Ibn Ibn Battuta's Instagram Favorites: Intro

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

In my last post ("Nostalgia, Inc: Photography and Analog Defiance in the Age of Instagram"), I delved deep into my generation's peculiar nostalgic urges, and meditated on what is perhaps our favorite outlet for filtering our present world through the lens of the past—Instagram.

But to be fair, not all users see the platform as a vehicle for plunging into that sepia-tinted retroscape. Aesthetic preferences on Instagram vary as widely as the personalities behind the accounts.

While writing that last post and pondering the platform a little more deeply, I started wondering: As both a creator and consumer of photography, what kinds of images do I love?

One thing led to another, and soon I found myself scrutinizing every account I follow, shedding nearly all of them and whittling my bloated list down to just the best of the best, which I've decided to share with you here. In the next few days, I'll be presenting my absolute favorites in hopes that you might enjoy them as much as I do. Stay tuned!

But first, a quick note on how I chose them—based on how I use Instagram and what I seek as inspiration for my own creative pursuits:

8 Rules of Thumb for Getting More out of Instagram

Although a friend first had to drag me kicking and screaming to join Instagram back in 2014 (Hi, Whitney! You were right...), I've had great fun exploring, interacting, and sharing my photography there ever since. (I'm at @ibnibnbattuta, for those who are curious.) In that time, I've honed some rules of thumb for how to get the most out of the platform. All have exceptions, but I find these are good guidelines for ensuring that it's worthwhile:
  1. Small is beautiful. The platform is more intimate, more meaningful, and more enjoyable if you follow as few accounts as possible. Watching a photographer's style evolve or following every step of a traveler's epic trip isn't possible if you're scrolling through 1,000 people's shots and can't keep them straight.
  2. Be brutal. With 800 million users, Instagram is a huge universe full of talented photographers and many, many, many semi-talented or downright untalented ones. Life is too short to follow anyone but the very best; if you don't love it, drop it! I only follow accounts that bring me joy, that puzzle and intrigue me, or that push me to be a better artist.
  3. Your friends will forgive you. Instagram isn't Facebook or (dare I say) the real world. Hang out with your friends elsewhere. If a friend posts beautiful images on Instagram, follow them. But if they post boring shots of their commute, their lunch, and their Friday night bar crawl, drop them. Nobody (well, almost nobody) gets a free pass for being my friend IRL.
  4. Do the math. When choosing to follow someone or not, there's one simple indicator that can help to separate the wheat from the chaff: the ratio of posts to followers. Got more followers than posts? That's an account worth consideration. Got more posts than followers? They're probably not in it for the reasons I am, and probably not worth following. (I've currently got about 19 times as many followers as posts, and many of my favorite photographers have far higher ratios.)
  5. Be consistent. I love your street photography, but don't care to see your pizza or your latest meme. Pick a style, a theme, a look for your account and stick to it, or I'm out of here. Besides the obvious disciplines that I dabble in myself (travel photography, street photography), I'm oddly partial to Americana, surfing, urban night shots, and plenty of other niches, and love the photographers who stick to those consistently.
  6. Lightroom is not your friend. Adobe LightRoom is to photography what AutoTune is to music—a nice technology that, when over-used, threatens to ruin the entire art form. If I can tell the image is edited, it's over-edited. Stick to accounts with real pictures from the real world. (Hint: Follow more film photographers.)
  7. Support content creators. Apparently some people like to use Instagram for re-posting their favorite images off the internet. I don't get the appeal (actually I loathe them, since quite a few have swiped my photos before). Support people who create their own art, whether it's photography, drawing, graphic design, or whatever. (I only follow photographers, but there's many other talented artists on Instagram.)
  8. Ugh, videos. Stop posting them, stop watching them. Just ignore them altogether. And don't even get me started on those awful "stories."
These guidelines help me to follow a tightly curated shortlist of fellow amateur photographers, several professionals, a few real-world friends, some fans of the blog, and aggregator accounts on various themes of interest. Some I appreciate for inspiring my creative side, and others for the sheer beauty of their images. And then there's a rare few that have both a spectacular aesthetic and the ability to make me want to get up from my chair right now and head to the airport.

In the coming days, I'll be listing my favorite Instagram accounts in four categories:
I hope you enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment