“As for You Instagramers, Twenty Years from Now You’ll Be Sorry”

Photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke wrote up a thought-provoking piece yesterday titled, “Instagram, the Devil, and You.” He offers his thoughts on the question, “Will ‘Instagram photojournalism’ stand the test of time?”:

As for you Instagramers, twenty years from now you’ll be sorry. You’ll be more sorry than I am when I look back on a picture I made twenty years ago with a 20mm lens when I should have used a 28mm. Years from now, you’ll awake in the middle of the night and suddenly realize putting a fake border on a picture makes the whole picture fake. You’ll understand that the technical choices you made destroyed the longterm credibility of both you and your images.

Instead of having a body of work to look back on, you’ll have a sad little collection of noisy digital files that were disposable when you made them, instantly forgotten by your followers (after they gave you a thumbs up), and now totally worthless. You’ll wish you’d have made those images on a Pentax K1000 and Tri-X (at the very least or most depending on your age and perspective), but the times you failed to record properly will be long gone. But don’t listen to me, listen to all your Insta-friends. They love you.

Instagram, the Devil, and You [Mostly True via The Click]

Image credit: Part of an art project involving tiny pics of my art — using #instagram as one part of the medium. by kimboburly

  • Samcornwell

    YES, YES, YES! I have been saying this, although not as eloquently for the last year. Give the tatty filters a break!

  • Melo

    Oh shut up man.

    I’m fully aware of resolution and the fact that the photos I post on instagram.. are for …instagram. I don’t think most people are shooting billboard campaigns with their iPhones you film-nazi.

    A photo is a photo.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    ha! yet another whiny elitist.

    Why can’t these people not see Instagram for what it is – a cameraphone app that people use to share their lives with other people the same way they use Facebook and Twitter etc. It’s not a serious tool for people to create “a body of work to look back on”. I’m pretty sure 99.9% of people using Instagram don’t deem it to be “work”. I wonder if people would complain so much if apps like Instagram didn’t offer nostalgic film filters. Because that’s what it comes down to really, a bunch of photographers who think that the aesthetics of film should be reserved for those who are actually using the real thing – which of course is nonsense. Please just get over yourselves.

    Is PetaPixel really giving web space to people whining and moaning?

  • Tavis Dunn

    No, your right…they are just shooting their kids, family, vacations and holidays. All meaningless throw away everyday things. Why would anyone want to preserve such things is beyond me.

  • John Nathaniel Calvara

    I’m already sorry for Instagram for making my Instagram account useless. I have not tried using Instagram and it never crosses into my mind to take a photo via my smartphone. It’s just DSLRs just make things better than using a smartphone…

  • Glenn Gilchrist

    With all due respect to Mr. Jarecke, he just doesn’t get it. Instagram photography is like a Buddhist sand painting – you make it, and then it’s gone. No attachment. It is what it is, nothing more. Here today, gone tomorrow. As for a body of work. Sure, the best of the best may have a body of work that will stand the test of a time ( maybe a generation or two), but the overwhelming majority of us carting around our $3k rigs, attending our $500 workshops and making ever better (craftswise) photos, will be remembered by our children as someone who left 20,000 photos on a hard drive that no one quite has the nerve to erase. That’s if we edit religiously!

    Instagram is about having fun, being in the moment, and perhaps most important of all, sharing that moment. That’s all. It does not present itself as “serious” photography, nor, I suspect, does it have any interest in serious photography. It’s just about Like and what’s wrong with that?

  • #payphoneography

    hmmmmm… I don’t think so… I’d regret not sharing my images

  • David Rychart

    I think all of you are missing the point. This was about Instagram photojournalism, not Instagram in general.

  • VocalShrapnel

    seems like a lot of people didn’t read the post the quote came from, or missed the point.

  • DamianMonsivais

    HA. Yes.. True True True. and its not whining.

    Instagram to photography is what “paint by numbers” is to Painting.

  • Mike

    What is wrong with you people?! Are you so obsessed with Instagram that the mere mentioning of the name causes you toraise your fists?
    Here’s the first sentence from the whole post, in case you chose to IGNORE the word “photojournalism” here on petapixel:
    “When a photojournalist uses Instagram, the devil smiles”.

    We are talking about, you guessed it, photojournalist using a crappy tool! Not about the failures of Instagram!

  • Mike

    Sorry, Glen, YOU didn’t get it. He’s not talking about people having fun recording some meaningless photos. He’s talking about people trying to seriously record moments using a very wrong tool.

