Following the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, Businessweek.com asked several prominent photographers, editors, and other photography professionals about Instagram. For many of them, the simple app has changed the way they shoot and what they choose to share with the world. Here are their replies, in their own words. — Brent Murray
"I only recently started to use Instagram. I've been more of a Tumblr user the last few years, but Instagram as well as Tumblr are now two social media sites that I use for my iSee project. I only post iPhone pics, and only one a day. Unless I'm on assignment, of course. It's been motivating since it forces me to get out and hunt for pictures, even when I'm pushing a stroller or carrying the groceries."
(Ben Lowy is a New York-based photographer specializing in conflict and feature photography. This year, Lowy was awarded the Magnum Foundation Emergency fund to continue his work in Libya, and also became the youngest photographer to receive the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Photojournalism.)
"I started using Instagram like six months ago and it has been a fun tool for me to play around with. I think of it like the Twitter for photographers, where I can show a little bit of behind-the-scenes from my assignments or travels to my followers. I never really thought of it as more than a playground until recently when my agency, BA-reps, started posting my images from Instagram on their website (together with the other photographers who use Instagram). Now my small "twits" became more public and I started to think more about what I show."
(Joachim Ladefoged is a member of the renowned VII photo agency and has won international recognition for covering war, conflict, and ordinary life. He has worked in more than 50 countries for magazines such as the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, National Geographic, Mare, Time, and Newsweek.)
Damon Winter, James Estrin
When Damon Winter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the New York Times, used Hipstamatic to document U.S. soldiers in northern Afghanistan (left), his work there both roused the ire of critics and won a Pictures of the Year International award. Winter stayed out of the discourse until he prepared a statement for a live chat on Poynter.org. The statement can be read here.
Winter's colleague James Estrin, a staff photographer at the Times and a contributing editor of its Lens blog, said: "I enjoy Instagram. Instagram, in particular, and cell phone cameras and social media in general, have changed the way photographs function in our society. They are now predominantly a currency in social interaction."
"I think Instagram is a fabulous app. It's super easy to post on any number of social media sites, the Amaro filter and the contrast bump provide a cool look. It's not precious, it's disposable art. It's back to basics, but it's sophisticated in functionality. Facebook obviously thought so."
(Ewan Burns is a portrait and action-packed lifestyle photographer, with clients ranging from Outside and Men's Health magazines to GE and MTV.)
"I have never used Instagram. I talk on my phone and take photos with my camera. But my niece uses it all the time and loves it. I guess it's a generational thing."
(Stephen Shames creates photo essays on social issues for magazines, books, advocacy organizations, and art museums. He is renowned for his work documenting the Black Panthers movement from 1967 to 1973, shown here.)
Photograph by Stephen Shames
David X. Prutting
"I use Instagram for personal use but primarily as a business tool that supplements the social media we already do at BFAnyc.com, such as Facebook and Twitter. I will take photos at my clients' events and 'tag' their usernames, any hashtags, or if I shoot other friends, peers, or the occasional high-profile person, I will add that into the photo. We do this in hopes of generating a response from users."
Instagram is "a creative way of sharing all the photos I take on my iPhone camera. Being a photographer and since the iPhone came out I've been taking a lot of photos on the phone. It's always with me and I like the idea of keeping a 'visual diary.' Since I'm not that clever in terms of Twitter, I like talking with images. I like to follow friends, clients, different personalities, and people I'm generally interested in to see how they are expressing themselves, solely on a visual level."
(David X. Prutting is a celebrity event photographer based in New York. He is also a co-owner of the photography agency BFA.)
"My large collection of both digital and film cameras are behind me on a shelf right now collecting dust 'cause I pretty much only shoot and edit my images on my iPhone and post them on Instagram. Everyone has their social media, and Instagram is mine. Instagram is the modern Polaroid. It's simple, fun, and instant: the reasons I love taking photos. Digital cameras making photography easier is a myth; with digital I just shot more photos, then had to edit them in Lightroom, and then post them when I got to it. I was pretty pissed that Instagram sold out. So much so I built saveinstagram.com so people had a community to aggregate photos, #saveinstagram, about their frustration. The power of Instagram was that it isn't Facebook. It was a community of its own, originally just iPhone users that could just post from their iPhones. Exclusion creates community. Facebook is no longer a community to me, it's just Facebook. And the sale of Instagram wasn't based on technology, it was Facebook buying a community and that just isn't cool. Life looks better on Instagram and I hope that doesn't change."
(Harry Bernstein is a partner and founder of lovethe88.com, a full-service digital agency in New York.)
I was hesitant to use Instagram at first, but finally gave in and I think it's a great app. I don't use it for work purposes generally, but I've had increasing requests from social media departments to use images we produce for their Instagram accounts.
(Craig Calefate is a manager of photo production at NBCUniversal in New York.)
"I'm addicted to Instagram. I think it's great and a great promotional tool. I find that combining IG with Twitter and Facebook really enriches my efforts with social media. I prefer having some sort of status update of what I'm doing or what I'm shooting with a picture attached. Taking into consideration the privacy of a shoot that hasn't been published yet, I like to post things related to the shoot such as small interesting details that I know won't make the shoot. But at times it informs what I shoot: Often I find myself shooting something on my iPhone that then I decide to shoot with the real camera. So it's a good tool as well for seeing things in a fresh way."
"I use Instagram for sharing—moments from my day, favorite foods from around New York—but also, the photos I post on my personal blog have been run through Instagram. It's how I keep an eye on my fellow photographers' work, too. I've heard people say Instagram makes photography 'easy.' Not true. They still haven't come up with a technology to replace an experienced photographer."
(Anna Dickson is a senior photo editor for the Huffington Post, who is helping steer the launch of a new tablet-based magazine.)
"I've worked as a photographer for over 20 years, mostly photographing conservation in remote places, on leanly funded (i.e., traveling solo) assignments for NGOs. And often that means working in a vacuum. I've also worked from time to time as a picture editor and creative director and know how inspiring it of course is to get to know other photographers and their work in a noncompetitive way. I've just started using Instagram, but am quickly becoming addicted, and mostly to the casual, 'personal journal' approach most photographers take to their feeds. I love the voyeuristic insight into creative experiments and how people REALLY want to be seen by their peers. Me? Most of what I've posted are things I eat or drink, especially the more adventurous or exceptional meals. Food is how I connect to the places I travel, and in the context of all the 'meaningful' work I'm usually doing it's been great to have a small excuse to just play and make photographs for fun." (instagram: jasonbhouston)
(Jason Houston is an independent photographer and documentary filmmaker focused on social and environmental issues. He has spent the last six years covering the intersection of economic development and environmental conservation.)
"I recently switched to using the iPhone after years of being on a BlackBerry. As a photographer, the biggest thing I have noticed is how often I now think to use my camera phone. Instagram has given me a good excuse to shoot and document those everyday things I would always notice but never think were 'worthy' of shooting pictures of. The ability to keep up with my friends all over the world in a visual way and constantly see what they're up to has been really fun."
(Kyle Johnson is a portrait and travel photographer whose aesthetic pairs textured natural settings with a distinct photographic style. Johnson has recently shot work for Wallpaper* magazine, L.L. Bean, and Self-Titled magazine.)