Photojournalism v. Instagram, The Battle Continues?
A few weeks ago, photographer Nick Stern expressed his grievances against Instagram, chiding its inauthenticity for eroding the value of professional photojournalism:
Every time a news organization uses a Hipstamatic or Instagram-style picture in a news report, they are cheating us all. It’s not the photographer who has communicated the emotion into the images. It’s not the pain, the suffering or the horror that is showing through. It’s the work of an app designer in Palo Alto who decided that a nice shallow focus and dark faded border would bring out the best in the image.
Yesterday, Heather Murphy, Slate’s Photo Editor, produced a rebuttal in which she pointed out the journalistic value app-driven photography actually creates:
Instagram is not a threat to photojournalism. The real threat is that photojournalism professionals are refusing to engage with the platform. If they spent a bit more time with it, they’d see that Instagram is about much more than these faux-vintage-filters. It’s a community of millions of photo addicts, eager to embrace their work, journalistic standards and all.
The FJP: The app-photography v. photojournalism debate is not a new one and you can get the full breadth of Stern and Murphy’s arguments at the links above. At minimum, Murphy agrees with Stern that Instagram should not be a substitute for more formal outlets of presenting photographs. We agree too. Well, Michael did, back in October:
The results produce very interesting documentation but I don’t think you can call it photojournalism. There’s just too much fabrication going on.
But perhaps the debate sheds light on a more interesting trend. In that same post, Michael wrote of the iphone-as-camera as a tool. Nothing less, nothing more. And in the future-of-journalism light, tools are often fascinating means of creating new communication cultures. Murphy addresses this well. Not only does Instagram “help novice photographers get their feet wet,” but it creates an environment to aid transparency for journalism at large, much in the way that other social media outlets (like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook) do for news outlets, individual journalists, and writers. Murphy writes,
Reporters like Parker are learning about photography while sharing behind-the-scenes tidbits. Campaigns, we all know by now, are big charades; little deconstructed moments like the directional tape on the floor help make them more interesting, accessible, and real.
I can experience photos from photojournalists I admire (the handful who are on the platform), just a few seconds after they took them. I can leave them a question in the comments—and they might answer. They might even like my photos back.
So, if we stray a bit from the need to defend the integrity of photojournalism, we can re-locate the debate hashed by Stern and Murphy in a larger conversation on the tools that allow journalism, particularly the process of journalism, to become more transparent, interesting, and accessible to its audience. -Jihii
(photo via Slate)