  • John Kantor

    “Instajounalism” may be a joke, but then again so is regular photojournalism.

  • Burnin Biomass

    Yea, click the link for the full article, he is making a bigger point (although you still might not agree with it).

  • Chris Helton

    Just like the polaroid instant camera was a huge mistake and those
    images are useless. If I, as the photographer, WANT my body of work to
    look like this with this filter, then thats how it is intended to look.
    Even if I shot my sons 1st birthday with film, then the body of work 20
    years from now will be however I printed those images, if that be
    b&w w/ a #4 filter when I printed it, or color at whatever the
    pimply kid at walgreens did to print the image.

    Here’s a question. So you think Ansel Adams was completely off key and
    destroyed his work because he did not shoot the scene in color?

    Want to take it a step further. I shot a wedding using a Canon 5d Mark III, with an 85 prime… oh no, but they are jpg images. The jpg has set the black point of that scene and crushed detail! sorry, no shot it in RAW, but I had the scene mode set to landscape which pushed the saturation of the image so the roses are redder than they should be.

    ITS A TOOL MAN! It’s up to the photographer to create whatever THEY WANT TO CREATE! If that be b&w, printed on canvas, using a medium format hasselblad, instagram funny filter file stuck on the internet somewhere, or a kodak you have to wind that you bought in line at the grocery store.

  • Chris Helton

    sure IF its with you. I’m a photographer and carry my slr as often as I possibly can but its not always there. Would I rather have this iphone picture of my wife smiling across the table from me at a restaurant, or no picture at all? Majority of people, even photographers, do not carry an slr with them everywhere they go, but we do have our phones.

  • tmophoto

    i disagree. i take all my photos with a 5dm2 them post them to instagram. i crop files that are stitched panos that are a hundred+ megapixel files. i have full rez files that blow the doors off a pentax k1000 and tri-x. another whiner that doesn’t get social media and probably never will.

  • underbird

    Just HOW many people are doing that, though? I don’t know a single person that’s both putting sh*tty pictures up on Instagram and taking it seriously.

  • Zach Davis

    Couldn’t agree more. Just a bunch of people unwilling to accept different forms of photography. Modifying a picture in instagram does not make a photo fake. The memories and the experiences are still there. It’s no more fake than a pro photog applying different textures and presets to their photos.
    His comments just come across as someone that is incredibly full of himself and scared that outside people looking at instagram photos are going to think that all photography is like this. A classic example of people worrying too much about what others are doing and not concentrating on their own work enough.
    Instagram lets people explore their creativity and a more creative world is a better world.

  • Joubert C

    Can’t stand these DSLR’s .. You will be sorry when one day you last your RAW photos .. Film rules !! :)

  • ed g.

    “Old man yells at Cloud”

  • guest

    as a social medium, nobody really cares about the quality of the images. but for instagram photojournalism, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • guest

    The title of the article was:

    “Will ‘Instagram *photojournalism* stand the test of time?”

    They weren’t referring to ordinary people who take photos to share with friends, I don’t think.

  • guest

    what sort of generalization is that?? seriously, if you’re going to say something like that, I’m curious to know what causes you to think that way. elaborate?

  • Marcin

    Michael, the image that illustrates your post has a CC noncommercial license. So why do you use it on this – obviously commercial – blog?

  • Michael Zhang

    Good question :) We’ve generally gone by this definition:

  • Marcin

    Thanks, I noticed this practice on numerous for-profit websites and blogs, now I know it’s (apparently) OK.

  • Dana Sibera

    I had a crappy little hanimex camera back in the early 1980s. I couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ camera, so I used what I had at hand… it made generally fuzzy photos with pretty poor contrast – but looking back 30 years now, I wish I’d gone berko with that crappy little hanimex. It could and did for a time go anywhere with me, unlike the larger Retinette 1A I also had access to at the time.

    I think instagrammers will look back and realise they were part of the first generation where taking photos was a daily event – and they’ll have documented childhoods, first dates, break-ups, weddings, funerals, workmates, the beginnings of friendships, all of it. It’s fostered a culture of taking and saving photos constantly.

    In twenty years they’re not going to give a crap what kind of camera it was taken on, they’ll have the picture.

    (and fwiw, instagram uploads a filtered version of the photo to the instagram site, and saves the original in your photo library. This is all digital, remember)

  • Darren Ward Photo

    He’s right about the life of these shots, if a little aggressive about it, but if you use your phone’s normal camera application and then import the image into Instagram you get a full resolution “original” photo too. Keep that alongside the Instagram version (you’re doing backups right?) and you’ve still got a version of the photo that won’t look weird if/when Instagram style filters go out of fashion.

