Filters Optional

Photography has struggled to be considered a form of art since its inception. Technological advances have led to more accessible tools with enhanced capabilities for the everyman. It has evolved from being complicated and time-consuming to becoming an easy and popular medium consumed and, more importantly, created by many, many people. This existential argument of the validity of photography as an art form persists to this day and is most recently manifested in the numerous rantings of individuals over the validity and usefulness of the mobile app Instagram.

Instagram, for the uninitiated, is an application for your smart phone that allows you to take pictures, apply an optional filter to stylized the photo, and then share said photo with other people via Instagram’s own social network or sharing to Facebook, Twitter, etc.

There are a few curmudgeon who think that Instagram is useless or in some extreme cases ruining the art and profession of photography.

Anyone who’s ever tried to take a photograph with even a minuscule hint of creativity are artists. Framing a shot, choosing certain lenses, lens filters and post production all modify the reality of the thing being photographed.

Another thing about this progression of art (and by association, photography) is how prior works influence new works. I can take a picture of Yosemite just like Ansel Adams, but that’s only because his work came before mine. I could even use my much more technically sophisticated tools to duplicate the style of Adams – to evoke the same feelings. Does it make my photo art?

All art builds on prior art. Even if your purposefully attempting to be contrary to existing art or a particular style. Opposing that which came before it means you’re cognitively aware of its influence and history! No art exists in a vacuum and therefore the work of people using Instagram is just as valid as someone earning income, a professional, using his high-end Nikon D800 to capture a certain look or emotion with lens, lighting and Photoshop.

Instagram is art and the people using it are artists – with, or without, the filters.

So what if I’m wrong? What if this entire essay is inaccurate in claiming that users of Instagram are artists and the resulting images, modified or not, are art?

If Instagram isnt art, then it’s just silly fun – a game. Relax. If you’re going to get upset over fun, then I’d love to hear you talk about how Scrabble is not writing, and is deserving of equal flack.

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