On April 10, 2015, at 7:00 p.m., Instagram emailed me indicating that I was named a Suggested User. This is the second time that Instagram has bestowed this extremely high honor upon me. And to be quite honest, it had been a lingering inquiry for quite some time.
I was unsure whether there was precedent for the folks at Instagram to give successive Suggested User nods to the same person.
Recently, I had a friend (@toddler777) who made it onto the list for a second time. So, much of the mystery surrounding whether it COULD happen was removed. The question simply remaining for me was whether my work was worthy of the honor.
I have tried, rather steadfastly, to remain true to the style I love–that is, minimalism, human portraits, wide angle landscapes, and zealous interactivity with the Instagram community. I think if there is anything to distill from this experience, it is as follows: remain true to your individual aesthetic and be kind to others’ art. Honor it. Nurture it. Allow it to evolve, and don’t get tripped up on whether it is statistically “good,” or whether others will regard it highly. Of course, we all love positive feedback, and we all want to know–to some degree–that others are responding to our artform in a positive manner, but I feel that one has to remain confident that his or her pursuits are INWARDLY fulfilling.
I started this blog post by revealing my curiosity over Instagram’s Suggested User process. So, there is no mystery: I care. I am interested. I wanted to know how, if, why, when, and under what circumstances it could happen. But within that healthy social media curiosity was the determination never to stray from what I love, regardless if it is ever again recognized by anyone at the Instagram HQ. Understandably, people who keep trying and who do not receive the desired accolades may feel a sense of futility, and give up. I get that. We are only human, and we each have vulnerabilities and self esteem issues to negotiate.
However, I submit that IF you give up, and IF you remain focused on the statistical prizes and the goals and the numbers, you will inhibit yourself from growing as a photographer and as an artist in general.
I have been privileged and honored to be recognized. But beneath it all is a drive and a commitment to do better, to push my creativity in new directions, and to absolutely, wholeheartedly LOVE the process of photography. It keeps me sane, balanced, fulfilled, and invigorated.
Thank you dearly, Instagram, for the honor! I cherish it, and I want anyone out there who is reading this–and who loves photography–to just keep shooting! Shoot for the stars. Shoot for the love of the game. Stats are cool and all, but the passion and vitality in a wonderfully emotional photograph is really why you should be snapping in the first place.
– JRS | ReadeLab