January 26, 2012 was a pretty monumental day for me and I didn’t even know it. On that day I posted my first photo on Instagram. I didn’t know what I was doing and I certainly didn’t know where it would take me.

My very first photo posted to Instagram.

I’ve been giving this milestone a lot of thought because I’ve been feeling increasingly disconnected from Instagram. I don’t post everyday, I’ve cut back on the hashtags I use and I’ve unfollowed most of the sites that feature toy photography. I tell myself that I’m too busy to be fussing with Instagram everyday (which is true) but I also know that my dissatisfaction runs deeper than that. Have I grown beyond what Instagram can offer? And what exactly does Instagram offer? Has the platform grown to a maturity level that makes it less free spirited, more sterile? Or maybe I simply need a good challenge?

For four years Instagram has been a gift that has kept on giving. The people I’ve connected with on Instagram have inspired me to be a better photographer; I’ve even met a few of them in person. Instagram has given me a good reason to practice my craft almost daily.  For all of this, and so much more, I’m grateful.

What a beautiful puddle! I wonder what a little blue sky would have looked like?

A recent photo posted to Instagram. Yes, I think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last four years.

I’m amazed at how far my photography has progressed by this near daily practice. I think Instagram (or any social media platform that inspires you to work continuously) can be a useful tool for the casual photographer. But what happens when you lose your desire for social interaction? It seems the only clear challenge left on Instagram is to amass thousands of followers and get more likes per image. What a hollow pursuit that is! I’ve yet to see anyone turn a high follower account into anything substantial.

While I enjoy the casual social interactions around Instagram, I’m in need of a greater challenge. I enjoy writing for this blog because it gives me an excuse to think about photography in different ways. I’m grateful for the challenges that Kristina and I’ve been doing together, they’ve kept me engaged in a way that Instagram hasn’t been able to. I admire my friends Avanaut and Captain Kaos who are working hard on new projects and pushing themselves to new heights. Even Me2 has alluded to challenging himself in new ways this year. Yet I feel stuck.

I’ve always thought that being an artist / creative requires you to be in constant motion. It feels good to be moving forward, meeting new challenges, pushing your work to new levels, experimenting, and even failing. For me the format of Instagram doesn’t encourage any of this. We’ve talked before about the limitations of likes, comments and metrics; Instagram tends to reward a certain style and type of photography that I’m not interested in pursuing. I prefer to create quieter, more introspective images.

I’ve had a fabulous four year run on Instagram and my life is richer for the experience. I certainly don’t feel like I’m done with macro toy photography. But I do think I’m waiting for something to happen that will challenge me. What that challenge will look like, I’ve no idea. For now, I will simply be patient.

~ Shelly

How long have you been on Instagram? How often do you post? How do you stay motivated? 

Chima w:teddy in the rain WM

Will the rain ever stop?