Innovation in 2017

Pics or it Didn’t Happen: Why Photojournalism Needs Instagram

It would seem that Instagram, the little brown camera that could, is ticking all the right 1080px by 1080px boxes. As websites attempt to simulate TV, online news is vastly becoming visual.

Having left Twitter in its dust back in 2013, the 1 year anniversary of Instagram ‘stories’ earlier this month tolls the official conquest of Snapchat. Grim news for Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel (if he hadn’t already bagged supermodel Miranda Kerr in May) as Snapchat’s monthly active user growth rate has plummeted from 17.2% per quarter to just 5% since the Instagram update.

Instagram has is a vital tool of news media, the online sharing platform has democratised photojournalism. Once demanding the right to know, we also demand the right to see. Thanks to Instagram, we are seeing a whole lot more.

BBC Persian used Instagram to dodge Iranian censorship in January this year, after a large fire brought down a Tehran high-rise building. In the absence of reporters and most social medias (blocked by the Iranian government) reportage was generated through local agency Instagram accounts, fact checked by user-generated content.

Yet there are concerns about the threat tools like Instagram pose to photojournalism. Instagram not plays an equal part in the publication of visual news as the composition of the images and videos. The inherent use of ‘filters’ in photojournalism has been debated since 2011 when Damon Winter from The New York Times was awarded third place from Picture of the Year International, using the Hipstamatic app to take photographs on iPhone. If everyone is a photographer and publisher what will become of photojournalism?

However, this accessibility has made way for a localised form of storytelling. Instagram account Everyday Africa, creates a multi-perspective reality which, post by post, chips away at clichéd Western imagery. A new generation of African photographers are able to set a narrative, too often stolen by the West.

Instagram is piecing small realities into big stories, one square at a time.

About the author

Bree Wild