Thursday, 17 March 2016


The first time I posted something to Instagram was in in March 2013 and by May of the same year I'd figured out what I would want to use Instagram for most of the time: people-free close-ups of the small things that catch my eye... the quotidian beauty of the ugly, architectural details, the way human things look when contrasted with sky or water.

It seemed an admirable replacement for one of the things I'd been doing with this blog in its earliest days. Back then, I was in the habit of lugging a bulky SLR camera around with me almost every day, using it to take photos of things that not many people seem to be interested in taking photos of: untidy doorbellshandwritten signs and bursts of anger; mysterious markings on the streets under our wheels; the matter which accumulates around drains; the strangely even visual slicing of bits of our surroundings.

You can get some strange looks, let me tell you, if observed pointing a bloody great camera at a discarded leaflet, a crumpled beer can or a declaration of love written on a lamppost. Then there's the business of wrestling that big-bodied SLR out of its case. There's the fiddling with the lens cap. There's the hooking it up to the laptop back home. You get the idea: a bit of a ballache. So Instagram seemed like an upgrade: done with the tidy, tiny phone and up online in seconds; arty editing in a trice; the whole social bit of strangers finding your stuff and then you see their stuff and sometimes you like their stuff etc.

But the thing I liked most was the geo-tagging of the photos. I loved that. Not least because of my fondness for snapping graffiti and street art. Because those things come and go. The prettyugly little thing that catches your eye on Monday could be scrubbed off or covered up by Tuesday. Ephemeral. Fleeting. Lovely, then, to have a way of recording precisely were each eye-pleaser had been found and photographed:

The things I snapped used to appear in PRECISELY the right location. Zooming in, I could tell exactly where a tiny graffito or paste-up had been on the day I'd seen it. Nicenicenice.

But a little while ago something changed. I went to Instagram a picture and the app asked me to "Add Location". I was presented with a list of options, all of them shops, bars, restaurants, or tourist attractions. So Instagram suddenly wanted to associate my pictures of back-alley daubs or interestingly scrunched cigarette packets with places where things are sold for money. Not cool. And there doesn't seem to be a reliable workaround. Unless somebody knows of one?

This has kinda spoiled Insta for me, buggering up its most appealing feature in order to... what..? encourage people to discover new coffee shops? even though it's not obviously monetisable? (Or is it? Am I missing something?)... [BEMUSED EMOTICON]

So maybe I'll be blogging more little visual gems here again from now on. Or will I? Can I ever go back to the ballache of it? Let's see, I suppose.  

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