These images were the subjects of earlier posts on my blog.
This is a humble image, shot on a whim with my Leica M film camera, taken through the window of a closed throw-back pharmacy in Warren, Rhode Island. I posted the image on my Flickr page and it got nary a wink. I posted it to the #heyfsc feed on Instagram as an ask to be “featured” on the Film Shooters Collective feed. It was accepted and posted there, and then the phenomenon of today began. As of today, it has over 1,500 likes on Instagram.
Delekta’s Pharmacy, a throwback place. They still make what Rhode Islanders call “cabinets” there. Others call them milkshakes.
This image was posted on Instagram and got nary a wink there. I posted it to my Flickr page and an algorithm sent it to a featured spot and it also took on a life of its own, featured on several popular feeds and garnering over 1,300 “likes”. Another humble image shot using expired film and a Nikon F6.
I certainly appreciate the impact the images had on others. The odd thing is how these events occurred from circumstances completely outside of my control. The FSC image was a curated choice by the site moderator. The Flickr dalliance arose from an algorithm. Without an external push the window image got no traction on Flickr and the beach scene got no traction on Instagram.
I am having trouble processing this. What does an image gaining this form of “notoriety” mean to me?
On one hand there is satisfaction. I spend a lot of time taking pictures. It is a huge part of my life. My eyes are always wandering to the quest for interesting light and subject. Some days my eyes are foggy. They don’t see. My camera stays in the bag. Other days my eyes are immersive and searching and the camera stays in the hand. As part of my evolution as a photographer, the most important advancement is knowing when to capture a subject, and how to express what I want from it. In both of these cases, I saw what I wanted to express and did. The fact that my choices gain acceptance is reaffirming.
On the other hand, I question whether this manner of affirmation is what I want. I can’t say I don’t care, otherwise I would not bother to participate. Being new to Instagram, I am ensnared in the trap of tracking my “followers” and stringing a web of “followed” photographers. The annoyance of being “followed” by people trying to sell me stuff is now beginning. It is affirming to view the imagery of a photographer who “likes” my image and see that photographer produces high quality work. Those are the best “likes”. But I left Facebook a few months ago from becoming addicted to its grip and now I feel another addiction to Instagram, a new platform owned coincidentally by Facebook and soon to bear new integration with Facebook. I feel like prey lured to the baited trap.
I will NEVER be famous and don’t claim any special talents. But my experience of being “liked” in the new way gets me to thinking. How did Robert Frank’s work gain traction? Surely, one day he achieved a “like” from a real person looking at a darkroom print that resulted in publication. And it happened over and over until he rose to the status of a legend. He too got “likes” from gallery admirers and magazine subscribers and book buyers. Did this happen a thousand times in one day? I don’t think so. It happened slowly and from true and considered appreciation of his genius.
What role will Instagram and other web-based portfolio sites have in recognizing the next genius in our midst?