Inst style is death

Recently I came to the realisation that my work doesn’t have a consistent style. My images are cohesive, recognisable but not consistent. I was looking at artists I admire and seeing there work and thinking that their photographic style isn’t consistent either. Many photographers body of work is generally all over the place from project to project. When comparing old master photographers to current photographers I liked, the newer photographers work was more consistent, recognisable and stylistic. But Everything I just thought was wrong, I was so wrong and here’s why.

I love Ralph Gibson and Robert Frank’s books they are truly amazing. But looking at them most of the subject matter is all over the place compared to other photographers I like on social media. But then it hit me like a shit ton of bricks. I wanted to mould and mature my photographic style to fit social media. Let me explain why this is death to a photographer.

If I got all the work of Ralph Gibson or Robert Capa or William Eggleston and put it on an Instagram feed the profile wouldn’t have nearly as consistency or cohesiveness like modern famous Inst photographers, which is something I strived for. That’s because an Inst photographer needs to have a super consistent style to stand out of the feed. If every image they took was too different they would be unfollowed or dismissed from that like button that influences us too much. Where photographers of old their images are taken to be seen in a book, a story a narrative. Not one-hit wonders but as a dialogue over a series of images. 

Inst photographers need to stand out from the crowd and to do this need to have a super consistent style that follows some sort of theme. Be it the same colour plate, genre, branding or location, theme, preset. Whatever it is, and sadly I also fell into this fuck’n stylistic trap that I thought I needed to have. Only right now have I come to the realisation that everything I have been striving for of lately is wrong, death, conformity, pleasing the masses. Holy shit I need to stop looking at Instagram because it’s influenced me to the point where I have started to lose my unique voice and have started to change to conform for the fuck’n ego button, you know that icon of a thumbs up or heart.

So what have I realised? photography masters are masters because they can tell stories. Be it a journey, story, journalism, idea, concept, they can tell it through narrative, through sequencing. The masters of old did not care for the minute aesthetics of their style, they just were. Instagram is great but to a point. One must educate themselves outside of pixels screens and into galleries and books. If all you eat is one thing you’re going to get sick and die, you need diversity in your diet to become healthy and strong. 

Another thing I have come to realise is that yes Inst photographers and master photographers of old do have consistency and a personal style, this is true. Some use the same film, or preset, camera(s), lens(s), or even genre of photography. I hope I never become an Insta photographer because an Insta photography style is death to longevity. There is nothing wrong with striving to be one, most make more money than I could ever dream of. But ask yourself what are your motivations and who are your images for? Because the real livelihood of an image is its purpose, where it’s meant to be viewed. Book or social feed, magazine or gallery wall, billboard or Pinterest, coffee table or museum. Where do you want your images to end up? How long do you want your images to last? Or are your motivation beyond artistic legacy and more about money and putting food on the table. Near is wrong, just something to think about.

2 Comments

  1. I think this is challenging because social validation is part of art, for better or for worse. The masters are also masters because tons of people like their work and have agreed it's masterful. The problem with social media is that this validation has been cheapened, I think. You can reach a wider audience but the audience is less indicative of the quality of your work, nor is your outreach. What does 5, 50, or 500 likes/hearts/stars really mean? So that begs the question of "what makes my work genuinely good?" If I can tell good stories but no one's paying attention to them, does that make me a bad artist or a bad marketer? Why do I want people to see my work - what are my stories for? I like that this post ends in a question and invitation to reflect because the answer is definitely something unique to each artist...
    • If we rely on external forces that are out of our control, like someone liking our work. Then we let external forces dictate our worth and happiness. It's a scary thing letting a stranger dictate your value as a human. Me personally I prefer to focus on the joy of creating instead of a popularity contest.

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