Since its release in 2010, Instagram has become a hugely popular social network for photo-sharing and socializing. It’s also been something of a black hole for photography; for every well-composed, artistic photo on the site, there are a thousand selfies and snapshots of people’s dinner.
While Instagram is by no means meant to be a site for professional photographers, it’s still disheartening to see such a potentially valuable resource go to waste. It could be a place for enterprising new artists to find their voice, gain a following and hone their craft. Instead, it’s quite often a dumping ground for mediocrity, and its reputation can chase away many photographers who could actually benefit from the exposure it could provide.
As photography becomes more accessible, the overall quality often suffers, and the value of really interesting or innovative photography is cheapened by the deluge of images in every corner of the internet. When every cell phone doubles as a camera, formal photography courses and training seem unnecessary – and the overall perceived value of the industry certainly suffers as a result.
Is Social Media the Death of Photography, or the Start of Something New?
The Internet is becoming increasingly visual. The newest social media sites, including Pinterest and Instagram, focus purely on sharing images, as do some of the newer contenders such as SnapChat. Even the old bastions of Facebook and Twitter have been overtaken by images over the last couple of years, and news sites like BuzzFeed rely heavily on visuals to carry their written articles (or what constitutes for them on the site). This reliance on images could be great news for photographers, especially those willing to think outside the box.
Even a decade after Facebook’s inception, social media is finding its feet (to a certain extent) and it takes time to adapt and find the strengths of any new medium. When someone finds a unique niche to explore, the results can become both powerful and viral and some enterprising photographers and artists are making the most of the format to create innovative new art that perfectly suits the medium to create something utterly fresh.
One such artist is Eliska Podzimkova, a graduate of the New York Film Academy. Though she lives in Prague, Eliska spent the summer of 2012 in New York studying animation and falling in love with the sights and sounds of the city. Once she returned to Prague, she began searching for photographs that would remind her of everything she loved about the city – and along the way, she created something magical.
A Marriage of Photography and Art
Eliska’s Instagram page, AnimateNY ) combines photographs of the city with her own whimsical drawings and animations. Unlike other kinds of photo manipulation, the results don’t aim to imitate photo-realism or dramatically alter the photographs with heavy filters and effects. Instead, Eliska’s drawings add a totally new dimension to the photographs. Some are funny, some are cute, and most are utterly surreal. Many are fully animated with sound or music. All of them capture the essence of New York, the talent of the original photographer and Eliska’s own unique style.
The way the Instagram page works is pretty simple: People post photographs with the #animateNY hashtag, and Eliska chooses some to customize with her art. The end result is a fun, interactive, multimedia art form that can only exist on social media.
Thinking Beyond AnimateNY
Right now, AnimateNY has over 13,000 followers, which shows just how successful this sort of innovative approach to collaborative photography can really be. Eliska’s Instagram page has around 100 images so far, with more added as she has the time and inspiration to complete them.
But the beauty of the AnimateNY project is that it doesn’t have to just be Eliska’s work, it doesn’t have to be limited to New York, and it doesn’t have to be constrained to any one style of art or photography.
The idea of Instagram collaborations between photographers and artists can be adapted by professionals, hobbyists, students taking photography courses or anyone else with an interest in cultivating something unique and beautiful from the often ephemeral fabric of Instagram photos.
Collaborating takes all the best parts of social media – including a vibrant marketplace of ideas and styles – and uses it to create something new and interesting. Collaborations like those on Eliska’s page could not exist without modern technology, and embracing this movement can open new doors to worlds for creative people to explore.