1) Instagram has always kind of bothered me, though it has been used for many images I’ve enjoyed. It’s hard for me to accept that these shared and widely understood ideas of beauty and poignancy as rendered through specific “distressed” visual cues are something that a few computer programmers have written perfect algorithms for. I mean, it’s too good. It works too well. This is a very regressive way of thinking, I realize. My problem entirely. But I can’t help it. (I always used to root for humans to beat computers in chess and it was a legitimately sad moment when it became impossible. This feels related somehow.)
2) When you look at photos made with Instagram, you are not looking at images of people or landscapes, you are looking at Instagram. The subject of the photos is incidental. What you see are the filters and the algorithms and, ultimately, the corporation. At least that’s how it feels to me.
3) I’m reminded of this profound moment where I experienced the opposite of an Instagram: five or six years ago, my mother’s sister gave her some old slides. These slides contained pictures of my mother taken when she was about 13. It seems like a common thing for girls around that age to get together with their friends and try and take “glamour” shots of each other. I think around then you start to figure out what a camera can do and how you might have some fun with it. I have a photo of my sister about that age, holding a black rose, with heavy eyeliner, looking goth. And this roll of slides had my mother and her friend taking glamour photos of each other around 1957. My mother had these slides turned into 4x6 glossy prints. And when she brought them home from Walgreens, I almost started crying because I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. The photos were shiny and crisp and brand new and the colors were perfectly rendered. They looked like they had been taken in my backyard last week, there was nothing about them that looked “old” in any way. And there was a 13-year-old girl in a sun dress gazing off into the distance, trying to look serious and sophisticated. And that was my mother. It was uncanny, like seeing a ghost, kind of. I have one of these photos framed in my living room now.