Blessing or a Curse by Kai Hornung

Blessing or a Curse by Kai Hornung

Instagram and social media have undoubtedly changed photography. But for better or worse? There are countless opinions on this matter. What follows are a few of my own thoughts on the matter.

It is amazing to think that Instagram has risen to 500 million active users a day. Perhaps even more impressive, 95 million images are uploaded every day and 4.2 billion likes are registered. This is powerful evidence that photographic images are of interest to people across all borders. Personally, I share and like, too. But is this a good thing? Or am I complicit in devaluing the art of photography by flooding the internet with images to the point where they no longer hold any significance?

I should first note that I am not a professional photographer and do not need to create income by publishing images. Why does this matter? Because there are many different approaches to social media. And you need to understand this in order to evaluate its usefulness. If you are willing to create income through social media, you probably can. But that requires strategically working the various platforms and investing a lot of time, which makes it a job.

This is neither good nor bad. But it is necessary to constantly communicate with your audience, attract people to your account and produce quality content. What does this have to do with photography? Nothing upon the first inspection. But Instagram lives by the power of visualization. And that’s what photography is about, is it not?

When I first came across Instagram, I didn't get it. Why should I be posting images to complete strangers? Why should a like or follow someone or something of no matter to me? Back then, I took photos only for myself and my family. Eventually, I became more interested in photography as an art form and started to take it on a more serious level. I started to share my images on Flickr, finding it both novel and interesting to receive feedback, even if it was mostly polite pats on the back. It was all very nice, but it did not really help other than to provide some encouragement.

Eventually, I returned to my Instagram account that had been lying around pretty much dormant. There, I got more pats on the back. Soon I realized that many of those pats were mere invitations to return the favor. There seemed to be no genuine interest in my images, whatsoever. I also felt a deep sense of betrayal when somebody who had initially followed me later unfollowed me, but only once I had reciprocated. Though I no longer get upset about such things, it is apparent that many of the people who follow other photographers are mostly interested in self-promotion. This, of course, has nothing to do with the art of photography.

So why do I still partake in the game of egos which is Instagram? Because having discovered its true value it has become an indispensable asset to me. It allows me to easily connect with like-minded individuals whilst providing an endless source of inspiration and motivation. I found many photographers whose work has inspired me to improve my photography and to travel to places I did not know existed. I love how easily you can contact other fine photographers and collaborate on a community level.

Of course, there are some people who will spam, troll or otherwise try to take advantage of you. And I will leave the issue of image thievery for another article. But none of this diminishes my enjoyment of connecting with photographers with whom I share a similar vision. In fact, there are artists I chat with every day. Some award winners and professionals, others hobby-enthusiasts that just love to share their passion with others. I have even met up with some of my Instagram contacts on awesome photo tours in both the Dolomites and Lofoten Islands.

Is Instagram essential to our pursuit of photography? Absolutely not. But it has been extremely helpful to me, influencing both my perception and appreciation of the work of those who brave the hour and elements in pursuit of our passion.

Of course, there are photographers who opt to shoot for the sole purpose of accumulating likes and followers. Some tailor their images to fit popular trends and culture. This, in some ways, resembles the effect of mainstream pop music on music in general. In other words, has pop music changed music? Yes, certainly. But it has not decreased appreciation of classic music or other genres. In fact, it has made music more diverse. If you want to be "top of the pops", then by all means go out and shoot that way. But if your passion is for “jazz,” then practice that style of photography. People will still appreciate your traditional style of photography, though perhaps not as much as trendier photographers.

So is social media a blessing or curse for the serious photographer? I would say it definitely is a blessing that makes you curse every now and then. Use social media as a way to connect with like-minded photographers and spark your creativity. Enjoy the likes on your images, but don’t let numbers be the judge of your art. No number of likes can quantify your experience, dedication or passion for what you do. Reach out and get to know other people that are as crazy and as passionate as you are for your chosen genre of photography. Shoot together and let them tell you where you have room to improve rather than just collecting warm hugs. Of course, all this is possible without Instagram and such, but why be hard on yourself?

I am a landscape photographer living in Hanover, Germany. I am a father of 2 great children and I work as a human resources consultant. Many years ago I earned my university degree as a business economist. Recruiting and training people and also being a keynote speaker in German and English have been some of my main professional tasks. I started to get into photography more seriously in mid-2016. Meaning I wanted to learn more than just playing around with a camera and capturing my children and holiday experiences as I had done before. The more I got into it the more I felt comfortable shooting landscapes. Seeing nature in a way I hadn't before is truly rewarding and enriches my life. Meanwhile, I share my work on social media regularly and have seen my images get published and awarded.

Homepage of international award winning landscape photographer Kai Hornung. His nature and fine art photography has established him as one of the leading landscape photographers. Kai is from Germany and has turned photography into a side job as an artist and freelancer.