From the fledgling foodie’s gluttonous compositions to the callow coquette showing off in self-portraits for her mirror, it would seem that, thanks to the likes of apps like Instagram, everyone fancies themselves as a photographer - a fact not disputed by actual photographer Matt Barnes. Rather than take a haughty tone on the subject, Matt whole-heartedly approves of the current state of affairs, claiming influence (especially in terms of styling) from these would be shooters; gastronome and teenybopper alike. One would assume that while the playing field may be a little more level, those with both the ideas and the ability to execute them will continue to stand out, but as the subject is often brought up with Matt, we decided to have a little chat about it, all the while showing off a few of his favourite Instagram shots.
The Passing Shot: What are your thoughts on Instagram and the role it plays in the life of a modern photographer?
Matt Barnes: I really enjoy Instagram - in fact, I think it has taken the place of Facebook as my favourite form of social media. As a photographer I often feel insecure about the photos that I take and crave the attention of people “liking” what I do, so if anything it plays the role of an ego boost. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m addicted to it, but I usually post at least one shot a day, and I spend a fair amount of time browsing other peoples photographs as well.
TPS: What, if anything, has it changed about your own work?
MB: I don’t know if it has had an influence on my work, but it has certainly rekindled my love for the snapshot, which being a commercial photographer kind of killed. I used to, especially on road trips, drive around looking for something cool to photograph, but when I stopped carrying a camera around with me all of the time I lost that ability and would just drive on. Now I always have a phone with me, which means I always have a camera, so I can pull over, explore and shoot to my heart’s content - more often than not I immediately upload my discoveries to Instagram. It’s nice to get back into something that I used to enjoy so much when I was simply photographing neat things for a laugh, not just for my career.
TPS: Do you think the instant gratification and the emphasis on quantity has had an impact on storytelling?
MB: Of course, but I don’t feel that most people over-analyze, or perhaps even analyze at all, what they post. Take last week for example; I was in Vegas and I posted a ton of shit - random snaps of our crew having a time - but I didn’t spare a thought for what I was shooting. It wasn’t as if I was putting together a scrapbook or a photo album of the trip, but I did end up telling a great deal of a story to the people who viewed it, never really stopping to think that a few thousand people were watching. When we look back I think Instagram will be remembered as a really powerful visual history book, documenting a time from a few years back, up until it’s simply not cool anymore. I liken it to the Polaroid - in twenty years or so people will look at the images shot on the iPhone 4s and 5s and they will look soft, noisy and generally shitty, but there will be a certain type attracted to that aesthetic and who will try to emulate that kind of look.
TPS: How do you decide what you show on Instragram? Would you ever release a creative exclusively on it?
MB: I guess I show a bit of everything. I feel like there are no rules on Instagram and, even as a professional, I won’t be judged quite as harshly for what I post on there. I tend to simply shoot what’s around me - old cars, cool buildings, nifty things I spot when biking, on-set snaps of jobs I’m working on - but as I went through to gather some images for this post I did start to see a theme developing. Regardless of if I’d do a real creative for Instagram or not, which is something I’m not quite sure about, I do seem to be accumulating a subconscious collection, or a sort of series on it.
TPS: Is it absolutely necessary for a photographer in 2013 to use social media?
MB: I work at a studio full of all sorts of photographers, of all ages, and some do the social media thing and some don’t. It doesn’t seem to bother them and they are as busy as everyone else - besides, when they do partake in it all it doesn’t really suit them. Personally, social media has been a big part of what I do for as long as it’s been around and a fair few of my early breaks came about from my participation in it - I shot Deadmau5 after connecting with him on MySpace, of all places. I am a terrible real-life networker - I’m a fairly shy guy, I hate crowds and I rarely go out, so sharing and schmoozing on the computer is comparatively easy.
Ride the jump for more Insta-Matt, and follow along with his
addiction shenanigans right here.