In the summer of 2010, I noticed that Schmutzie was posting photos with her iPhone. They had a different feel than the photos taken with her “real” camera. Â I downloaded Hipstamatic, her favorite photo app, but there were too many choices of stocks and filters, and I quickly lost interest.
I followed another link to an iPhone to an app called Instagram. Â This one I understood. Â It was point and shoot, and even better, it was like social like Twitter! Â And unlike blogging, which is segregated by language, you could see photos from far-away places as France, Turkey, and Brazil!
I walked around my block in Queens and took a few more shots of the neighborhood. It didn’t feel like serious photography, but more like a visual diary.
“Hey, look. Here’s a chair someone is throwing away in the garbage!”
It WAS like Twitter.
It was a year ago today.
There was no way in hell that I could ever imagine that 365 days later, I would have taken 1300 more photos! Â And even more shocking — others would LOOK AT THEM! Â Instagram reminded me of my blogging world from 2005 — a mishmash of professionals and amateurs taking photos of their lunches, their babies, their cities, and lots of artsy sunsets, with no one Â angsting over stats or monetization… yet.
Of course, some professional photographers looked down on the heavily-filtered Instagram photos, much in the same way that Â some writers don’t see blogging as “real writing.” Â The professional photographers do have a point. Â I would never call myself a photographer. Â I barely know what I am doing. Â No one is going to hire me to do a job. Â 99% of those who use these app are not authentic photographers, but dabblers, and what’s wrong with that? Â It’s another way to enjoy our creativity. Â This is the world we live in — on the internet, everyone is a writer, actor, and photographer. And good-looking.
I did receive received some criticism over the year, especially for my fondness for taking photos of strangers on the street. Â I am quite aware of the “peeping tom” aspect of what I am doing, but so far, I’ve been able to live with myself. Â I do it with a standard of respect. Â In my heart, I see street photography as a celebration of humanity and urban life, not something salacious.
In many ways, this year-long exercise in iPhoneography has given me more confidence in other facets of my life. Â Writing is a solitary occupation. Â Instagram gives me a reason to walk around the block. Â It’s also taught me some lessons about writing, perception, and POV. Â There is also something sexy about photography.
I’m even starting to gain the courage to ASK subjects if I can take a photo. Â Last week, I had lunch/dinner/drinks with three different bloggers. Â After the meal, I asked each of them if I could take her photo. Â It felt empowering to say “Trust me,” and have someone believe me, especially a woman.
While these three photos may not be the greatest portraits ever, or as dramatic as the Instagram photos I once took of the skyscrapers of Fifth Avenue, they are way more special. Â I care about these people. Â And I didn’t have to hide in the bushes.
And then, this week, for the first time, Â I asked a stranger if I can take her photo.
And that’s a big change in a year.