LG VX5400 flip hone. Born 2006. Laid to rest 2012.

After 6 years with the same LG flip phone, it was long overdue to get a smartphone. The timing was right to get the iPhone 5. Friends who’ve had iPhone’s in the past just want to hold the 5, “It’s so light,” they fawn.

I waited a day to turn the iPhone on – I was hesitant because I was about to voluntarily submit to yet more corporate networks. But, I’d reconciled that with my decision to go for an iPhone weeks ago when I placed the order. Breathe deeply. Sync the thing with Twitter. First app? Instagram. It reamins the only app on my phone.

So yeah, I’ll be using Instagram with the handle @p3t3brook. But I have rules.


1. No cats.
2. No dogs.
3. No cocktails.
4. No pints/jugs of ale.
5. No frothy coffees.
6. No plates of food.
7. No babies. Already bent that rule with my second Instagram pic, but the baby is unidentifiable and I tell myself that the leaf the chubby baby hand holds is the actual subject.


It’s not that there’s anything wrong with cats, dogs or babies; they are wonderful things in life to be with and be around, but as I don’t have any children or pets, it’s hard for me to justify why I’d make photos of those things.

As for food, well, food has become the fastest most unquestioned trope on Instagram. People used to think it silly to waste film on photographs of food, but the digital age allows us to indulge a common urge. We all want to share – and brag about – what we’re about to demolish. Food Instagram photos are part homage, part evidence, part guilt sharing, part all sorts of things but not something I want to be part of. There’s too many photos of food online and you don’t need any more from me.

On beer, cocktails and coffees, just read the previous paragraph replacing the word ‘food’ with the word ‘drink.’


So what does that leave? Here’s a few things I think are a bit of a challenge.

1. Street photography. Must be well edited. High contrast, light and shadow, unknowing subjects, knowing subjects, reflections, bustle. Avoid reliance on signs; you want the picture to tell you the story, not words (I’ve already failed on that one.)
2. Strange unidentifiable details, preferably achieved by found texture, not filter, but I’ll still take a mix of the two.
3. Inside views of current projects. Tidbits. Teasers.
4. New landscapes. Mad infrastructure. Clever combinations of light as it pings off man-made stuff. LOOK UP!
5. Portraits of strangers.

I’ll try to make images along these lines and I’ll find value in others’ doing the same. So, an emphasis on photos made on the fly and inpublic yes. Which is precisely the point of having a camera with you all times. But, I still want to bring a standard to it – if I feel a photograph is poking fun at someone, or voyeuristic in a creepy way, or that the photographer decided not to get close enough or maybe even have a conversation, I might not Like it.

If Instagram is used consciously, it can be an exercise in mindfulness. Look for interesting views, take the pic, upload, put the phone in your pocket. I want people around me to know that I’m using it in a directed manner. Instagram (and its streaming-app-brethren) counters browbeaten, downward gazes. It remedies our forgetfulness to look up.

Clearly, the majority of what is on Instagram is not good photography, but I reckon we’re seeing millions of experiments of people heading toward good photography, AND at a faster pace than in the past. The end result? Hopefully, widespread understanding of what makes a good photograph.


If you are short of things to read on the topic of Instagram and cell phone photography:

From Memory To Experience: The Smartphone, A Digital Bridge (Stephen Mayes on Jens Haas’ blog)
Wired Opinion: Rip Off the Filters – We Need a Naked Instagram (Wired.com)
Dappled Things: Pinkhassov on Instagram (The New Inquiry)
Everyone shoots first: reality in the age of Instagram (Verge)
Instagram — It’s About Communication (John Stanmeyer)
Stefano De Luigi’s iDyssey (The New Yorker)
Instagram, The Nostalgia Of Now And Reckoning The Future (Buzzfeed)
Hipstamatic Revolution (Guernica Magazine)
Ben Lowy: Virtually Unfiltered (New York Times)
Magnum Irrelevant? (Wall Street Journal)
Instagram: Photography’s Antichrist, Savior, Or Something In Between? (Huffington Post)
Picturing Everyday Life in Africa (New York Times)
reFramed: In conversation with Richard Koci Hernandez (Los Angeles Times)
In an Age of Likes, Commonplace Images Prevail (New York Times)
Why Instagram is Terrible for Photographers, and Why You Should Use It (Photoshelter)
New Economies of Photojournalism: The Rise of Instagram (British Journal Of Photography)
Instagram Isn’t an App, It’s a Publishing Platform (So Treat It Like One) (Photoshelter)