Who said there was no money to be made in photography ? Sure you could snap the first pictures of Angelina Jolie’s baby: $2 million. Or you could be the collector who recently sold a Gursky print for $5 million. But better yet, could you be the person who just sold his photography based company for 1 billion dollars . ?Instagram just did and showed to the world that there is no limit to what photography can earn. ?Let’s step back a few years. In 2010, cell phones are already a hot commodity and very well established. All come fitted with low resolution cameras that people just love to use. Problem is, the images look crappy and there are no easy way to get them off the phone and shown. ?Come in two guys from the west coast of america. First they set up a very simple process that allows you to very easily add filters to your images. Inspired by the Holga and Lomography cameras, they create a set of 10 fashionable looks that anyone can add to any iphone photograph. On top of that, they make it extremely easy to post those images online and share them on your Facebook, twitter or any social media network you might have. A simple one, two, three. Snap it, filter it, show it. The interface is so easy, anyone can learn to use it in seconds. They put all that into a free iphone app and let history do the rest. The iphone flies off the shelves and so does Instagram.
As the adoption of iphones and social media exploded, so did Instagram. As the saying goes, if you make people look good, they will love you. Instagram does just that. It takes any boring image and turns it into a captivating image. ?The filters are all artsy, offering blurs and leaks at just the right places of your frame. ?At a time were photography pioneer Kodak is struggling to remain afloat, it is significant that a two year old, six people company who has never made a penny, is now one , if not the hottest company in the world. ?Photography evolves by leaps . From the massive camera to the instamatic, it was sudden. From the manual metering to the automatic, it was also sudden. From the manual focus to autofocus, it just took a few years and from film to digital, well, that was also brutal. While the technology on how we take pictures has violently evolved, how we distribute it took a while to follow. We relied on print to show and share until very recently. Even digital files were, until recently, shared on paper. However powerful and nimble our cameras had performed, however antiquated our means to communicate them. Until social media. ?Being able to shoot and share, immediately, that is the real power that Instagram brought to the table. Others, like Facebook or Twitter only allow you to share. Not shoot. To top it all, Instagram makes your images interesting. All in the same breath.
What does this means for the future of photography ? well, for one, it’s certainly confirms that we are addicted to it. Not just at looking at the images of the masters but to participating in its creation. We are slaves to the shutter, even if, that too, is poised to disappear. ?We have also have entered the area of the disposable image. Shoot, beautify, share and forget. Repeat. Hundreds, thousands, millions of time. Because it is so simple and easy, we can photograph leisurely, for free, with no worries whatsoever. Its the era of the instantaneous image, not only because it is easy to take but also because it is easy to share. It’s the fast food of photography. Fast, cheap, appealing, and easily forgotten.
There is no saying where photography will take us next. With Instagram’s such high acquisition value, we will see thousands of entrepreneur worldwide launching new products, apps, platforms mixing photography with our insatiable need to produced them and consume them . We will see more cameras everywhere, in our fridges, cars, watches, glasses, etc allowing photography to become even more ubiquitous than it currently is.
The danger here is that like fast food, we might end up with a painful indigestion.
This article was originally published in La Lettre de La photographie
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