They say good things take time, but that doesn't seem to be the case for Instagram. The social media channel has just turned five years old; surprisingly young when you consider that it has already hit the 400 million active users mark - 100 million of which have been acquired in the last nine months alone. As most will know, the platform is an enabler for sharing photographs and the stories they tell quickly and creatively. But what does Instagram's success tell us about photography more broadly, and what can we expect next for the medium as technology matures?
Instagram is not the first photo-sharing app but it is the most successful, with over 80 million photos being posted on the channel each day. The platform taps into a simple idea: making it easy for people to capture an image on their phones, make it look beautiful and then share it with the world in real-time. Instagram has paved the way for a variety of image-sharing apps from Google Photos through to Snapchat.
Images can be incredibly impactful; they can simply inform us but they also have the ability to evoke emotion in a way that words can't. They can tell stories in an instant, performing the role of a simple visual diary, whilst at their most powerful they can be a vehicle for change...more on that later.
Because of its power and utility in a world that's more digitally connected than ever, it's clear that our use of photography will continue to evolve alongside technology.
Science shows that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text and that visuals increase user engagement by up to 94 per cent . The growing use of imagery in the simplest means of expression can be illustrated by the rise in the use of emojis, with 80 per cent of the population aged between six and 65 having used the characters at least once.
In its partnership with technology, in just 175 years, photography has gone from the silver-plated copper daguerreotype to HD imagery and now 360 videos and photos courtesy of Oculus Rift. It will be fascinating to see how photo-sharing platforms keep up with these advancements. We already have gifs and video, but the ability to use photography in more sensory and life-like ways gives it even greater power as a means of communication.
Many photo-sharing apps provide a platform for amateur photographers to share stories without boundaries in a language that is universally understood. At Getty Images we believe in the power of imagery as a catalyst for change, and so this year we introduced a grant in collaboration with Instagram to do exactly this. The competition was for amateur photographers from underrepresented communities to document stories from their world. Such initiatives support technology as a tool to unite us as a global community. As more parts of the world gain access to the internet, the role of imagery to communicate world issues will be even more effective in years to come.
Photo-sharing apps are still in their infancy. In the future we can expect our use of photography to change as technology creates new ways to express our emotions and interpret the world around us. With access to more evocative ways of communicating through photography, our interest in sharing this with others is only set to increase as well.