January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012 was a pretty monumental day for me and I didn’t even know it. On that day I posted my first photo on Instagram. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly didn’t know where it would take me.

My very first photo posted to Instagram.

I’ve been giving this milestone a lot of thought because I’ve been feeling increasingly disconnected from Instagram. I don’t post everyday, I’ve cut back on the hashtags I use and I’ve unfollowed most of the sites that feature toy photography. I tell myself that I’m too busy to be fussing with Instagram everyday (which is true) but I also know that my dissatisfaction runs deeper than that. Have I grown beyond what Instagram can offer? And what exactly does Instagram offer? Has the platform grown to a maturity level that makes it less free spirited, more sterile? Or maybe I simply need a good challenge?

For four years Instagram has been a gift that has kept on giving. The people I’ve connected with on Instagram have inspired me to be a better photographer; I’ve even met a few of them in person. Instagram has given me a good reason to practice my craft almost daily.  For all of this, and so much more, I’m grateful.

What a beautiful puddle! I wonder what a little blue sky would have looked like?
A recent photo posted to Instagram. Yes, I think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last four years.

I’m amazed at how far my photography has progressed by this near daily practice. I think Instagram (or any social media platform that inspires you to work continuously) can be a useful tool for the casual photographer. But what happens when you lose your desire for social interaction? It seems the only clear challenge left on Instagram is to amass thousands of followers and get more likes per image. What a hollow pursuit that is! I’ve yet to see anyone turn a high follower account into anything substantial.

While I enjoy the casual social interactions around Instagram, I’m in need of a greater challenge. I enjoy writing for this blog because it gives me an excuse to think about photography in different ways. I’m grateful for the challenges that Kristina and I’ve been doing together, they’ve kept me engaged in a way that Instagram hasn’t been able to. I admire my friends Avanaut and Captain Kaos who are working hard on new projects and pushing themselves to new heights. Even Me2 has alluded to challenging himself in new ways this year. Yet I feel stuck.

I’ve always thought that being an artist / creative requires you to be in constant motion. It feels good to be moving forward, meeting new challenges, pushing your work to new levels, experimenting, and even failing. For me the format of Instagram doesn’t encourage any of this. We’ve talked before about the limitations of likes, comments and metrics; Instagram tends to reward a certain style and type of photography that I’m not interested in pursuing. I prefer to create quieter, more introspective images.

I’ve had a fabulous four year run on Instagram and my life is richer for the experience. I certainly don’t feel like I’m done with macro toy photography. But I do think I’m waiting for something to happen that will challenge me. What that challenge will look like, I’ve no idea. For now, I will simply be patient.

~ Shelly

How long have you been on Instagram? How often do you post? How do you stay motivated? 

Chima w:teddy in the rain WM
Will the rain ever stop?

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fubiken/Stefan.K
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Hello :)
I have been on Insta for about four years. I don’t post as often as before, just so that I don’t stress myself. My inspiration comes and goes in waves, it is so depending on my mood.
Hugs :)

Captain Kaos
Member

There is a group of us that I wish lived closer to each other. Get in a slump or need to get motivated? Go shoot with Shelly. Out of ideas for now? Ask Dennis if he wants to go in a fodder hunt. Need a new, SECRET location to shoot in and around? Hit me up because those are the only places I haunt. If there was a viable alternative to Instagram, I’d go. The other platforms I’m on are very hit and miss as far as getting your work seen. Creating your own website is an excellent idea but… Read more »

Ben Teoh
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I’ve only been on IG for 2 years but I feel the same. It’s easy to get caught up in the followers and the likes but it starts to feel a little empty as you start like you’re just chasing popularity points. Recently, I’ve decided to do something more fun and challenging and try out some practical effects. I also want to add limitations and just focus on one thing. I’ve found that the more limitations I place on myself Te more I enjoy the challenge and creativity. So at the moment I just want to focus on the Series… Read more »

MaggieGem
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MaggieGem

Hang in there Shelly… like “writers block” don’t all creatives sometimes fall into these slumps? Perhaps they are just part of the process; life goes on we grow, sometimes without even realizing it. You’ve been quite active on many fronts and it’s probably just time to slow up and breathe a bit. Love your work, love how your blog posts getting me (and many others I’m sure) thinking in new and exciting ways. I’m no artist, just a shy person that like photography and sharing, I’m seeing things quite differently since meeting many members of this crazy community that YOU’VE… Read more »

Colin Burden
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Colin Burden

I’ve been on IG for over five years and, although I know that what I have to say isn’t about writer’s block, my problem with IG is that it has changed from a creative application into a bog-standard social-media outlet. People are no longer treating it as a creative tool, but simply an extension of Facebook: gazillions of selfies in the bathroom, memes and (the last straw) advertising. Of course, this has always gone on, to an extent, but when celebrities are starting to using it to make announcements and companies are using accounts as further advertising, then it’s lost… Read more »

lynmillerlachmann
Member

“I’ve yet to see anyone turn a high follower account into anything substantial.” You’d be surprised, Shelly. When my publisher was considering taking on Surviving Santiago, one of the things they looked at was my Instagram follower count. And I have far from the largest count, but for a writer, it’s impressive. (My publisher, by the way, brings out a lot of novelty/how-to books for adults, so if you ever want to do something for toy photography, just let me know!) I’ve been on Instagram 2 1/2 years and while I’m not posting as often as I did before because… Read more »

actiotos
Member
actiotos

I started my Instagram about 3 weeks ago with a R2-B1 shot with the intention to make a page of photos of any genre of toys. But I wasn’t so convinced about that shot; so I decided to address me to Lego shots, my favourite toy since I was little. My idea was to shot Lego Minifigures at outside; the day after I began to do it, very surprised for which would be the reaction of the public. After sharing a few photos , I discovered that there were many photographers in Instagram of these types ; among the first… Read more »

actiotos
Member
actiotos

I started my Instagram about 3 weeks ago with a R2-B1 shot, with the intention to make a page of photos of any genre of toys. But I wasn’t so convinced about that shot; so I decided to address me to Lego shots, my favourite toy since I was little. My idea was to shot Lego Minifigures at outside; the day after I began to do it, very curious for which would be the reaction of the public. After sharing a few photos, I discovered that there was many photographers in Instagram of these types; among the first that I… Read more »

HerrSM
Member

Thinking back I´m guessing I originally started using IG in May 2011..- quite some time has passed, quite some things happened along the way. I´ve seen some waves come and go, seen some accounts come and go. There have always been more active times for me as well as lesser active ones. Around NewYear´s something changed and I can still not tell if it was IG or myself. One day I found I hadn´t checked on the usual suspects for five days… I think that taking a break is a normal thing. Guessing my turn is right now (with life… Read more »