Flâneur Looks at Instagram


Today I opened an Instagram account (Instagram is a mobile, desktop, and Internet-based application and service that allows users to share pictures and videos either publicly or privately. Source: Wikipedia). I figured it would be a handy way to show my friends (and the world) my photos.

Here is my first post, shot a few hours ago:

instagram - 1 (2)

Here I was thinking I was the coolest kid on the block showing my mundane photos to the world. It turns out I’m not alone in this endeavour. It seems everybody wants to show mundane photos to the world. Millions and millions of people want to show billions and billions of photos on Instagram to the world.  By everybody, I mean everybody, not just your cousins or friends,  but celebrities too.


Instagram allows you to vicariously gawk at images of celebrities as they or someone else snap photos, mainly of themselves, and post them to hungry viewers dying to get a glimpse into their mundane daily lives.

I was prompted by Instagram to follow such celebrities. The first one on the list was, heaven knows why, Nicki Minaj. So, I clicked on the prompt and this is the first Instagram photo I saw:

instagram - 1 (3)

I don’t know if the account is really Nicki Minaj, but it appears someone likes Nicki Minaj so much she tried to emulate her pose. And maybe Nicki liked it so much she posted it to her Instagram account for all the world and I to see. Who really knows?


I started wondering about what other celebrities wanted to show me (and the world), so for the next hour or so I tried to think up some celebrities from all walks of life to see what they post to Instagram. Below is a collection of photos I purloined from their Instagram sites. I figure since these celebrities have put these photos out there for the world to see, they are now public domain. My disclaimer is that I do not own any of these images, but maybe I’ve contributed to these folks’ ever-widening viewership by posting them here.

These photos on Instagram represent a wide array of world leaders, musicians, scientists, actors, athletes, and so on. What do they reveal about their lives? What do we glean about these people from their photos? Let’s have a look:


Within a few hours looking at Instagram, I’ve come to the conclusion celebrities are as caught up posting lousy, mundane photos of themselves as everyone else. And to what end?


When I studied film and photography at Ryerson University in Toronto, I had to read a book by intellectual and essayist Susan Sontag entitled On Photography. Us students hated her book, mainly because she spelled out in a thorough, incisive manner that folks ought to give up taking photos because there were just way too many of them and they distort one’s perception of reality.  She drew from the idea of Plato’s Cave, wherein humankind obstinately prefers being chained in a cave looking at shadows cast by light rather than perceiving the light itself. Literally, the idea is we cannot perceive truth directly, but only though the limited apparatuses of our six sense organs (eyes- seeing, ears- hearing, tongue- tasting, skin- touching, nose- smelling, and brain- thinking). We mistake sense objects as being real, but there are all sorts of ways in which our senses distort reality. Photographs are a few steps further removed from seeing, produced and consumed like nobody’s business. And to what end?

“Essentially the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own.” -Susan Sontag, 1977 

Click the book image here to read a pithy excerpt. Worth a look.


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