Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interbeing and Instagram

One of the powerful things about Instagram is how its simple, stripped down design facilitates keeping up with a group of photographers and seeing their work over time. You see the way different interests and approaches come and go from someone’s stream, and you see how some people are self-assured and comfortable with a particular style of work, while others are constantly trying to find their own voice. You also see certain trends rippling through everyone’s work as new apps (like Water My Photo) are discovered and played with, and as people try new things and influence others to try new things. My current fascination with using layers and symmetry was influenced by seeing the work of @deekayem, @dopez., @moonangle, and many others, who have all played with layering and editing in different ways.

And sometimes the influences are more direct. @ponxerella posted a photo yesterday of a statue undergoing renovations, surrounded by scaffolding. A few comment exchanges later, @ponxerella had come up with an alternate universe of sorts. She said that she had used a Scaffolding App that inserted scaffolding into any work. Then she admitted that actually, she had used a Statue App that inserted statues of literary figures into any work. The ideas were so appealing to me—special little apps doing such particular and niche-y things. It was clearly not true, but in some other world, it could be true. It was such a magical realist thing. And I immediately remembered that right next to the Metro Rail station I go to each morning is an Abraham Lincoln statue. So I had to get some pics on the way to the train this morning, and then experimented on the train… I had no idea what I was going to do, but when I started to play, I quickly came upon a great x-axis symmetry result in PhotoWizard that took me aback, it was so cool. Then the rest of the hour trainride was spent happily editing away. When I posted the finished work, I tagged @Ponxerella to let her know that I had found the Statue App!

The neatest thing about this process for me was how random it was. If @Poxerella had been less silly and not replied to my comment about the scaffolding in the way she did, things would have been Different, and I would be thinking about something else entirely, and would not have been able to create this really cool work. All of our lives are filled with these happenstance connections, but they’re not often this obvious and neat. In this way, Instagram is an opportunity for daily meditative practice on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings of Interbeing. The work of people I don’t follow ripples through to people I do follow, and my work influences others who follow me, who then influence others who don’t follow me… in a way, when we see anyone’s IG stream, we are seeing bits of EVERYONE’s stream, fractured and fragmented and refracted a million times over, but there, nonetheless.


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