Instagram Photograph of Hurricane Sandy Selected for Cover of Time Magazine

Yesterday we shared a piece by photographer Kenneth Jarecke on why Instagram isn’t fit for photojournalism. Now, from the other side of the aisle, Jeff Bercovici of Forbes writes that Time had great success after hiring five Instagrammers to document Hurricane Sandy:

The resulting collection on Lightbox, Time’s photography blog, was “one of the most popular galleries we’ve ever done,” says [Time DP Kira] Pollack, and it was responsible for 13% of all the site’s traffic during a week when had its fourth-biggest day ever. Time’s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers during a 48-hour period.

One of Benjamin Lowy’s photos even ended up getting selected for the cover, although it’s one of three covers Time is running this week […] While the level of resolution isn’t perhaps what might be achieved with a camera, says Pollack, “It reproduced beautifully. There’s almost a painterly quality to it.”

Pollack tells FolioMag that the decision to use Instagram was based on distribution speed rather than aesthetics.

Why Time Magazine Used Instagram To Cover Hurricane Sandy [Forbes]

P.S. It seems that by “Instagram photo”, Forbes and Time are referring to the fact that they were shared through, not captured with, Instagram.

  • QuietestAC

    The fact that it’s an instagram photo will be less and less important as time goes on. Cell phone cameras are really good these days and are improving.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    a photograph is a photograph. rangefinder, TLR, SLR, DSLR, medium/large format, compact digital, interchangeable lens system or camera phone – they all create photographs. It doesn’t matter how the image is created – it depends on the messaged conveyed and how it makes you feel, if Time want to use something from a camera phone – WHO CARES. – also, it doesn’t matter if your DSLR has wi-fi or how quickly you can get images off to an editor via your laptop – a camera phone will do it twice as fast and when it comes to things like Sandy – speed is of the essence.

  • Christopher King

    +1 for photography regardless of the camera used.

  • derekdj

    The writer missed a key point – The photo “was shared” through Instagram NOT taken with it. Small but important fact since most photojournalism and news agencies have explicit policies against retouching, effects or other alterations aside from cropping of images.

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I guess you missed the Time instagram gallery….

  • Zak Henry

    In my opinion the original image is better than the crop that Time selected.

  • Mike

    QuietestAC, cell phone cameras are not good, not even close. Compared to a DSLR, they are garbage. Digital zoom is a sham and a tiny little 3mm aperture will never do a good job for anything that isn’t standing perfectly still in bright light. People pay $10,000 for a DSLR lens for a reason! Just because cellphones have a lot of megapixels means nothing compared to the small aperture, tiny sensor, lack of optical zoom, terrible optics, and inability to exchange lenses. Have you ever seen a National Geographic photographer using their Blackberry? ESPN photographer on the sideline of a football game using an iPhone? Wedding photographer using a Galaxy S3? Nope, because they’re garbage and will never be as good as even a consumer-level DSLR.

  • 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 . . .”

  • Lorraine Mabbett

    In California we are can only absorb and know the painful effect of Sandy because of videos & photographs. The value of a cell phone video or photograph has proven to be invaluable in more than one serious crime. Sorry, the timing to complain about not exclusively using a multi-lense multi-dollar camera is not now. Clearly equipping oneself or ones staff with quality equipment to meet the opportunity to grab “the picture” is important. Remember the two French brother who happened to be making a documentary on the fire department the morning of 9-11-01. The equipment was quality but the danger and drama of the event prohibited the best shooting angles etc etc. BUT that video gripped the hearts of many people. The disturbing part of the documentation of Sandy is the doctored and mis-dated photography. Those people who are applying nefarious means to capitalize on documenting Sandy will be exposed.

  • guest

    Are you so sure?

    “Selected for the cover. . . while the level of resolution isn’t perhaps what might be achieved with a camera” kind of implies that it was shot purely through Instagram

  • newamericanclassic

    The photo is powerful (why TIME chose the crop it did, boggles my mind), no questions asked.

    What I dislike with using Instagram is that you compromise image quality (resolution for sure with a phone, and distortion if you choose a filter), for direct upload and access.

    At the rate media is accessed/consumed, you have to not only capture the moment, but make sure it gets distributed as fast as possible. So what else can you do? You could have a nice uncropped/undistorted photo app that automatically uploads to say, Flickr, but you wouldn’t have the same ‘following’ as you would with Instagram. So in some ways, it really is the best option.

    I guess this is a situation where ‘smartcameras’ would really come in handy, since Instagram just preserves the 1:1 ratio without automatically cropping to 612×612, right? So a better quality camera + instagram = win.

  • Roy

    “what might be achieved with a camera” implies that the cover photo was not taken with a camera? Now that’s interesting.

