I recently shared the images below with someone assuming they would comment on the tone or subject matter--both of which impressed me. Instead, they sent back a reply, "Cool Instagram pics."
To be fair, I sent them over my mobile computing device (i.e. phone) and I am sure they were viewed on a phone. And because of this, maybe the auto-correct tool on their phone turned the word "photographs" into "Instagram pics." I mean, my phone turns the word "Tunisia" into "tubes of pizza" so anything is really possible. But I felt an undeniable sense of misplaced rage when I realized that along with Facebook profile pics and Vine videos, Instagram has made the square into the default format for how we view images. Beyond that, Instagram is seen as the default creation tool of square images. In fact, I would argue they currently own the square in imaging, and have even devalued it by making it the standard format for how we view our daily lives--if you can devalue a shape with four equal straight sides and four right angles.
I use all the aforementioned social media networks--as well as words from the late 1500's. And along with another billion people, I find them to be exciting means of communication and sharing. In fact, you can see all kinds of 1:1 ratio fun on my own
Instagram account. But it is fascinating and befuddling how social media dictates artistic sensibility, Now when we see a landscape with a 3:2 aspect ratio, it just looks too big. I mean, it would never fit in an Instagram! I know the aspect ratio of the crop on any given photo does not speak directly to our civilization's creativity. However, when people dismiss a photo too quickly because it is a square (and hence a "mobile creation") then the format is suddenly a direct obstacle to the content, and the emotional weight of the image is lost because the time spent to create it is assumed to have been carefree or even careless.
In other words tag @n8tron in your next Instagram. Back to my Tunisian pizza...
All photos are by Tim Hetherington. Tim was humanitarian and truly skilled documentarian, who also happened to carry a camera. Tim died in 2011 while covering the war in Libya. You can learn more about his photos here and you can see a Sebastian Junger film about his life here.
You can read more on Instagram and get the scoop on their CEO Kevin Systrom in a new article from Vanity Fair. Excerpt: "At Stanford, Systrom opted to go abroad to Florence, Italy, for the winter term of his junior year, where he focused on photography. A teacher there persuaded him to switch from his Nikon to a plastic Holga that took square photos, a choice that would be echoed later at Instagram. Florence also marked Systrom’s introduction to using chemicals in the developing process, such as selenium toning, which can give photos a distinct purple hue."