November 2021 Update: Instagram has changed quite significantly since I wrote this with a focus on video’s/”reels”/”stories” and ads (unfortunately). It’s a new Instagram world and I am slow to adapt to change. That said, I still love it! Despite the changes, Instagram is still a simple gallery for me and I use few if any words/hashtags (except for the occasional poem). One hashtag I use again and again is #marinstagram as most of my work is captured around Marin of course 🙂
There are possibly hours maybe even minutes until my 6000th Instagram post. It seems impossible. When I hopped on the Instagram train in 2011, hardly anyone I knew was on the now infamous app. For many years, at least within my circle of friends, I was a lone Instagram wolf- creating, playing, perusing and posting on Instagram. As the years progressed many others followed suit and now it has become a household name throughout the world.
For many either who use Instagram sparingly, glimpsing at a few images now and again or for those who have not signed on yet, Instagram’s lure often remains an enigma. “Well, it is just photos?” people ask. For me, the “just photos” comment is kind of funny because this app has boomeranged my livelihood. Not only do I use it as a true online gallery where it’s embedded as an ever evolving daily or near daily live photo feed on my website, but it’s also a major hotbed where I gather creative inspiration, of photo taking and editing ideas, yes, but also from the words, captions and poems that pair with the images above them. And I have used Instagram mainly as an editing and posting tool but also as an actual phone camera where the filters pop up right then and there. I have even acquired the skills to navigate through this app and many other photo apps to the point where I teach others how to successfully turn everyday photos into art. And that is the lure, anyone can make art in a snap, literally. Yes, it can be time-consuming to play around, edit and post, but the feeling of having created something for yourself or others to see is fun and mutually satisfying. It’s a creative addiction.
Instagram is like a world wide web museum- if you go in the right direction. And like anything that is web or tech related, you can get easily lost in the shuffle of overwhelm. But if you get pointed the right way, you’re in for a treat. Go the other way and you’ll leave feeling uninspired and perhaps even bored. Part of the reason is that there are endless amounts of feeds to look at including hashtag title hubs for names as well as collectives usually based on simple themes such as #oldcar#flower or #vintage shots or type of photography such as #blackandwhite or #macro to the niche groups such as #tinypinkflower or #candyappleredcar and then there are even hyper niche groups such as #tinypinkrose or #candyappleredporsche. And then there are the gallery hubs that post emotionally captivating or atmospherically breathtaking photos if you include their hub specific applicable hashtag. One of my favorite smaller group of creatives that borders on the alt art, emotionally moody scene, is @bespoke_gallery_IG.
Keep searching and you may find one of the creative geniuses who have galleries filled with stunning photos such as Chris Burkard @chrisburkard. This man brings nature and it’s awe inspiring vistas into view. He has upwards of 2.5 million followers and yet his images are usually pretty simple and straightforward. There is a spare stillness in the images he captures and I admire his originality and down to earth sensibility where others have since followed but seem to have egos that want to make you exit stage right.
Although I’ve never partaken in an “Instameet” (a meet up of other avid Instagram users) or never really connected with one of the thousands of Instagram hashtag niche communities, the casual virtual connections with other Instagram photographers who I follow and who follow me are like sacred virtual connections, yeah, sure, we’ve never met in person, but meeting through this creative process is the friendship of the era- but one that isn’t deceptive or asking for more. It’s just what it is, an Instagram friend, simple as that.
My faithful devotion to Instagram has been many things, I definitely spend way too much time on it whether or not it’s my “work.” Minutes turn into hours with my phone in hand, poring through the deeply shadowed dramatic black and white images that make art. But for me, it’s never been about the likes or amount of followers. If you look at my feed, even though my commitment has been steady and unwavering since 2011, I may have no more than 20 or 30 likes on any given photo. On the other hand, I have friends who have popped on Instagram recently, just like that, and seemingly overnight have gathered followers by the dozens either through paid sites or otherwise and may have upwards of 200, 800 or even 2,000 likes. For me that seems overwhelming and distracting and besides the point. My pride comes not from the amount of actual photos I’ve posted (even though I am proud of my 6000th milestone) or the amount of followers, but from my unwavering devotion of 5 plus years. I carry my early memories of walking hand in hand with my iPhone 3 where I felt the simple gratification of watching phone snaps develop into saturated albeit grainy images that filled up a virtual gallery. What a concept! And the square format captivated me with the textured white border that made it look like a slightly remade version of a vintage Polaroid.
Back when I first hopped on Instagram, there were the original dozen of so filters such as the black and white filter titled “Inkwell” that instantly darkened the blacks and whitened the whites, “Lo-Fi” which at first was my go-to because it just made each and every photo pop in color and contrast and “Toaster” with it’s vintage vibe and circular golden glow that highlighted the center of the image, and don’t forget “Hudson” with it’s blue hue and subtle burst of scratchy light. Now there are many more filters and endless editing options that can turn ho-hum photos into magic.
So now as I write, I have indeed reached my 6000th post and I am riding the high and loving this moment. To commemorate, I’ve posted a photo of me smiling wide in a #bubblegumpink convertible in Havana Cuba where I have taken thousands of photos the past two winters. Instagram has been a lot of fun and a lot of work and I am grateful for where it’s taken me.
To see Mary’s Creative Image Photography
on Instagram check out her Instagram feed @maryserphos
And to find out about Mary’s Creative Image Photography Classes see her website