Engine. Facebook is interested in the community around Facebook, where 58 photos per second are uploaded and shared, giving people an insight into the perspective of each user.
The features that are derided so heartily in the Guardians article are the way of making the app fun, of allowing non-photo types to feel that they’re making something interesting looking. I can understand that yes, this sometimes creates a similar affect on numerous photos, but the heady application of Photoshop (which, according to the article comments, is seemingly fine to use to apply filters. Not Instagram, because you can do it in one click. Photoshop is expensive and wieldy, so it’s obviously better to apply the same filter with).
DSLR photographers will continue to lug around their heavy cameras and will continue to hone their craft and (at least some of them) will undoubtedly create beautiful, unique, interesting photos. In the meantime, people who want to quickly snap things that interest them and share them without any user friction can, and will.