Over the last few months, I’ve read article after article about how Instagram and similar apps are fucking up the world of photography, allowing anyone to declare themselves a photographer. Replace “fucking up” with “disrupting” and “photography” with “publishing” and you’ll have a pretty good sense of how just about every blogger on the planet is perceived by “conventional” writers and journalists who haven’t realized yet that their industry is in upheaval.
They’re both specious arguments, because they presume that laypeople can’t assess quality over quantity. And we can.
Democratizing things like publishing and photography are more beneficial than they are detrimental. Sure, some people take photos of what you or I might call the exceedingly mundane, but those people are taking pictures that aren’t intended for you, or a general audience. Sure, they’re using social technology to document their lives, but that doesn’t mean they want every single person on the planet to pay attention.
They’re doing, inadvertently or not, what any communicator or content creator on the web is doing: either what they want, or what their intended audience is interested in. Sometimes that means taking pictures only of sunsets. Or shoes. Or every single meal they prepare and eat.
And that’s perfectly OK. Because as annoyed as you are at all the food porn on the web, Internet-user-who’s-totally-over-it, thousands if not millions aren’t. Because despite the fact that most people will preface a link to a photo with at least a brief description — so you could quite confidently know that by clicking the link you’re going to see food — you fucking click it anyway.
And the best part, Internet-user-who-fancies-himself-a-writer-now, you use tools of authorship like Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook to register your disdain, saying things like, “Ermahgerd, so-and-so is NOT a professional photographer,” or “Instagram doesn’t make you god’s gift to photography” — causing a ripple in the Internet-time continuum which causes old, salty journalists to harumph about how having a Twitter account doesn’t make you god’s gift to writing.
Calm the fuck down. It’s a picture, and it’s probably not intended for you, anyway. You just have access to it thanks to the public nature of the web.
I love pictures of food. I loves pictures of cats. I love pictures of everything that anyone wants to post on a public timeline. You know why? It’s a glimpse into that person’s life that I wouldn’t otherwise get. By scrolling through my Instagram feed, I can see that:
- People are spending time with their pets, who often do hilarious things
- People are going out for nice meals, and spending quality time together
- People are going out for walks, and finding strange objects, signs, or people on the way
- People are getting married! They’re in love, and fuck you for being cynical about it
- People are having a great time. They might be getting hammered, playing a board game or reading a book
The web has provided us with amazing opportunities: to connect, work together, and experience other cultures. Sometimes that involves words, and sometimes it involves pictures. Of food. Often it involves much, much more.
So relax. If you don’t like food porn, that’s fine. Don’t look at any. Unfollow the people who constantly post it. But stop using it as fodder for blog content.* It’s getting way beyond old.
*I am completely aware of the hypocritical nature of that final paragraph (and in fact the whole post), and I promise never to speak of it again.
Photo by Neal Lantela on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.