Few days back I got a mail from one of the editorial stock image company as :
‘Dear Sauvik,
We would like to remind that the use of mobile phones is strongly discourage except in situation where you witness a breaking news and you are not in the position of your real camera, and you MUST CLEARLY IDENTIFY cell phone photos with the Editors
Image was created with a smartphone
note at the start of your captions (EDITORS NOTE: Image was created with a smartphone.)…’

Though, the above is not our point of discussion, but we get a thin line of connection between ethics and practices.

Aditya Arya, a senior commercial and travel photographer and a Practicing Photography Conservator who runs Aditya Arya Archive from Delhi, talks very straight, ‘Never trust a dookandaar (Never trust a businessman)’. He adds, ‘180 years of photography history is a witness of evolution of technology in a wide aspect! Today’s DSLRs are too advanced and camera makers providing direct sharing of snaps for social media platforms. On the other hand, big organizations are using Instagram to market their names in every way. Even few years back, there were film cameras and photos from those cameras have been digitalized, and are used in various fields of visual arts, so where is ethics?’ He further asks, ‘Why blame photographers only?’

Soumya Shankar Ghoshal, Kolkata based Street and Documentary Photographer in his Blog post India’s first Instagram Exhibition at Kolkata and Instagram Myth busted  wrote ‘Instagram photography is mobile photography… This is one of the most common myth that has floated for quite a while amongst the photographer community. The representatives of this amazing app politely differs. – Instagram is a photography sharing platform for the mobile (not restricted to mobile photography) and is device independent…’

Now, let’s see what Instagram says in their website :

Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever. We’re building Instagram to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen. We imagine a world more connected through photos.

Soumya Shankar Ghoshal adds, ‘mobile technology is the future. And like any other medium it will constantly evolve. And moving from a typical Mobile photo sharing platform it has evolved to a photo sharing platform on the mobile… Top photography agencies across the world use Instagram for sharing content photographed using ultra-modern gear which would be impossible with the present age mobile photography.’

Ravi Dhingra, New Delhi based independent photographer and Photography mentor doesn’t see any non-ethical practice, ‘The reason Instagram was launched was to promote photographs on go. Instant photos, this is mainly possible with mobile phones because at times DSLRs are not with us. But now it has become a platform to showcase work, so at times photographers are posting photos taken with DSLRs and edited on computer. There is a dilution which is happening, I don’t see a reason why it should not be done.’

Clockwise : Aditya Arya, Soumya Shankar Ghoshal, Ravi Dhingra, Kapil Inderjit Vohra, Debmalya Roy Choudhuri, Joydeep Mukherjee. Image credit – Facebook

‘If you go by the principle of Instagram, then there is no way of denying that it is not at all ethical to post photos clicked and edited by any other technique other than mobile there.’ Joydeep Mukherjee, another documentary and street photographer from Kolkata agrees. At the same time he finds lack of ethical value of Instagram itself, ‘But then, photographers from all over the world are posting photos which are not made on a mobile phone and Instagram itself has been accepting it, then the question of ethics becomes somewhat meaningless. In my opinion, either they have to develop some software to stick to their principle and filter photos or else they have to rework on their basic idea. In modern times you can see that lots of advertising also done in Insta …they are not definitely shoot in mobile!’

Kapil Inderjeet Vohra, a camera expert who runs a camera repairing shop at Delhi  is still stuck into that ethics, ‘Basically it was designed for a mobile only. But you know we humans try to manipulate everything. So we just did it. And using it for our own purpose.’

Debmalya Roy Choudhuri, another young and emerging photographer from Kolkata is blunt on this topic, ‘If that helps contemporary photography, then why not!’

On the contrary, major players in Indian Camera market echo a different reality. In a recent report, smartphone photography might actually be driving DSLR sales rather than cannibalizing them. Kazuo Ninomiya, managing director of Nikon India, says that the company has been using interest in photography generated by smartphones to promote photography and higher-end, dedicated cameras to customers.

Canon India’s CEO Kazutada Kobayashi echoes Ninomiya’s sentiments, too. “With the advent of smartphones, the number of clicks has increased considerably,” he notes, “and the market for the imaging industry is set to expand. With so many images being uploaded every moment, the differentiator becomes the quality. And this is where a DSLR camera scores heavily.”

Few photography enthusiastic though hates social app filters for disliking image sharing .platforms.
Few years back, Kate Bevan, a freelance writer and broadcaster who specialises in technology and social media wrote an article in The Gurdian where she simply felt that ‘ The Instagram/Hipstamatic/Snapseed filters are the antithesis of creativity, and make all pictures look the same.’

Karen Rosenberg had an insightful piece in the New York Times about the retro look that is enabled by apps like Instagram: Why do we want to tweak our photos so conspicuously? Why do we suddenly want them to look as if they came from old analog cameras?… Nostalgia is certainly a factor; parents, for instance, may want their children’s photographs to look like the ones in old family albums…The photograph itself, even an artily manipulated one, has become so cheap and ubiquitous that it’s no longer of much value. But the experience of sharing it is, and that’s what Facebook is in the business of encouraging us to do.

At the end, Professional photographers were using it to share images captured by their expensive SLRs and edited in Photoshop or Lightroom, not on-the-move photos snapped with their iPhones. Most of the image sharing big houses including GettyImages and even Magnum Photos using Instagram as one of the best social and powerful platform.

Again, forget ethics, just go on. Time never stops!