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Thursday 22 August 2019
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Another Instagram encounter

BitDepth#1188

IN JANUARY, I created another Instagram feed. The first, @macmark, finally got pressed into use as a way of sharing the rather whimsical photos I’d taken to making with a smartphone and it was there that I began to make some sense out of the service as an image-sharing platform.

Instagram is more than a little bit quirky. I signed up when it appeared on the social media landscape in 2010.

When I finally posted my first image there six years later, I discovered I had 700 followers. Who were following|– nothing.

Adding hashtags was another surly addition. They are necessary to help people find your work thematically, but they also feel like wearing a shorts that are cut high and tight to get attention.

I do look kind of good in that particular sartorial choice, but it isn’t my preferred wear for any outing. Or inning for that matter.

Getting people to be attentive to a thematically organised, photographically driven body of work is also a bit of an uphill slog.

Instagram readily rewards pulchritude. Sumptious meals, glorious landscapes, well sculpted bodies and exotic locales do very well on the service.

The new feed was meant to serve a purpose. I’d sometimes get asked how long I’ve been a photographer. Most people respond poorly to the answer, which is 43 years. I’ve seen disbelief, but mostly there is just barely disguised confusion.

So I decided, as the young people say, to bring my receipts, to show what four decades of photography looks like.

I was influenced by the recent work of Dominic Kalipersad on social media (http://ow.ly/PhZV30nZ9Yd) and the impact of his longer captions on his intended audience.

On February 24, I launched an Instagram exhibition of archive Carnival photos and immediately discovered why curators don’t start working on a show a couple of days before it hangs.

I played to the strengths of Instagram’s format, always reproducing its feed three images wide and chose ten days of three posts each. An 11th post came on Tuesday afternoon as a Las’ Lap offering.

The posts were sometimes tied to the Carnival events of the day, Machel Monday, Kings and Queens Finals, Panorama and on the two Sundays, I posted portraits of practitioners of the Carnival arts who had passed on.

I also ended up writing 7,000 words worth of captions across 36 posts, not including the hashtags, discovering along the way that Instagram has a 2,200 character limit on posts.

If I’d known that before starting, I might not have.

As it was, I really blundered through the process, filling three foolscap pages with notes on strategy while agonising on an almost daily basis about which subjects fit together best in that three-image tier.

The posts also appear on Facebook, where they have enjoyed much greater popularity, though Facebook buries them faster.

I discovered there a resonant love and respect for the Indo-Trinidadian participants of Carnival, and so far, an early portrait of Jit Samaroo leads on shares and likes, with comments on his work and that of Drupatee Ramgoonai suggesting tremendous potential for more meaningful participation from that community in the festival.

Instagram is also great for getting things right. Several quiet notes were sent to me from better-informed sources, often family members, correcting information I’d either gathered from faulty sources or from my even flakier memory that set facts right in near real-time.

The work is here: http://ow.ly/p01t30nZa8p. The show “nah leaving,” as it were, and other work, past and present, will be added continuously to the feed.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there

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