The World in an App


The World in an App

Why I’m fascinated by Instagram.

I created an Instagram account within the first week of the app becoming available. I wanted to show my photos to friends. The photographic networks available at the time where not suitable from my point of view. I am referring to the year 2010: Flickr had a complicated app, Facebook didn’t have a good photo function and Twitter was for words. And anyway: Why would my various friends be interested in my photos, especially in iPhone photos taken in Hipstamatic mode. I wanted an app which was easy to use. That’s exactly what Instagram offers.

Via Instagram, photographers all over the world can connect with each other quickly. Kevin Systrom, one of Instagram’s founders, revealed in an interview that he himself was fascinated that the first users were already international. Maybe he realized even back then that such an international community of users would mean that it would be very successful.

What could one see when one opened the app towards the end of 2010? Right from the beginning I was fascinated by day-to-day life shown by the photos from all over the world: children are born in Brazil and Sweden and I can watch them grow up. A Japanese lady shows off her beautiful cats. It was no different to what most Instagram users today also show. Only then it was a lot more intimate because there weren’t nearly as many active users as today. Many of the first users were those using Twitter or bloggers who were using Instagram just like the other social networks. They talked about their daily lives and illustrated them with photos.

I had neither tweeted nor blogged prior to discovering Instagram for myself. However, I had been taking photos since my childhood. And since I’ve bought an iPhone 4, I hardly use anything else to take photographs. The iPhone was quick, always at hand, and offered interesting editing options. Initially I only used the Hipstamatic app which limited the editing options to a choice of a combination of film lenses. After that, other apps came (and went).

Much has changed since Instagram’s early days: The number of users is now very high, there are many accounts and their photos have become more professional and one cannot fail to recognize the financial interests of the participants. What has remained are the many friendships – online and offline – which are formed through Instagram.

Often this is not limited to ‘online acquaintances’. We instagramers meet ‘offline’ at so-called Instawalks. The motives of individual users for meeting up vary widely: some just want to have a cup of coffee together, some want to meet like-minded photographers, others might want to see how it is possible to take such photos with only an iPhone (or a smart phone). All of these meetings are characterized in that there is no pressure to meet up again or take the acquaintance any further. Some of these walks are particularly important for me. At some of them I met instagramers with whom I actually took photos and chased after motives together. This is how I caught up with Ido in London, after having previously met him in Tel Aviv. He came with his dog Izo, who has his own Instagram account (http://instagram.com/theizotimes). Izo is Ido’s alter ego, as Ido would say. Passers-by look at Izo and Ido takes the photos – of the passers-by and of Izo. Thus Izo also always helps to break the ice and provides a distraction. Both of them posed for me for one of my backlit images.

Ido won the 15secfilmfestival in the category “Funniest Video” with Izo’s birthday video. Izo receives a cake for his birthday and in his favorite coffee shop, too! He posed for me in front of street art.

When instagramers get together, they start to jump after a while. But why? Generally speaking, there is a lot of jumping on Instagram photos. Do instagramers have jumping genes? Or is it simply an imitation reflex? In all probability we won’t need to resort to psychologists and their studies when it comes to this type of synchronizing of human behavior. Maybe the reason is simply that it is easy and effective to take a picture of a jump with smart phones. The camera can be held quite low down. Even ordinary jumps look as though the model in the picture has jumped several meters high. Backlit jumps – taken so that the silhouette is distinctively outlined against a hopefully very blue sky – are popular. Ido did a jump for me in front of a wall with graffiti. I tried to bring out especially the connection between the dragon and Ido.

The walk with Ido was something special, because we went on the hunt together and kept looking for the best angle and the best time to push the trigger on our iPhones. He was annoyed when I managed to do a perfect “strideby” and he didn’t. In order for Ido to be satisfied with a photo, Izo had to look just right, i.e., he had to actually look right at the lens. He pushed his models to continually improve their performance, just as he had done a year ago in the old port in Jaffa, only then it was a few teenagers jumping into the water. That is probably why we were exhausted after two hours of intensive photography.

One of my favorite photos of the day I met Ido shows a young woman walking through London. I photographed her side-on. In the background is a double-decker bus. The whole scene is framed by a passageway in brick-slip cladding in which the bus is reflected.

Pictures from all over the world and meeting instagramers are not the only reasons why Instagram fascinates me so much. These aspects, however, are not unimportant.

Jörg Nicht

He lives in Berlin and has been taking photos since he was 12. Now he has more than 270,000 followers on Instagram.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/jn
EyeEm: www.eyeem.com/jn_
Twitter: www.twitter.com/joergno
Tumblr: www.jnstagram.tumblr.com

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