When it comes to finding photographic inspiration, Instagram and Pinterest have plenty to offer. However, due to a combination of repetitive algorithm issues and creative affirmation loops, a lot of what’s available seems far too similar. If you’re hoping to find new ways to spark your imagination, it may be time to look elsewhere.
The meteoric rise of image-based social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest has made it easier than ever for photographers to share their work. In some ways, this development has been positive. For instance, emerging photographers can now grow a fanbase without necessarily needing to live in the right city and know all the right people – not to mention the lessened financial burden of putting on exhibitions all the time; the stereotype of artists being poor exists for a reason.
However, there are downsides to these platforms and the most egregious is that stylistically, everything is becoming the same. There are a few reasons for this. One is that many creators who find success on Instagram and Pinterest get caught in inspiration and affirmation loops, in which they start to solely post the type of images that their audience is familiar with and will press ‘like’ for – only further contributing to the platform’s uniform aesthetic.
“Our feeds are shaped by the content we’re most likely to engage with.”
Another is the algorithm. Whether it’s Instagram or Pinterest, our feeds are shaped by the content we’re most likely to engage with. If we’ve engaged with something before, like square food pictures shot from a top angle with a light background, we’re likely to see that type of imagery again and again. The unfortunate aspect of this is that social media’s influence is so strong that this leads to a homogeneous aesthetic for how we shoot and in turn, what people expect from photographs within certain genres. Rather than shooting a place in the same style you’ve seen portrayed by countless photos – like, say, the popular imagery of people reaching back to grasp their photographer’s hand – wouldn’t it be more interesting to find a new narrative to reveal in the landscape?
This isn’t to say that these platforms don’t have plenty of worthwhile work to enjoy and gain inspiration from. But if you’re looking to get your creative juices flowing, there are a few alternative options we’d suggest using as a springboard for your imagination.
“There are more niche spaces of the Internet to learn from, too. You just need to spend a little time seeking them out.”
Alternative Online Platforms
As much as we advocate turning off your computer or phone and seeing things in person, we also know that when it comes to viewing creative work, there’s nowhere more diverse and accessible than the Internet. Platforms like Behance feature tons of amazing finished projects by creatives that deserve attention.
But there are more niche spaces of the Internet to learn from, too. You just need to spend a little time seeking them out. The online archive Magnum Photos features the work of photography icons like Martin Parr, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. Meanwhile, the Anonymous Project by Lee Shulman as well as digital exhibitions presented by the Photographic Museum of Humanity offer innovative examples of not only what type of content you can create, but also how to present that content in a cohesive and unique manner.
“Try heading to second-hand bookstores to pick up out-of-print photobooks.”
Photobooks & Magazines
Whoever said print was dead must not have grasped the widespread appeal of the printed form. Faced with a constant barrage of digital technology, people are increasingly seeking out tangible alternatives to engage with without the added distractions of the online world. From indie photobook publishers to DIY zines and publications like Foam and the British Journal of Photography, there is an abundance of work being made to inspire photographers among the pages of print works. And it only seems like there are more and more being created every year.
If you can’t afford to fork out for new books all the time, try heading to second-hand bookstores to pick up out-of-print photobooks. Also, art book fairs are a top-notch place to discover zines you’ve never heard of and maybe even meet some possible collaborators. As for publications, If you’re not sure where to get started, we’ve put together a list of eight photography magazines that curate stunning works by both emerging and established talent.
“There’s so much to learn from other artists and disciplines.”
Art Galleries & Other Disciplines
With everything viewable through a phone these days, it can be easy to forget that some works are best seen in person. Galleries and museums exist to create a dialogue between the artist and the audience – what better opportunity for creative inspiration exists beyond that conversation?
Don’t limit yourself either, whether the institution is large or small, or if the exhibit is image-based or, say, a sculptural exploration, there’s so much to learn from other artists and disciplines. If you’re interested, take a look at some of our favourite contemporary photography galleries and find out more about the importance of photography as a physical medium from curator Isobel Parker Philip.