Traveling is all about the experience, right?
It’s supposed to be, sure, but everyone is subject to the temptations of social media these days -- we need our networks to see what we see and praise us for how well-traveled we are. I’m certainly guilty of it, but there’s lots to say about the effects of Instagram on how we see the world and why we travel to or photograph the places we do.
A new Instagram account (the first post is from June 5, though it’s gained over 100,000 followers already) called insta_repeat is making it obvious just how much of our social media and travel destinations are pre-determined by the desire to get that “exclusive” shot, as told by its bio: “Wander. Roam. Replicate.”
By collecting photos from different accounts that depict the same place or similar camera angles and creating collages out of them, the woman behind insta_repeat -- a 27-year-old filmmaker and artist from Anchorage who remains anonymous to keep the focus on the project -- adds another angle to the discourse on social media: If we’re all posting the same things on Instagram, is it really even that unique of a place or shot anymore?
Short answer: nah.
The account presents how photographers and social media stars are using the one frame of an Instagram post to promote their creativity...but end up producing really similar content in the end.
“There is a lot of mimicry everywhere in media, not just on Instagram. A purpose of insta_repeat is to critique originality in media creation through the lens (pun intended) of this one 'genre' of Instagram photography accounts,” the artist told Photo Shelter.
The collages display striking places around the world like Preikestolen Cliff in Norway and Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, aka little aesthetically-pleasing corners of the world that immediately spark some wanderlust.
We all know in the back of our minds that what we see on the internet is almost always manufactured in one way or another -- like, we know Kim K’s *ss doesn’t look the way it does all the time and that pineapple cocktail is probably fake.
But at the same time, seeing a fascinating image like the ones insta_repeat showcases inspires something in us. All of a sudden we have to go to this obscure bridge in Northern France someday and take this same photo (except you don’t). Within our immediate network, we may be just one or two who have been to that place and executed this magical photograph...but we’re still probably not that original.
To drive that point home, insta_repeat also reveals the more mundane, overused shots that I’m sure every Instagram user has at least one of in their gallery (hi), like a symmetrical angle of someone standing in a road or a photo of a driver’s hand while they coast down an empty street. There are 10 collages of photos taken of tent entrances alone, a shot that I don’t entirely see the appeal of?
And they get really specific. There’s “standing on top of a white car” and “red house in the winter,” of which there are three collages, for example.
So even if we’re not aiming for that perfect shot under a huge waterfall 10,000 miles from home, the point is that the way we as a society demonstrate our experiences on social media isn’t that different. Surprise! We’re all pretty much dependent on each other’s experiences.
“I don't know how many times the red cabins in Hatcher Pass can be posted before people get bored. Overall, living here, in a popular destination for these outdoor images, motivated the insta_repeat account,” she said.
This could have something to do with why some of the people featured in the collages -- insta_repeat tags every account she uses a photo from to give proper credit -- aren’t happy about their limelight. Since a lot of them are Instagram “influencers” and photographers that credit themselves as unique adventurers, I can imagine that being part of a project that calls out what it takes to maintain originality could make someone a little salty. Some of the accounts have even blocked her to avoid being tagged in additional posts, the bores.
But insta_repeat isn’t fazed.
"One of my favorite things about the popularity boom in this account is the in-depth, critical discussions/debate about originality, what is original and what is art in the comment threads,” she told INSIDER. “It's better than I could have ever asked for."