street photography tips

SHADOW BANNING : HOW INSTAGRAM IS KILLING YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM

HOW INSTAGRAM IS KILLING YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM

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INTRO

Last Sunday I was shadowbanned from Instagram because of this photo.

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It was fast. Just a few minutes after I posted the picture I got a message from Instagram that my photo is offended (because it contains nipples in one small portion of the photo ) and I was warned if l continue to post this kind of content my account can be deleted. I must admit I was a bit surprised. For me, the photo is nothing special, and certainly not problematic or insulting from my point of view. But Instagram's algorithm doesn't think that way. After an hour or so, I posted another photo, this time “normal” street photography style image, typical for my work. And, I was surprised again, that likes didn’t start to show, as usual, so I checked some of the hashtags and realized that Instagram locked my account in a way that my photos are not showing anywhere except on the feeds of people that already follow my profile. In other words, I am in some digital prison.

WHISKEY THOUGHTS

I sipped myself a big whiskey on a rock in a glass, light up my cigarette, and start to thinking. I come into Instagram “game” late. I used Flickr for years, and like it, but everybody was rumbling that every serious photographer must have an Instagram account, so I open it and start to post the images. In the beginning, I gained some followers, but after a while, it becomes addictive checking feed game, thinking about how to grow my account, you know the drill. And, of course, followers growth stopped, almost entirely. I realized, that it doesn’t have anything with the quality of the photos I posted, but that everything is controlled by algorithm which has the primary purpose of forcing you (gently) to dive deep into a game of posting, scrolling, liking, following, and, of course, to pay Instagram for promote you, and help you to grow. So I paid once or twice around 30$ for "promotion", and for that, I get around 30 followers. Not bad, ha! One dollar, one follower.

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INSTAGRAM, WHAT HAPPENED?

If I honestly think about the time that I spent on Instagram, it was not such a good time, and most of it was not really about photography. Somehow, I fooled myself, that if I post great photos regularly, it’s just a matter of time when someone will “recognize” my talent and I will get some sort of international fame. Of course, none of it happened. If I think objectively about all this small and large chunks of time that I invested in Instagram, it was just wasted time, mostly, killing boredom, or similar feeling like when you are playing some stupid game to pass the time while you are waiting for the bus. Here is the quoted comment from one of the posts on petapixel that summarized it all, better than I can:

“I’m not yet a big fan of Instagram. It seems to be a tiresome endless splurge of chaff. Finding the wheat is not that easy. Then you have image theft, the disturbing trend of paying for placement or reach, people like Richard Prince too. Maybe there is a point to it if you are trying to profit from photography but not if you simply have an urge to create. Trying for likes is self-defeating and actually, way too time-consuming. I’d rather be working on my images or writing (even if no-one sees them) or in the field capturing them because, in my case, the experience comes before, and is more important than, the photograph.”
— Will Goodlet | petapixel comments

or this comment that is even better in describing the current situation

“So we’ve moved from a model where professionals photographers got paid for the use of their images to one where many photographers are happy to give their work away for free to newspapers and news websites, and finally to one where they’re willing actually to pay someone to publish their work? Wow.”
— Tim Gander | petapixel comments

Which brings us to the headline of this article


KILLING THE ARTISTIC FREEDOM


Imagine young Daido Moriyama, in some hotel room, with a Ricoh and the naked girl laying on a bed. And, while he raises the camera to his eye, he thinks " Uh, better not this angle, nipples are visible, I won't be able to post the image to the Instagram."

Let's forget about the "nipples" problem for now. Maybe besides finding "offending" content, Instagram's algorithm works in our favor; it's just we can't see it.

Look at this screenshot.

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Those are my three images with most likes from the whole last year. See any similarity? A lonely man in a dark, gritty surrounding, almost cliché .

If you post an image on Instagram, you surely want people to like it. Maybe your mind is saying " I don't care," but Instagram is not playing with your mind only. It is playing with your emotions, your subconsciousness. So, after a while, your photographic style, composition and the way you treat photography are starting to shift towards images that get more likes and attention. That's because, if your picture is more liked, the algorithm will allow a longer lifespan of that image, and you will then get the opportunity to have even more likes. Plainly said, the application is messing with you, seriously. I read about it, and I just thought that didn't apply to me. But it will crawl under your skin, and it's just a matter of time. I used Flickr for example, for years, and never have any similar experience. Hence, that's why Instagram is so successful as a business platform. For his owners, of course. And, don't fool yourself. Even the great names from the world of photography felled into a game trap: buying followers, checking the feed and likes a whole day, using dirty tricks...


INSTAGRAM, THANK YOU!

I became photographer from the pure love to create and to enjoy the process, and if somebody has told me then that I will put my work and time into hands and mercy of application and algorithm, I wouldn't believe it — one more observation. You can either spend your time creating or consuming. And time is precious. All the time that you spent in absorbing Instagram, that time is lost for creating. We all know it, and too often we forgot that.

I wish to thank Instagram for this warning and shadow banning. It was a clear reminder that I need to focus more on my work and my website perhaps. After all, it's mine, and it's not free because I'm paying for it, but then I can post here whatever the hell I want.

Of course, you can freely comment below…