Good Instagram is an Afterthought

I love Instagram. One could say that I am addicted to Instagram. All social networks pale in comparison for me: Facebook is where people post garbage exclusively (ads are cool and useful but I'm not really a consumer of Facebook, I just use it to hock my goods and services), Twitter is cool as a newsfeed but not really great for discussion (although people still attempt to use it for discussion and mostly fail), and no other social network really matters. 

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Instagram has some of the most creative people in the world on it, and it's gotten really good at giving me the ability to leave my comfort zone and find new accounts that are really awesome. Many complain about the algorithm, but Instagram is free so I have trouble shedding a tear about that. Lately, my favorite past time is to watch stories of weird cities across the world and see what's going on outside of East Tennessee. 

Instagram is easily the best way to keep up with those that "do". I was asked about who my favorite accounts were, and while thinking about it, I found a common thread: I like people who are making things, doing things, and going places unapologetically and unceasingly. "Doing things" sounds like a pretty broad and low bar, so let me be more specific:

For one of my photos of the day, I believe it was the day Anthony Bourdain died, I posted a blurb on Instagram about how I admired "Rockstars"

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I admire people who give their lives to a craft or goal or mission. Those who live for the thing they are doing and those who need what they are doing to live. Those who make and do things with just a crazy, unstoppable passion. Of course, those are the Instagram accounts I'm into.

Simply posting on social media to say "Hire me!" or "Buy my laxative tea!" is ultra-uninteresting. That's the equivalent of the billboards on I-75 that I'm not caring about. Posting on social media about social media probably even more un-interesting than that. Posting on social media in order to let people follow along with what you are doing/making–that's why people are on social media in the first place. People want to live a life other than their own, and they want to feel like they are doing something by watching other people who actually are doing something. 

In a sense, "good Instagram", is almost an afterthought. 

This really hit me the other day in one of my spells of PTSD about my year of vlogging. Why was that vlog so absolutely horrible? Because I wasn't really doing anything that year. I was vlogging about my life which was essentially working 9-5 and then coming home to watch Netflix. My bad videos were essentially an admission that I was doing nothing.

A wise man once told me, "You don't remember the times when you weren't doing anything." Basically, you're not going to look back on those good ole days when you binge-watched The Office. (Unless you really love The Office)

I'm someone that is trying to make up for years of laziness. It's almost embarrassing how obvious that is. I'm an "all or nothing" sort of person, so even now, when I relax, I relax. Good luck getting me out of my binge-watching coma when it starts. It's really easy for me to fall back in to doing nothing, but I really hate myself when I get that way. That's why I love seeing others do something as a reminder to just keep going.   

Here's a list of every account I really love following, and I think you should follow to. If you want to see stuff far less cool than what these guys are doing, then follow me (@willmalone) while you're at it:

@axelarzola (Axel is good friend and just an incredible person, so follow him for that alone)

@rhschoolfiled (Robert is a great painter. I get the privilege of getting to see his work in person alot of the time, and it's just so great. 

@adventuresofeliot (Eliot goes shark-diving and on crazy road trips on ice roads in his Camry, nuff said)

@chris_michel (Chris goes all over the world and takes pictures of everything and every photo he shoots is beautiful)

@robbyoungsfinewoodworking (I knew Robb when I lived in Hawaii when I was younger. He's a master of his craft)

@brad_andersonnn (Brad is a friend who is starting up his farm in North Alabama. He posts farm-life, which is something I'm generally unfamiliar with. It's all really cool and interesting. He needs more followers!)

@micheleandersonart (Michele is an incredible portrait artist)

@preglives (Jonathan is a good friend and I love seeing his paintings pop up in my feed)

@alanbrockimages (I ran into Alan on the Ocoee River as he was shooting with a large-format film camera. He flies planes, shoots film, and makes videos.)

@elijah_bankhead (he's in semi-retirement from photography now, but I enjoy following his other account with all of his athletic adventures in the meantime @elijah.bankhead)

Those are some people I know, but here are some people that are possibly famous that I just like keeping up with:

@austinkleon

@ryanbooth

@theadamgoldberg

@benprks

@hseanbrock

@davidchang

@riancjohnson

@waynewhiteart

I suppose I like day in the life stuff, but I do like good-looking photos, I just like good-looking photos with context other than simply existing for social media. I said I would make a blog post as a comprehensive list, but I keep blanking out because I've been running around like a crazy person lately. I'll probably periodically update this list every once in a while.

Anyway, you should probably follow all these people (especially the ones I know, support them!). Maybe I could make a list with all my favorite "film" accounts (I included a couple of my favorite film accounts here). Notice I also like following chefs because I love seeing passion in a non-photography related field. I'm a big fan of painters too. (There's so much to discuss and delve into about food and painting, photography is a pretty limited conversation and gets boring fast)

Once you can dig past the saturated blue water, insta-models, and "travel-influencers", Instagram is a pretty creative and cool place. (Go follow @insta_repeat, a wonderful account that makes fun of the travel photos we've all seen that all look the same, not since Hipster Barbie have we had such a insightful commentary on Instagram culture)

 

Photography and Anthony Bourdain

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I can't get Anthony Bourdain out of my head lately. I suppose because I'm younger, I don't have a particular celebrity death that really hit up to this point, until Anthony Bourdain. I grew up watching the food network and travel shows, mostly because of my father, who remains a fan and inspired by those shows in his own work. Anthony Bourdain was always in the background for me, one of those figures who would just always be around when you wanted to escape your day to day life. Parts Unknown is by far, the best show to have on in the background while editing photos, but lately I found I've been watching them, feverishly analyzing what exactly makes the prickly chef tick.

