Amongst the haze of selfies, foodstagrams, and emoticons, Instagram is revolutionising the way artists and photographers negotiate today’s creative world.
The artist’s path to fame has traditionally been a demanding journey of gallery representation, criticism, praise, and private buyers. But take two minutes to set up an Instagram account and the ‘struggling artist’ formula is replaced by a simple platform allowing artists to carry a gallery in their pocket, curate their own image and connect to an wide audience.
George Byrne (@george_byrne) is a Sydney-born photographer based in Los Angeles. He uses Instagram to host a perpetual online exhibition called, ‘Instant Los Angeles’. Byrne uploads snaps he’ss taken on the streets of LA, inspired by the ambient landscape and his smart phone’s camera quality. “I remember seeing the iPhone 4 and thinking, Shit, that’s like, indiscernible from a good digital camera,” he says.
The project, unique to the platform of Instagram, showcases the changes occurring within the art world. Simon Pericich, curator for RMIT’s First Site Gallery, suggests traditional gallery models “have and will continue to change,”from the Salon in the early 1700s, to privately sponsored art fairs and now perhaps to the open market of Instagram.
Pericich saysthese shifts could be a result of the changing ways the “artist and audience measure success’.” While somemay be happy with their artwork to be displayed exclusively in a gallery, most “are about exposure and embracing new ways of getting their works seen”. Just one year after starting ‘Instant Los Angeles’, Byrne now hasalmost 25 thousand followers on Instagram.
Constant access to an artist’s workhas transformed the type of exposure they now get. Byrne has been in the industry for 20 years. He remembers, “(sitting) in the dark for two years”, before anxiously holding an exhibition, unsure of how audiences were going to receive his work. Much like an exhibition, Instagram provides an artist feedback on their work but as Byrne says, it’s now a a “fluid, real time interaction with millions of people”.
In some ways, Instagram has usurped viewing art in a gallery by redefining what it means to actively consume art. By providing the ability to “like”, “share”, and comment on posted work, Instagram has generated a feeling the audience and artist are a part of something unique–creating a sense of the artists and audiencecreating together. When she’s not uploading her works-in-progress to her 13 thousand odd followers, Carla McRae (@thepaperbeast), a freelance designer and illustrator based in Melbourne, uses Instagram to contact and “openly fangirl” artists she admires.
McRae says the Instagram-generated exposure iss the reason behind the majority of her clients and commissions. “I am usually terrible at emailing people to say, ‘Hi, I do this, please hire me’,” McRae says. “So I’m super happy that I can simply post work.”