Instagram: The Best New Tool for War Journalism
Like many/most/all of those reading this, I have an Instagram account. I only have three followers and two photos, both of which feature me eating a bowl of crinkle cut chips. It’s safe to say that I don’t use the photo-sharing application to its full potential, and that the general public doesn’t seem to appreciate the tasteful and well-curated minimalism of my photo selection.
Despite my unsuccessful snack photography, Instagram has proven itself to be a malleable and effective communication tool for hundreds of thousands of users. However, due to the speed and scope at which a picture can be shared, the application is now finding itself in uncharted territory; past the daily breakfast and outfit posts, Instagram is currently acting as a gallery for images from the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Users can find images under the hashtags #gaza or #israel, some of which are incredibly graphic – the ability to share photographs without the censorship restrictions of major media organisations gives avid users an edge in finding up-to-the-second updates on the conflict. Representation of each side have never been more candid than they are being presented now, with subtleties on display that may have been missed in a traditional news format – torrents of images of young, happy Israeli soldiers with the means to afford iPhones fill the screen under the #israel tag, but such images are seldom seen whilst searching #gaza, illuminating the rift between the two sparring nations.
Far removed from the healthy, smiling youth are the craters, the shrapnel, and the wounded civilians, captured with none of the silliness of a casual self-portrait, but all of the importance of a real journalistic endeavour.
Whether or not programs like Instagram will completely edge out more established media organisations is yet to be seen, but the use of the application in the latest Middle Eastern clash serves as another example of a shifting media environment. Stephen Mayes, director of VII Photo Agency, is interested in the shifting environment of photography. He states, “We tend to understand technologies in terms of what went before – famously we referred to the automobile, at first, as the horseless carriage. We are going through this same process with the cellphone. We keep trying to contextualize it in the old medium and with old terms.”
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that these old terms simply will not suffice in the modern media environment, and Instagram is not the only primarily social application that has been applied to a journalistic setting. Twitter has continuously proven itself a useful tool for journalists, again taking advantage of instant messaging to a large audience. Using the same tools as celebrities who can send rapid fire messages to their fans, journalists can provide constant updates to breaking stories in a way that was impossible even six years ago, before Twitter was launched.
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It’s amazing to consider the possibilities that a smartphone and an Internet connection can have, and the impact of these applications on war correspondence. Watching how images are transcending from simple photographer-viewer exchanges to personal and experiential communications in the digital realm is an exciting part of our cultural development. More exciting than my bowl of chips, at least.
image via GlobalPost