Boston native Jo Yee is a photographer and writer based in London. Her blog 'Cadids by Jo' documents food and travel, and her life here in the UK. We met up at Dishoom in Shoreditch to talk Instagram, freelancing and life through a lens.
As the weather outside tried to work out if it was July or October, I was sitting in my mustard leather booth trying to choose a breakfast dish. I caught a swathe of blue in my periferal vision, and looking up saw my brunching accomplice making her way through the tables and chairs. Frightened by the heat of a KEJRIWAL, Jo suggested I try the BACON & EGG NAAN ROLL. A little more within my comfort zone than chilli cheese, I jumped at it (with a side of fried tomatoes). There are few things in life I hold dearer than bacon and eggs, so this sweet iranian take on my usual fry-up hit the spot. A latte down, I moved on to the house chai (also on the advice of Jo) which in its spicey warmth comforted every part of my being. A meal like this could only be made better by good company and a beautiful setting, and as I had both in equal measure it was pretty much perfect.
I'd imagined we'd be talking about photography as a career, about creative thinking and creative education, but once we began talking about social media it became pretty clear that we'd need at least 5 more trips to Dishoom to get onto anything else. Both seasoned 'instagrammers', there was a lot to discuss and a lot of chai accompaniment required.
Of late there have been a lot of updates to the platform, arguably game changing, that have taken it beyond a photo sharing app and built this messaging/vlogging/marketing space. Hold up though because that already exists in the form of Facebook. And that's interesting because Instagram is owned by Facebook. So why would they mould something unique and separate into a clone? 6 years ago when Instagram appeared in the App Store it was fresh and exciting, a simple platform to upload candid moments and share them with the world. Over time though it's become far more complex, not just in its functionality but in the way it is used.
Where it was once acceptable to post grainy front camera photos of your cat or vibrant beach snaps, the expectation has grown to a level where it's surprising to see something spontaneous amongst the commercial standard dslr flat lays (I just googled "flat lay" in the hope that I'd find a definition to insert here but all I got was hundreds of links for "tips for taking the perfect Instagram flat lay" which brings me onto my next point!) There has become this sort of algorithm for creating an acceptable image on Instagram. A step by step process which if followed correctly will guarantee you a Pendleton blanket and Daniel Wellington watch. I think most of us are guilty of falling into this trap though, of creating the same images over and over again. But as a creative person, moulding what you do to please the insta-audience can be draining and exhausting.
At the end of the day, photography is an art form. It's your self expression and release from the day to day. So if you're content in making the same thing as everyone else and profiting from it then your strength is admirable! But if you're feeling bogged down, trapped in the never ending cycle of facades and shoes on tiled floors, don't be afraid to get out! Take a break, try something new!
Being inspired by what you are looking at is so important. Looking at new images is like travelling to new places or eating new foods. If your feed looks the same day in day out, what is there to stimulate you? I always try to find new photographers to follow and inspire me (at this moment Jo and I exchanged lists of accounts we admire right now and it's good for the SOUL I swear.)
What started out as using Snapchat in conjunction with Instagram ("follow me on Snapchat for behind the scenes") for some people became the platform of choice. The freedom to express as the world was, to have a personality and a sense of humour, not caring how well edited it was - it's a personal document of your life, much like Instagram was like in 2012.
Try and see the world through your eyes, find what interests you - shoot with a different camera.
I upgraded to a Canon 5d last year to use in my commercial studio work, and used my iPhone for my day to day, mainly because the Canon is SO heavy. But shooting on an phone vs dslr is very different! Looking through a view finder compared with a phone screen greatly affects how we see the world, and therefore how we capture it.
(A personal anecdote now:) When I was in Budapest this summer I killed my iPhone trying to take underwater photos. I'm an idiot who didn't back anything up before trying to take underwater photos, and lost everything I'd shot that week. As upsetting as it was however it may have been a blessing in disguise, as whilst waiting for my insurance claim to replace my phone I've been shooting with the ol' canon almost every day! That's good because firstly I spent £2000 on a camera so the fact that I wasn't shooting with it every day was shameful but ALSO, looking through that view finder has given me a different perspective on the world. I now spend more time singling out areas of the busy landscape, areas of mundane interest, as if looking through the little square window, even if it's not there.
Though I realise I've just slated Instagram, I do love it, and also need it. As a freelance photographer, we need Instagram campaigns to supplement our income, and the fact that it's possible to do that with an app is pretty cool. To begin with I used Instagram as an escape from the day to day, but as it's become more of an obligation it's encouraged me to find release elsewhere - to make my own personal projects, or paint or travel. And in a world as rapidly changing as ours who can possibly tell if it will be as relevant next week as it is today, or whether something else 'game changing' will have taken over. I suppose we can only take the updates as they come and see the best in what we've got.
Oh so here are some Instagram accounts I really think you should follow:
And of course http://instagram.com/candidsbyjo
Since writing this Instagram have released the new "Instagram Stories" feature - which gives celebrities and bloggers a chance to give you a candid peak behind the glossy facade (... kind of like Snapc.. Snapwhat? Never heard of it.)