Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Here today, gone tomorrow - the liberating impermanence of Instagram Stories

I have to admit I had fallen out of love with Instagram since the recent change to a non-chronological timeline and had pretty much stopped looking at it. All that has changed in the last few days with the arrival of 'Stories'. I have been completely won over and now visit Instagram several times a day.

If you haven't yet discovered this new feature, launched last week, Stories are made up of photos and (very) short video clips, uploaded to Instagram without the usual panoply of captions and hashtags. There are no filters or cropping; the aim is for honesty and spontaneity. You can cheat a little by uploading an existing photo or video from your phone but only if it is less than a day old. Viewers can't comment or like; the images are simply there to be briefly enjoyed because (and this is the important bit) after 24 hours they vanish, like a mayfly. New images are added to the end of the story reel while the older ones at the beginning disappear.

I was highly sceptical when I first heard about this but within hours I was converted. Not only do I enjoy the tiny glimpses of others' non-styled, non-filtered and non-curated days but I quickly realised how perfectly this suits documenting the daily life in an artist's studio.

A still from a 7 second clip of cutting out a collagraph plate.

I am happy to make demonstration videos showing my methods, but they are a lot of work and they have to be (or at least appear) perfect. I don't mind people seeing the less perfect bits - I am told my workshop students get a lot of help from seeing me make mistakes (or perhaps they are just being kind) - but I would hate the scruffy part of my work to be permanently archived on the internet. These ephemeral collections of little clips which come with no commentary or narrative offer a wonderful licence to share without fear.

So now I am regularly adding snapshots or a few seconds of video of what I am doing. There is no need for me to record an explanation, think up tags or even worry if the finished piece will be up to scratch. My story includes glimpses of the stages of printmaking, views of my surroundings, things that catch my eye, sources of inspiration (and, I will admit, the odd cat photo - well it is Instagram after all).  I'm hoping that as people see my story unfold they will begin to recognise the processes and routines of my working life. Perhaps they will want to visit my website or this blog to find out more. Maybe fellow artists will find some of what I do reassuringly familiar. It could be that a viewer will decide to come to a workshop. Or perhaps they will simply understand a bit more about what artists do all day.

Instagram wouldn't be the same without cat photos.

If you would like to find me on Instagram I am @stoneflowerjane. To see someone's story, visit their profile and if they have a new story that you haven't seen yet then their profile photo will be circled in colour. Simply click to view. Meanwhile on your usual Instagram feed, people you follow with stories to see will appear across the top in a banner. At the time of writing stories can be seen only on mobile devices. To find out more about Instagram Stories and how to make your own, there is a short guide here.