Greater London

Above: Greater London. Credit: Google Maps.

Forty Kilometres

The number of users on Instagram is approaching one billion accounts. If each user were to submit a 20 cm x 20 cm photo-print of their profile photo to me for the purposes of creating a single massive physical photo (a composite photo-grid depicting every user on one flat sheet) the completed photo-mosaic would be the largest photo-image ever made.

Each single square-metre of my final photo would contain five rows of five portraits, and so 25 images per square metre. Therefore one square kilometre (the same as one million square metres) would include 25 million photos. And that being so, my final completed composite image depicting every Instagram user (as of 2018), would be 40 km x 40 km--laid down flat the vast photo would cover the entire area of Greater London.

It is commonplace to hear super-generalized critical dismissals of Instagram users' ability in photography and overall motivation. Often heard complaints include: the photos posted are too self-centered and self-indulgent (to wit: the selfie); the photos show the user to be caught up on a treadmill of consumerism (pictures of luxury goods and purchases, etc.); photos posted on Instagram are mostly trite, vacuous, or cheesy cliches that don't say anything original.

Such complaints are often laced with a sort of frustration ("What's happening to photography??"). Instagram posting is so profuse that not many generalizations can really be made. The number of users posting to the site is around fifteen percent of all humanity. It can be argued that these are the wealthiest fifteen percent in that users tend to own a valuable smartphone. But I don't accept any such simplistic claim. As Ai Weiwei's Human Flow evidenced beyond doubt, many displaced persons--"refugees"--own a smartphone; it is often the only possession they have left.

(1 February 2018)