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It will come as a surprise to no one who is at least casually acquainted with me that I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram, as I’m sure many others do also.
There’s the whole “follow-for-follow” game that seems to pervade Instagram and the indecipherable algorithm that keeps influencer content at the top of the pile no matter how boring it is. And what’s worse, perhaps, is the fact that so much of the content on Instagram looks the same.
I’ve always known I’m not the only one to grumble about it, but now we’ve all got some concrete evidence to back up that complaint.
Thanks to an Instagram account with the screen name of insta_repeat we can now see with shocking clarity just how overrun with sameness Instagram really is.
On the insta_repeat page, you will find (at the time of this writing) a total of 82 12-image collages that feature mind-numbingly homogenous shots compiled from unrelated accounts across Instagram.
It’s not that any of the images bad. In fact, I’d confess that many of them are quite good by just about any technical metric. But I also stand by the idea that technical know-how isn’t what meaningful photography rests upon. Pretty pictures and powerful pictures aren’t necessarily the same thing.
The insta_repeat account suggests that, while there are plenty of people who have a proficient grasp of the mechanics of using a camera, that may be the extent of their understanding of photography.
The accessibility of photography as a craft in an era of always-on connectedness means everything is fair game. This sort of democratization of art and the means to make it and distribute it is a good thing, but it does come with side effects.
Perhaps the most distressing of these side effects is revealed in insta_repeat’s tagline: “Déjà Vu Vibes. Wander. Roam. Replicate.”
No one is suggesting that imitation is a new phenomenon. Every generation has its innovators and imitators (and virtually all of us will fall into the latter camp). But in the case of Instagram and its influencer driven market, it seems that a lack of originality is something to be rewarded, which essentially positions Instagram as a content replication site rather than a photo sharing site.
While a very select few have been able to leverage Instagram in such a way to pad their pockets — good for them — there will be masses of others vainly chasing the same outcome by copying the content those mavens of monetization are producing — bad for photography. Or, at least the popular perception of what photography is.
Insta_repeat doesn’t exist to shame anyone — no one is tagged, screen names are not shown. The anonymous 27-year-old responsible for the gallery is simply holding up a mirror. If you see yourself in it, that much isn’t Instagram’s fault.
Yes, the most popular photos on Instagram are epic but, ironically, too many of them also manage to be creatively inconsequential and it’s a blueprint too many photographers are following. Unfollow that mindset and be led by your own creativity.
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