This picture practice analysis will focus on the picture practices of Insta Repeat, an Instagram page that is curating travel photography posted on Instagram. This curation is designed to illustrate the aesthetic similarity in digital photography, by montaging various Instagram posts into an overall picture. I will analyze six examples, shown below, in terms of pictorial picture critique.
1. Analyzing the Knowing That
The overall picture is composed of 12 photographs, all taken from inside a tent. Content-wise, each photograph depicts a “tent hole”, which acts as a window to the outside world. Through this tent hole, the rough nature is shown in all its beauty. From mountains to deserts, Mother Nature is pictured pure and unspoiled.
In contrast, each photograph is capturing its operator, the human behind the camera, as well. The supposedly untouched nature is irritated by “feet shots” of Instagram influencers. Their point of view conveys the subjects’ sensation of what they have witnessed during their trip. By staging in their bodies, these travel photographs are intended to document their backpacking adventure, i.e. that they were really there. Thus, these photographs are not just about representing a sensational situation, but how these travelers have experienced this moment in wildlife.
2. Analyzing the Knowing How
Formally, the 12 travel photographs are organized into a chess-like mosaic, which reveals their likeness. In this case, each photograph is a so-called “tent shot”, i.e. a point-of-view shot taken from inside a tent. Therefore, these photographs share one similar perspective, consisting of a POV, a tent hole, and the view outside into nature. Tent shots are a popular form on Instagram, up to now curated by Insta Repeat in 29 posts, i.e. 348 single photographs.
Another way to emphasize the conformity of these photographs is sorting them by color, which is expressed in the captions shown below: “Red tent hole”, “Orangish tent hole”, “Yellowish tent hole”, “Greenish tent hole”, “Blueish tent hole”, “Purply blueish tent hole”. The captions indicate that the mosaics themselves are sequenced by the date they were posted.
This sequence can take the form of a series if the posts are interconnected. By using the motif of ‘color’, Insta Repeat is serializing the mosaics, posted within a week, based on the color spectrum – from red to violet. While repeating the form of the “tent shot”, Insta Repeat is varying the color scheme (and description). This serialization can be understood as tacit self-critique of the picture practice applied, because Insta Repeat is actually a curation of curations.
3. Comparing Media Knowledge and Identifying Picture Practices
The main practice applied by Insta Repeat is curating digital images, the purpose of which is to criticize the illusionary individuality of Instagram photography. In fact, the photographs are not as special as influencers would like them to appear, which only becomes explicit through the curated comparison. By putting side by side these digital photographs, Insta Repeat is powerfully demonstrating how alike Instagram photography actually looks. The supposed uniqueness of Instagram photography is exposed by curation through a mosaic-like Gesamtkunstwerk.
In the examples analyzed, two sub-practices – captioning and serializing – are also used to facilitate curation. Captioning these photographic mosaics explicitly brings the posts into an order, that is tacitly serialized by color scheme. In this way, Insta Repeat is criticizing the homogeneity of Instagram, which is disguised as individuality, by uniformly serializing its own posts.
Insta Repeat is questioning the singularity of Instagram photography, and instead places it within a larger framework of photographic practices, i.e. routines. However, rather than dissociate itself from homogeneity in order to criticize it, Insta Repeat is structured by homogeneity itself. This implies – in a manner quite similar to pop art – that the uniformity of pictures is not the real problem, but rather the myth of their uniqueness.