“For her use of the app ‘as it was intended'”.
( This isn’t a knock on Stacy – I like her photographs. )
Considering how quickly platforms evolve, the criteria for judging and declaring the above title seems flaky at best and insulting at worst.
While I understand this might be an award sponsored by Instagram ( the company / brand ), in collaboration with TIME ( the publication ), hence there is value for the former to declare a title that reinforces the platform’s intentions. But what of the talent and skill of the photographer? Is the criteria “merely” how the photographer uses the “app” or are there other criteria that have not been mentioned?
The article goes on to say, “…we were looking for a photographer with a unique approach to the platform itself.” Another addition to the short-lived nature of online updates. How is this criteria honoring a photographer in the long-run? When the said platform is defunct or if the said platform changes it’s “use” as dictated by the market or its users? They did look at other photographers who have great photography skills and talent but they finally zeroed in on one who has a unique approach to the platform – discarding the others who are good photographers but they use the platform in their own unique ways. Just because Instagram and TIME don’t think those approaches are unique, doesn’t, in any way, undermine the work of these other photographers.
Why so much focus on the app rather than the craft of photography itself?
Oh wait, that’s because this is how it is nowadays. It isn’t “just” about the craft of photography anymore, it is also about how it is presented. But we have had printed photobooks too and I’m yet to hear “Print Photographer of the Year, for their use of the medium as it was intended”. We’ve put photographs on paper and on print for years, and it was always the photograph that was the subject of critique, with some importance accorded to the quality of paper used or the archival inks used. But now, with apps like Instagram, all that has changed. The subject of critique is still the photograph ( one hopes ) but its status has been lowered somewhat.
This isn’t a knock on Instagram either – Hood knows how much I love the platform. I obsessively share not only my daily life but also photographs from client assignments. As a professional photographer, my focus is to continually improve the quality of images I produce AND to continually figure out newer genres I can tap to convert to commercial assignments. I think of photography as a profession where by producing great visual content, a brand or an individual is able to add value to their product or service offering. It isn’t just about creating wonderful, captivating images but also about creating these images for profit. From my point of view, awards and titles are worthless when it comes to showing bankability and creditworthiness. What are you going to pay rent with? Award titles?
In that vein, I’m never impressed with “award-winning photographer” seen in a bio for example. It means, in all likelihood, some people got together and based on their branded agenda, their familiarity with the photographer, possibly their familiarity with the photographer’s clients, they decide to give the award to whitest person they could find.
They should’ve called it “Instagrammer of the Year”. More appropriate and less misleading.