  • Roy

    I suppose they should fire the editor at Time Magazine for publishing a photo from such a garbage camera? On the cover no less, the damned blasphemer!

  • W Eugene Smith

    I think Time are overplaying the ‘speed’ issue here. Photographers have been sending pictures instantly from remote places, devoid of electricity for many years. Pictures regularly ping back from war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, within minutes of them being taken. The wires would have been busy with pictures that day, same as any news day. I should add that there would have been images of destruction from the ‘other’ places hit by Sandy across the Caribbean, not just of New York victims. Any photographer that can’t send a picture because of power failure and has to “go back to the office” wouldn’t last very long in the modern business. It clearly is about fashion and trends and ‘likes’, a struggling magazine trying to keep up with the times desperately needs ‘likes’. That admission might sound a bit lame and boring in an interview with Forbes; it’s far easier to play the technical ‘speed’ defence, it sounds better!

  • João

    Due to the fact the cover is vertical and the original is landscape, it’s obvious why they cropped, but I also think the right side of the picture is more interesting than the side they chose.

  • James

    the original is square, surely.

  • Cookiepus

    Of course the resolution of the image isnt as good as a DSLR, but i think you’re missing the point. Its a great image becuse Benjamin Lowy has a great eye.
    “The least important part of photograpy is the camera”
    i cant rember who said that

  • Jacob

    The point about news is that it should be newsworthy. The immediate need is coverage. That’s where a mobile phone user comes into play. But really – is that photo so amazing? I think it does the job – but it doesn’t strike me as anything special really. (Yes the event is breathtaking in itself – but that means it’s almost impossible NOT to take breathtaking images. Sometimes I don’t understand why people who are photographers even bother to compete on that level! It’s like Charles Dickens trying to compete with a Porn Blogger).

    I don’t see the point in even defining quality of photography unless there’s actually a skill involved. This is an image that works on the cover of Time. Anyone who was there could’ve taken it – you “just” have to be brave enough to go there. That in itself is a “skill” – but that’s not photography – nor is the image really a photograph… unless you use a very wide (and thus useless) definition of photography being capturing light on a medium.

    Yes – a camera phone can capture light and because it is readily available, it simply is available everywhere and thus can help capture more moements.

    So what?
    And what does Instagram have to do with it? The connectivity? Errm others provide that too? The filters – excuse me, but why is that relevant?

    It’s about a camera being available to everyone – i.e. cell phones.

    Do we still need high quality photographs? Yes.
    Do we still need high end equipment? Yes.
    Do we still need people who know how to take a capture breathtaking photographs? Yes.

  • Jacob

    Another point actually – for me it reduces the credibility of Time magazine. There are plenty of striking well photographed images out there… Sandy isn’t exactly breaking news now either.

    In other words – I think using a rubbish image is sort of acceptable if it is breaking news and nothing else is available – but really if you are going to use that kind of
    stuff you really are no different than a student newspaper/ blog.

    Time should be careful not to venture down the amateur path too many “times”

  • welcometothedisco2000

    I imagine they chose the crop they did because it simplified the image, which already had a lot of type sitting over it or because the presence of someone standing there tells the story of a relatively weak wave (if someone can stand there it’s hardly threatening) when they wanted the implication that the wave was much more dangerous and could represent the force of the storm. The left side is also the more interesting part of the wave. That’s my guess, anyway.

  • Ken Settle Photos

    The craft of photography is getting, or has already been, lost. The photo evokes a mood, but I would wager that there were many images created by photographers who were in the field with legitimate cameras, making creative choices about shutter speed, aperture, angle of view etc., that better, more artfully, and with a higher level of quality, capture the feeling that the art director ostensibly wanted to achieve. Are we to believe that a professional photographer capturing digital image which could be conveyed in near real- time could not meet deadlines? My feeling is that this was a bit of a marketing scheme to draw interest to Time’s online galleries. It is a sad day for photography, when waving an I -phone in the direction of your subject and clicking through pre-fab edit settings masquerades as photography.

  • The Sin

    Massively cropped; creating a much stronger emotional response. That is why I have lost all faith and trust in journalism and photo-journalism. Cropping, retouching, effects, or alteration is wrong; in photo-journalism. Looking at the original photo, the wave, while scary, doesn’t look as menacing as the Time cover. Way to go Time; I guess dollars outweigh journalistic integrity. To the person who captured the shot, great photo of human and nature; light hearted while showing the power of human and Mother Nature. Who cares what type of photographic instrument is used; whether it is a cell phone, DSLR, SLR, pinhole, instant film; as long as its reproduced in its entirety. I won several juried amateur contest using a home made pinhole and dodging and burning, beating out “amateurs” using 1Ds, 5Ds and D3s; only person using film and I was called a cheater by several other contestants. Only cheater in this instance, Time magazine.