SOME YEARS AGO my husband took ownership of a Ford Escort Mark IV. We loved the Mark IV. We named him Gary Blue. The paintwork was a lovely metallic azure shade that sparkled a little in the sunlight; the interior sported cloth seats and exuded that particular smell where the plastics have matured releasing an odour of age. With a manual transmission boasting, yes, 4 gears, Gary Blue’s maximum speed was about 80 miles an hour. Anything even slightly beyond that the windows felt as if they may just start to slide down with the intensity of flight up and down the motorway.
One evening it was stolen. We were coming back from work in London to our home in the suburbs. As we stepped out from the station into the car park we braced ourselves against the driving rain. “Never mind”, we muttered to each other, “at least we have the car.” We hurried through the downpour to the place where we thought our car was parked. We wandered around for a bit, stopping and thinking and deliberating, “Are you sure it was here?” Back we went round and round, in the rain, in the twilight unable to find our beloved. “Shit. Oh for fuck’s sake. It’s been stolen. Someone’s nicked our bloody car.” Brilliant. Now we’d have to walk home in the rain.
It would’ve been easy to steal. An old car even then, picking the lock and starting it wouldn’t have taken much time. Damn. We walked the long road home, which as it happens is called Long Lane, and reported it stolen once we’d got in. A few days later the police call. Our car had been found. Unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road very close to where we lived. Nothing broken. Nothing taken. A quick ride home in the pouring rain.
We got to enjoy our car for a few months more until we were expecting our first child. Thinking we should probably upgrade to something with more safety features, Gary Blue was sadly passed on. We bought a newer second-hand car, a silver Honda Civic complete with 5 gears and electric windows.
Away went our lovely first car. We’d often thought, half joking, that we should’ve got one of those sun visor stickers across the windscreen with our names on, Jimmy and Tina. My husband for some unknown reason had started calling me Tina and then Tina Click on account of my slight obsession with all things camera related. It does have the sound of those names you make up at school to create your porn star alias: take the name of your first pet for your first name and then partner it with your Mum’s maiden name as your surname. Pippa was the name of my first pet. A rabbit. She was half white and half grey and looked like the pet rabbit on Blue Peter who was also called Pippa. So my porn star name is Pippa Folkes, which sounds more Mills & Boon than Playboy. Anyway. The name has sort of stuck. Tina Click that is, and it’s the name I decided to use for my Instagram account when signing up in the summer of last year.
First post: 1st June 2014
To date (15th April 2015): 223 posts
Most liked post: A double exposure (see below) posted 9th January 2015, 20 likes, 2 comments
Least liked post: There are quite a few with no likes when I hadn’t quite got to grips with hashtags.
I like Instagram. I enjoy it a whole lot more than any other social media. Facebook is quite a beast now that I find hard to fathom and frankly my wavering self-confidence can do without it. I use IFTTT to automatically upload my posts from Instagram to Twitter and I enjoy Pinterest too. Like a magpie, I hoard odd bits of information or pictures or research onto my pinboards, like a scrap book or an album it reveals my travels around the internet. Yet when the chips are down Instagram is the only one I use with any regularity.
I resisted for a while getting an account. Unsure of its purpose it didn’t seem very necessary. Also my phone is not an iPhone. Mine is a Nokia Lumia. The camera is ok but not great. Is there any point uploading pictures to Instagram if they aren’t of any quality? After pondering my wildly off the mark thinking, I figured that it was better to actually use my phone, no matter the ‘quality’ of the image. I reasoned that it’s similar to how I enjoy looking at snaps from decades ago that were made on cheap instamatics. So feeling optimistic and enthusiastic I set about posting a picture every day and spending a bit of time connecting to friends and other interesting feeds. I follow a whole variety of accounts with subjects ranging from running to skiing to food to shoes to double exposure communities to art photographers to knitting. My own pictures have no real agenda or purpose. I upload pictures of small things I find about my house, or my cats, or my family, or skies or trees or sheep or teeth or anything that catches my eye and makes me think, “I’m going to Instagram this.”
What’s so interesting to me is which pictures are most ‘popular’. This is where the real drive for Instagram is and in so much social media. The ‘like culture’. Now, there aren’t too many followers for tinaclick and that is fine. I think. Or is it? I’m not sure. When my phones pings and a like blinks up on the screen or maybe even a comment or maybe even a new follower, I feel good. Rewarded even. I’m delighted if my likes hit double figures. What surprises me most are the pictures that get the most ‘likes’. Often these are the ones that aren’t necessarily ‘a good photograph’. A child’s drawing of a fairy, rates 8 likes and 1 comment.
The picture is pretty poor, a bit dark, reflection off the gloss paint, not great, a bit distracting.
My Granny’s needle book has 12 likes.
Again, a very straightforward picture with absolutely no thought to arrangement or styling.
And yet a couple of posts made of the film ET showing at a drive-in, which I thought were pretty interesting, gain just 1 like each.
In thinking about this I wonder if I’ve made an error in judgement. Instagram isn’t just for photographers or just about photography. As someone with two degrees in art and photography I wonder if I sometimes assume a position of knowledge and authority. I think this can be misplaced. Instagram sits within a public social domain. People use it to share with their fellow human beings pictures that resonate emotionally in some way. That connection with others is what makes us a social species. A picture of my cat sat on the Velux window looking down on me looking up at her, has 11 likes. A lot of people own a cat or two or three in my case. They can respond to that picture in all its absurdity because they know a bit about cats.
My Granny’s needle book mentioned earlier, has a beautiful vintage design on the cover. A feeling of nostalgia, a love of design, a community of dressmakers, all relate to that small book of needles that’s over 40 years old.
Recently I came across a short article on The Book of Life website about what they think the role, the function of Art should be, particularly Art as therapy:
“We believe that art is a tool which should help us to cope with a variety of cognitive frailties: it should help us to understand ourselves, empathise with others, guide us to morality, console us for our sorrows and function as an agent of hope.
The doctrine that art should be ‘for art’s sake’ seems to us to be highly defeatist and pernicious. One is not doing art an injustice by ascribing a clear function to it. Far from it, one is saving it from irrelevance and the melancholy notion that it exists merely as a distraction or an ineffable and mysterious side-show to the main business of love and work. For most of human history, art was in the service of religions. We believe that where once art helped with the problems of theology, it should now assist us with the challenges of psychology.”
I think about this and my thoughts wonder whether this can be ascribed to Instagram too? I think so. It makes sense to me. There will be critical theory coming along soon I’m sure about the Instagram photograph. It will be interesting enough. I will probably read it. But maybe much of it will miss the point about what its importance is in the ‘main business of love and work’; what it is to be human, our experiences, what we see, what we like, what we don’t, what has meaning for us, what we want to share. Maybe we all need to embrace that camera phone, whatever make it is, and get posting.