You can't really know the man until you read Kitchen Confidential, his breakout memoir that highlights his misdeeds and his love for the grease of kitchen life. Currently, I'm reading his most recent book, Medium Raw, which I'm liking a little better. It's not quite as dated, and now, in the context of his recent suicide, it stands as a sort of 30,000 ft view of his entire life and career pretty much up to his death. I'm not sure I would be nearly as into the book if he still had years of a career ahead of him, because it would become quite dated over time as well. Since, sadly, we won't be getting any new work from Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw will stand as his final letter to the world, and I think it will age really well as a result. 

Here I am, a photographer who is totally re-dedicating his life to his art, reading this book about what it was like to see those chefs who were famous while Bourdain was toiling away and getting his hands dirty in his craft. He makes many complaints that I've heard (and complained about, myself) from photographers who get angry when someone picks up a camera and deems themselves a photographer. Bourdain, in the same way, dared to call out Rachel Ray as one of these criminals in Medium Raw: 

"In my life, in my world, I took it as an article of faith that chefs were unlovable. That's why we were chefs. We were basically....bad people– which is why we lived the way we did, this half-life of work followed by hanging out with others who lived the same life, followed by whatever slivers of emulated normal life we had left to us. ........As chefs, we were proudly dysfunctional. We were misfits. We knew we were misfits, we sensed the empty parts of our souls, the missing parts of our personalities, and this was what had brought us to our profession, had mad us what we were.

....I despised their very likability, as it was a denial of the quality I'd always seen as our best and most distinguishing: our otherness. Rachel Ray, predictably, symbolized everything I thought wrong-- which is to say, incomprehensible to me--about the Brave New World of celebrity chefs, as she wasn't even one of "us". Back then, hearing that title applied to just anyone in an apron was particularly angering. It burned. (Still does a little.)"

I can't tell you how many times I've heard and felt something similar about photographers. It's the same reasons I absolutely cringe and despise words like "influencers", "content", "content creators", etc. The big people that are influencial in photography today are "camera-users", merely showing off their new camera of the week, more than they are photographers making something meaningful and getting dirty.

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I really try to pull back on this overly critical version of myself, because it doesn't help me at all. I just end up looking like a jerk when I go on my rants about it. Despite all that, Bourdain identified the reason I feel this way: It's tough seeing those at the top because they seem so foreign to my reality, where I can't afford to buy the newest gear, and I work in the greasy kitchen equivalent of the photography world. Watching someone like Peter McKinnon for example (I don't want to crap on him, he seems like a nice guy and I really don't know that much about him) flash whatever new piece of equipment he has seems completely foreign and eye-roll-inducing when you are working at Lifetouch, one of the circles of photography hell. 

At the end of the day, the source of the frustration and distaste for these hollowed out "influencers" (detect my back-handedness) really is ego and vanity. In Medium Raw, he seems to be somewhat apologetic for some of the things he has said about those he perceives to be "selling out". In the same way I should be, because I've certainly said some crappy things about people that irk me in the past. I couldn't deny myself a blog post on this topic because sometimes, it feel like the guy is literally crawling around in my brain. 

I find that I get the most inspiration from other artists in other art forms other than my own because you find, they all struggle with the same stuff, and it's fun to dive into someone else's work. I have a hard time being interested in deep conversations about the nitty gritty of photography, but I can talk to you all day about food, movies, or music. I may have more to report as I read this book, as I feel like Anthony Bourdain's work isn't done with me yet. 

I've recorded a podcast episode about this particular topic, albeit a little less focused than this post, but I'm not sure when it's going up yet, so I felt the need to get this out via the blog. Not sure if I've said this here or not yet, but I've been recording podcast episodes that document this time in my life as a sort of spur of the moment thing. I'm finally podcasting the Will Malone way, which seems a little more sustainable to me. I want to begin releasing them, but I'm going to store them up a bit more first. 

 

 

  

Photos of the Day: Anna at a vacated shopping center (Day 170)

If you've ever met me IRL (in real life), you have probably heard my rants about how I don't like when the tail wags the dog. What I mean is that I hate vlogging about vlogging, taking photos about taking photos or photo equipment, etc. The reason is because you don't actually end up create anything in the end, you're just creating stuff about creating and it satisfies the part of your brain making you feel like you did something. (I spent an entire year making videos like this and it made me feel dirty in the end) It's why I hate the subreddit r/photography; it's just a bunch of people talking about cameras but no one actually taking photos. I love gear as much as the next guy, but there's only so many conversations to be had about it. Pick your camera and move on. 

That said, for Day 170 of this year's 365 project, I was guilty of the thing I really don't like. Some days, especially days when I'm working a bunch, sometimes I come up with something to photograph just to say I photographed something. When I do a 365 project, I have documentation in mind, so when I create a scene that actually has no relevance to what we are actually doing, I'm just taking a photo for the sake of taking a photo. If I was risking sounding like pretentious in the first paragraph, hopefully my hypocrisy made up for it. 

My wife, who hates getting her photo taken, has become quite the experienced model over time without even really realizing it. I was struck by her readiness to pose in an almost Pavlovian manner. Almost like I always have my camera and could strike at any moment, for the past 6 years. Also, she's very pretty so it makes it easy. 

There's I guess a philosophical conversation to be had somewhere in there; I suppose since we actually performed the action of going somewhere to take photos, it was documented, therefore it becomes somewhat of a snake eating it's own tail. The tail wagged the dog, but since it happened and we documented it, there's a loophole to my rant in there somewhere.

Anyway, click through the gallery below (if you click the right side of it, it will move to the next photo):