Using Instagram/Hipstamatic trivializes the message when used in a photojournalistic context

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We all know that all photography is fiction: as a photographer you make choices, which influence the photograph enough for it to be more of a fiction than a fact. That’s photography for you. That’s just the way it is. But the photojournalist’s task, no actually the photojournalist’s duty is to minimize the amount of fiction that enters her/his photography. We are quite aware of the problem in the news context – this is, after all, the context where the problems with image manipulation come up regularly – so we expect photographs in this context to be as truthful as they can be. The problem with Instagram/Hipstamatic in this particular context is it adds a huge amount of fiction to photography, simply by its aesthetic.

via Conscientious Extended | One size does not fit all: Context matters greatly.

There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. “The problem with Instagram/Hipstamatic in this particular context is it adds a huge amount of fiction to photography, simply by its aesthetic.”

    And how is black and white film any different? It’s also an aesthetic, not reality. Should aesthetic be taken out of photojournalism completely?

    • Wide angle lenses might have to go, too. They create a pretty severe aesthetic that distorts reality that detracts for the story. Probably only a 50mm should be allowed.

  2. Great read… I believe people simply don’t understand that true “photojournalism” means “just the image” & no candy/filters. I’m not making excuses for people who dont research its just what I have noticed.

  3. Ben Lowy

    Too much talk of Instagram/Hipstamatic, etc. Joerg has no shortage of opinions. In many ways, whether you agree or disagree with him, he does a lot of troll feeding.

  4. Mike Collins

    It’s all aesthetic from composition to lens selection to the way the image is processed. I don’t think using Hipstamatic or Instagram is any more or any less wrong or right than any of the other myriad choices made in crafting a shot when it comes to photojournalism.

  5. Conscientious often raises interesting points, but I have to call BS on this. At least until the writer tells me what specific photojournalism projects he finds objectionable and why. (Click through and you won’t find any particulars, just generalizations.)

    Questions about reality and fiction in photojournalism aren’t new, so I also want to hear how these images (whatever images he’s talking about — who knows?) stray farther from reality than, say, W. Eugene Smith’s or Gilles Peress’ or Paolo Pellegrin’s. Like many other great photojournalists, past and present, they produced important work doesn’t make minimizing fiction a first priority.

    It would be good to see some context in this discussion.

  6. This assumes that the aesthetic has to be manipulated to a large degree. Would it matter, still, if there were no filter applied image?

  7. When we developed and printed film, it was no different than Instagram. We pushed film to give it more grain. We printed on toned paper to add or subtract contrast. We dodged and burned for more effect. We also shot on Kodachrome to give us a different look than Fujichrome or Ektachrome. And, as others have mentioned, today’s processing programs allow us to enhance an image in many of the same ways as Instagram. This is just a continuation of the evolution.

    Instagram doesn’t allow me to add any content to the image, it just allows me to enhance the content that’s already there. No real difference from the days of old.

  8. I meant, ‘graded,’ paper. It’s been so long since I’ve made a print that I’m forgetting the terminology.

  9. c.d.embrey

    How is InstaHip any different than putting a red filter on you lens while shooting B&W film ?

  10. What really upsets me are these so-called ‘photographers’ who use these little cameras that were made to use 35mm motion picture film stock. They are just toys and will never replace view cameras and Speed-Graphics!

  11. Aesthetic aside, Instagram and similar programs are extremely useful for quickly lightening up the shadows. Could be very useful in a situation where all you have is your cell and you can’t retake the shot – and want to get it out to the net asap.

  12. scott Rex Ely

    There is a component of the context argument that I find compelling. However I don’t think that we are, as viewers, rarely given only one single image to help tell a story, especially about news events of a major magnitude. There are usually several images available for review from multiple sources, by professional and citizen journalists alike, so the idea that one image happens to be aesthetically compromising to the sincerity or seriousness of the event to a degree of unacceptable distortion of the truth seems a little reaching.
    Fiction frosted images admissible as evidence in a court room, maybe not.
    Fiction frosted images as potential news documentation are probably going to flavor the truth imperceptibly for your average viewer.

  13. Oh my… so much handwringing and gatekeeping goin’ on here.

    I wonder why so many are so committed to making ‘rules’ that in all practical purposes seem adhoc and without any good reason.

    Not sure why black and white is any less ‘real’ than a hipstogram image. Not sure why the stuff we did in the darkroom is so much more ‘majestic’ than the hipstogram filtered image.

    So many “old guard” protecting their turf. And it is becoming more and more transparent.

    sigh

    • I totally agree – and often I get the sense that the ‘old guard’ really aren’t ‘old guard’ – just wannabe ‘old guard.’

  14. I think talk of darkrooms and film misses the point. That was another era. Now anything is possible. So, with regard to photojournalism or news photography, what should the goal be when you work on the image? Protecting the veracity or pushing the likability?

  15. I find that there is a lot of idealistic talk going on, much of which doesn’t reflect reality. I agree that the point of photojournalism should aim to be as accurate as possible, but the fact that it’s a photograph doesn’t allow it. By framing, choosing settings, and making an image, there must necessarily exist subjectivity.

    Manipulation, as many have already pointed out, is nothing new. I think Joerg is missing the mark a bit.

    “Using the apps in a different context makes people react to them in just the way they know so well already. Since in the dominant context, people’s social lives, InstaHip photographs are usually not seen as particularly relevant, once you use InstaHip as a photojournalist you’re applying that same kind of thinking to your images. You’re trivializing your message. ”

    By this logic, the proliferation of film cameras would have accomplished the same trvialization he speaks of. People made “banal” and “trivial” photographs with film since cameras were mass produced. What technologies like Instagram have done, in fact, is brought the issue of volume to the forefront. The fact that there is more photography than ever before is clear. The real question is what this means for producers and consumers of imagery, be it photojournalistic or otherwise.

  16. I think the action or manipulation of a photograph once it has been made (Composed, settings chosen, and shutter release pressed) for journalistic purposes should be limited. It is the ethic of the individual making the photograph to remain balanced, impartial, as possible to bring as much truth to the story as they are capable. Consider the parallels between Ansel and Eddie Adams, yet there are great differences in how they see truth yet both created compelling work.

    I would say when I use a specific film/ ISO settings/ white balance…; I have very specific goals, I am sure that that any given action has set specific goals and it happens that Instagram has become very popular, just as the Polaroid was popular. I think technology has made it affordable for everyone to create. A thought came to mind, what we see on the web when it comes to photography is the idea that “America’s Got Talent”…

  17. Oliviee laude

    Stunningly narrow minded. Why even waste a second even bothering to deny thoses apps’ rightful place in the pantheon of photography’s miriad tools, photojournalism included…as a tool to record news, the iPhone and it’s apps are so innocuous and ubiquitous that it actually helps journalists capture it far more transparently. But, wait, I’ll look up what photojournalism really is supposed to be, which is if I remember correctly is “concerned”, self anointed scions of secular humanism….and peace in the middle east while you’re at it..!