Instant Prints vs Instagram

The warriors are ready!

The warriors are ready!

In the debate between analogue and digital, who wins? Swati Parwani and Supriya Joshi pick their sides.

This article was originally published in May 2014.

Swati Parwani

Swati Parwani

Consider this, the lopsided face of your dog while he grunts in his sleep, the release of a shutter, and now, a fleeting moment finds a place on your wall.

A memory preserved. A funny one at that.

Now consider this trail of thoughts—Oh my God! My dog looks so cute! He is so lopsided. Must Instagram it! Must share it! Let me recheck my notifications. *Drum roll* Got 3 more likes! Phew.

The demise of a memory. The birth of a post.

It goes on for quite a while, never really going beyond the point of our inherent need for validation. Even our pets need to go through a social media assessment to be declared cute. Anything less than 10 likes just won’t do, we think to ourselves, maybe that lopsided face isn’t that cute after all.

If you think 10 is a much smaller or higher figure than the one you had in mind, then this psychotic plague has taken over you too.

To speak in the strictest of terms, the difference between Instagram and instant prints is the tangibility of the latter. They are both, however, based on the same principle of instantaneousness.

The real difference is not the equipment we use, it’s got more to do with our approach. If it’s something instantaneous, it’s instinctive. If it’s instinctive, it’s personal. And if it’s personal, it doesn’t need any kind of approval. With instant prints, we preserve instances but more than that, we preserve their integrity.

Some might argue, how is a picture of your dog or the book that you’re currently reading a matter of integrity? But how is it not? It’s what snuggles with you when you’re sick, it’s what you read, it’s what consumes your thoughts every now and then. It’s something that might even define who you are, or help you figure out something you had known all along. That’s the kind of realisation that is personal and deserves respect. It’s not something I would want to fling out in the open, I wouldn’t want to tint it with shallow, mindless validation in the form of comments, likes and the works.

Another concern that I have with platforms like Instagram is the fact that, eventually, it shapes us to share something that goes with the flow of the pictures it’s already populated with and would be received well. It’s one more form of mindless conformity. We go to a fancy restaurant after ages, and we get something really appetizing to eat. It’s sad that we can’t resist photographing it, it’s sad that we need to prove that we too go to fancy restaurants.

Exposure is not necessarily a great thing. Especially if it’s got to do with who we are and what we can be. Where Polaroids went right, by helping us reinforce our sense of being, with a sense of converting instantaneousness into a prolonged thought, Instagram did quite the opposite.
It took our instinct and converted it into an instinct of social survival.

To sum it up, in all fairness, this matter is completely moot if we believe that we are immune to how well our presence on social media is received. This presumption seems moot because we are after all, for all impractical purposes, human.


Supriya Joshi

Supriya Joshi

Photography and evolution go hand in hand, so why can’t analogue and digital be treated as separate entities all together? Why must one be better than the other? Why can’t we all just get along?

My argument, and I do have one, in support of Instagram is that it helps me make memories just as easily as a Polaroid print would. In fact, if you consider the cost of a Polaroid print versus the virtually zero cost of shooting a photograph with Instagram, the wiser choice between the two just becomes easier.

I do understand the nostalgia attached to instant prints, but in today’s times, who is really printing their photographs? The digital space has become so all-encompassing; I honestly do not miss photo prints any more. I would rather make an image with Instagram, upload it to my Facebook page and share it with everyone on my list.

Moreover, Polaroids were marketed as instant, and Instagram has modeled itself around this very idea… instant and carefree. Of course, the pitfalls of such a photography app also include people treating it more as a vehicle to show off their latest acquisition, or where they are currently. Because the same is not possible with a Polaroid camera, does it make it better than Instagram? Certainly not.

Above everything else, however, is the fact that Polaroid and other instant film cameras today have become a coveted item, something people use as a show-off commodity, which I absolutely loathe. Photography is more than the camera you use. If you can achieve the same thought with Instagram, then what is the harm?

In her argument, Swati said that those who use Instagram are mindless conformists (sic). Unfortunately, using instant film in today’s age doesn’t make you a revolutionary either. It only makes you a hipster with a lot of money to spare.

Who do you agree with? Do you prefer instant prints or Instagram? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: instagram, polaroid, polaroid vs instagram