Earlier in the week, I was angry. Instagram deactivated my account stating that I had violated their legal terms of agreement. I could not figure it out. While I have seen many images on Instagram of illegal activities (underage drinking, lewd not artsy nudity, pot smoking, etc.) I certainly have not posted anything of that nature. Then it struck me that I my last post was of a dead baby rabbit. Its skin had dried and it was laying in my friend’s front yard on the green grass. It was sad and beautiful and abstract. I think it might have violated Instagram’s legal terms of agreement. I enjoyed the daily practice of posting on Instagram and had about 500 photographs in my feed. What surprised me when I was deactivated, was how addictive the activity had become. I found myself trying to check my feed every few hours. Had I really been doing that without realizing it the past year? I also felt disinclined to photograph with my iPhone. That surprised me as well. Was I just using the iPhone camera so I could post on Instagram and see how many likes I could get?
Instagram does not answer emails and there is no customer support phone number. On their website they clearly state this. They also state that if you are deactivated, the only thing you can do is start over again with a new user name. I have decided not to do this. While I enjoyed the little filters and the way they made all my iPhone photographs look like works of genius, the practice took me away from some of very basic things that I like best about photography: that I do it purely for myself. I made that decision years ago when I left editorial photography to teach for a living. It was very freeing to no longer have to take a photograph for anyone else ever again. Instagram had become a way for me to gather those “likes,” it made me competitive in a not so very nice way. It also took away another thing: I love the fact that I take a photograph and it exists as much in my mind as on the film or sensor. If I take a photograph I really like, I keep to myself for sometime. Instagram, as the name implies, is well, instant. I can’t remember so many of the 500 photographs I had made for my feed. I took them and then they were gone into cyberspace, away from my psyche.
So this is my farewell to Instagram and it may well be my farewell to all sorts of instant photography. This weekend, for the first time in years, I am shooting some color negative 4 x 5 film. I like the idea that I won’t see those images for a few weeks. I have to send the film off to Portland, for there is no place in Seattle to have it developed. I look forward to walking around the next few weeks with those images in my head. And maybe they won’t turn out. I will have no way of knowing for some time. Ah, just like the old days.
I can’t seem to recover that dead bunny photograph, so here are a couple of dead animals I posted on Instagram last summer: the dead fish in a vial that my daughter’s friend brought back from the Bering Sea and a dead bird my friend brought out from Brooklyn years ago. Instagram apparently did not catch these which are much more explicit and less abstract than the dead bunny. The featured image is one that I took last summer in Brooklyn. I am still answering that question about Instagram: How does freedom feel?