I went to Art School.
This doesn't mean that I am any better, savvier, or more talented than a photographer that didn't go to art school. What going to Art School does mean is that I studied the History behind photography and really appreciate the art of it.
Instagram hurts my soul, purpose, and my art right now. The over-saturation of the industry is so prevalent that it's apparent at first glance. Sorority girls that post nothing but bikini pictures get 10,000 likes on a photo while my favorite artists struggle to get 200. Photographers like Brandon Woelfel exist with 2 million Instagram followers, yet Woelfel's entire page is pretty white girls between the age of 18-25. I mean it, go through his page. 0% diversity.
Fad editing and YouTube tutorials run rampant and get tens of thousands of likes a day, yet we are not paying attention to the artists that are making a difference.
Renell Medrano, one of my favorite photographers right now, grew up in the Bronx and shoots Fashion and Editorial work. She graduated from Parson's and her documentary and personal work highlights four girls that also grew up in the Bronx. She did a two year project highlighting these girls and their lives. Her inspirations line up with some of mine: Jim Goldberg, Charlotte Wales, Nan Goldin, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon.
Renell is an example of what I want to see MORE of. She is a woman of color, appreciates the history of photography and those who came before her, and does personal projects that don't just concentrate on the 1%.
Our obsession with likes for approval is a constant struggle that I myself feel like I'm always falling into. I feel like my photo isn't good if my likes are "sub-par", where in reality it could have been my favorite photo. Photographers that have cult followings will always get thousands of likes, while I struggle to get 100 likes sometimes. These things don't actually matter in real life, but Instagram makes you feel like you are inadequate based on popularity.
Photographers get famous off of exploiting and over-sexualizing women on Instagram now. A picture of a hot blonde girl in a bikini on the beach is going to get 500x the amount of likes I get on something more refined and tasteful. To make things worse, a lot of photographers that are famous on Instagram for these types of photos also have been reported for sexual harassment and assault.
Most importantly, famous "fad" photographers are lacking diversity. They shoot skinny, white, blonde models and don't represent different ethnicity, body types, etc. The trans community is even less represented - I rarely see trans models (if I ever even have, to be honest) on these "fad photography" pages.
I have no problem with someone wanting to pick up a camera and start taking photos. At nine years old I picked up a Camera and it literally showed my my life's purpose. I simply ask that if you are going to be a photographer on Instagram, work to change the problems that the platform brings forward, not make them worse. Shoot diversity within your subjects. Look at amazing artists that are not only making work for themselves, but for ethical purposes.
Most importantly, don't be selfish. Don't be cocky if you get thousands of likes on your photos. Be humble, work hard, and literally just CARE about the art of photography itself. Make work that helps people, gives them confidence, and promotes positive vibes. Don't make work that exploits, over-sexualizes, and marginalizes.