When Facebook bought Instagram, the photo app that makes images look vintage yet picture perfect, for $1 billion, the tech world was stunned. Not because Instagram is a two-year-old startup, but because no one realized that this young app—which simply consists of taking pictures and that surely anyone with a smartphone has downloaded—had that much power.
Now, the W Times Square, in partnership with Instagram NYC, will exhibit images from some of the most talented Instagram photographers in the first-ever Instagram photo exhibition, which opens tomorrow. We couldn’t help but wonder whether an Instagram image qualifies as art. But we caught up with Brian DiFeo, curator and founder of Instagram NYC, who hand-selected photographers ranging from professionals to multimedia artists and asked him what an Instagram exhibition actually entails. He says artists were asked to capture New York’s most fascinating structures and urban creativity. From what we’ve seen, the images themselves are pretty remarkable, considering they were taken with a phone. No wonder Kodak went bankrupt.
Village Voice: Now that Facebook has acquired Instagram, how do you think users and the app will change?
Brian DiFeo: I think, and hope, Instagram the app will stay virtually the same, with some interface improvements and added features coming out every few months, as they do now. Other than a handful of people I know who are upset by the acquisition, most people I know are either indifferent or happy. The one negative theme I hear is that Instagram’s TOU (time of use) for images may change. Currently, Instagram claims no right to an imaged posted on the app; if that changes when Facebook takes over, it may frustrate people who use the app primarily as an outlet for their photography or other creative ways.
Voice: What do you think is the biggest misconception about Instagram?
DiFeo: That is is a hipster app meant to make your photos look vintage. I mean, my 7-year-old nephew is an active Instagramer on his iTouch! Sure there is a hip and vintage aspect to the app, but some people, myself included, don’t always use filters, while others are professional photographers using Instagram to broaden their audience.
Voice: How did you go about choosing the photographers for this exhibition?
DiFeo: I know all of them and have a strong understanding of their overall work. Their feeds touch on design in a variety of ways, most notably architecture, patterns, and street art. I can’t wait to see the whole collection together!
Voice: What makes an Instagram image unique compared to photos taken with other apps?
DiFeo: I don’t think it is the image that is unique, though framing in a square is definitely a new challenge. It is the community, the comments, the interaction that make Instagram unique.
Voice: What most surprised you about the images that are included in this exhibition?
DiFeo: I like how no two photos are alike. There are so many photos of the skyline or bridges in NYC, for example, but photographers have their own perspective and editing style.
Voice: Why do you think people love this app so much?
DiFeo: It is easy, fun, and simple. You know what you are getting every time you open the app. Second, the community of people is great. I have gotten to know a lot of people through their images and their comments, and sometimes if they come to NYC we meet in person. Not many apps can do that!
The opening party starts at 7 p.m. on May 1, at the Living Room, W New York- Times Square (1567 Broadway and 47th Street.)