  • kuskuss2

    from day ONE of instagram, i said to everybody it is for the photographic losers.
    they think if the motiv is not good …. a special effect will make it better.
    a special effect MILLIONS use.
    nothing creative at all.
    instagram = crap

  • kuskuss2

    +1 ….. only instagram needs less skills.

  • kuskuss2

    instagram is like poo…

  • kuskuss2

    young man has no experience or skills…… thats why he needs some INSTANT EFFECTS to make his pictures “interesting”.

    if only for a nanosecond… a glimpse….

  • SpaceMan

    Please elaborate on that

  • Richard Gray

    The painters said the same thing about photos when photography was invented. It’s classic reactionary piffel. The only thing is the final image. Not how you get there.

  • Guest

    can’t stand this film….painting rules !!

  • Norman

    Can’t stand all of that stuff. You wanna make an impact? Carve stuff in stone and someone’s gonna find your work thousands of years later! (probably beside some CDs, films and paintings. Well, whatever’s left of them ;)

  • Giulio Sciorio

    Yeah 20 years from know I’ll look at the photo of a burrito I shot and think “oh damn…I wish I didn’t use that border.” please.

  • EyeBeauty

    I find the article the comments to be
    amusing. Being a rather intelligent person, I realized the possibilities and
    limitations of Instagram at the beginning. I found it to be a quick easy and
    fun tool that I could do immediate sharing with that I found enjoyable – unlike
    facebook or twittering.

    I also found that my ipod saves the original of
    the picture that was taken (7p – like my point and shoot), AND the adapted
    photo. I also found that I can delete the instagram pictures that no longer
    delight me, keeping my picture list small

    I learned to relax my rigid views on what
    photography can be and viewed it as similar to a Navajo Sand Painting, which is destroyed soon after creation. We don’t have to keep everything forever.

    I still remember a picture that I wished I could
    have taken decades ago – Halloween costumers all sitting on a bench waiting for
    the bus. It was great – and it is great in my mind – it’s OK it’s not lost in
    my book of negatives that I can’t even access anyway w/o trouble

  • Mansgame

    This guy is my new hero.

  • GonzoPhotog

    Who actually uses instagram for true photojournalism? I think Instagram has just given more people a tool as well as some ambition to record things in life. I often shoot with instagram, film slr and a dslr all at the same time. This article is stupid.

  • The Devil Ignores Me

    Well, I actually use a separate app to edit my photos. Instagram is merely a web tool to get my photographs out there!

  • derekdj

    I think critics of the general public’s love of Instagram is misplaced. Most people shooting to Instagram aren’t expecting their images to be some great hi-res archive of their lives. Instagram (as well as other mobile pictures) really are the equivalent to old polaroids and 110 shots of yester-year (stuff that ends up in shoe boxes). I have tons of old grainy snapshots, shot on disposable cameras, I never go “damn I wish I shot that with my Mamiya medium format camera”, I go “those were great times”.

    Or if you’re a professional photographer Instagram is the equivalent to experimenting with Polaroids or 110 film, I don’t think Helmut Newton or Andy Warhol ever regretted shooting so much on those platforms.

    Now, if you’re shooting a job with Instagram that’s another story. I can see after the job is over and your client requests a poster or large format print ad using one of your Instagram shots being sorry for shooting on the low end. Otherwise, get over it and enjoy the cheezy filters.

  • Matt

    Kids, family, vacations and holidays? I can’t think of anything more important.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    There’s no law that says you have to apply a filter when uploading to Instagram. Most of the photos from people I follow don’t have those filters.

  • Mansgame

    get back with us in 20 years.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I think you missed the sarcasm in Tavis’s post. Or I missed it in yours.

  • Patrick Downs

    Comment by David Hume Kennerly on Facebook. Kennerly is a Pulitzer-winner, former White House personal photographer to Pres. Gerald Ford, and longtime TIME and Newsweek contributing/contract photographer. He said:

    “My friend and colleague Ken Jarecke has put Instagram and those formerly great journalistic institutions who stoop to use it into perspective. A brilliant piece.
    p.s. I don’t use Instagram . . .”

  • mmmarc

    Did anyone actually look at Kenneth Jarecke’s portfolio? He sucks as a photographer.

  • Dipstick Dave

    Agreed. Like these Petroglyphs in Kyrgyzstan.