Instagram – On Communities and Staying Authentic

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“Twinstagrammers” Yais and Yafiq Yusman, street photographer AikSoon, and @sgig founder Ivan Kuek weigh in on how the platform has changed the way they connect and share ideas.

By Esther Yeo

Image by @sgig

Gone were the days when Instagram was used solely to share images with friends and loved ones. Today, total strangers can get acquainted just by “sliding into each other’s DMs”. It’s no different in the creative sphere. Professional photographers, amateurs, artists, and even “iPhonographers” are increasingly taking advantage of Instagram’s accessibility to collaborate and create something fresh.

Image by @sgig

Ivan Kuek, founder of the @sgig Singapore Instagram community, enjoys the social nature of the platform. He organises an “InstaMeet” monthly, open for all 14,000 of @sgig’s followers to attend. An intimate affair with two to three well-known Instagram users invited to share their work, image lovers from all walks of life commune together to discuss photographic styles, nifty hacks and build friendships.

The [@sgig] community is built on our shared interest in Instagram,” Ivan explains. “We bring these virtual friendships forged through the app to reality.”

Images by @_yafiqyusman_ and @_yaisyusman_ respectively

It was actually through one of these Meets that I found myself acquainted with “twinstagrammers” Yais and Yafiq Yusman. They describe themselves as iPhone-only Instagrammers – and never the term photographer. Why? To Yais, a photographer is someone who photographs for a living, while an Instagrammer is someone who uses Instagram as a hobby. “I’ve never regarded myself as a photographer,” he says. “I don’t think I deserve to be called one.”

Yafiq agrees, as Instagrammers are unburdened by the need to take their photography too seriously. “It’s all about being yourself and posting whatever that makes you feel happy!”

Image by @aiksooon

For the photographers on the app, Instagram is as good as their online portfolio. Street photographer Aiksooon agrees, saying that clients have approached him after viewing his posts. Aside from being able to share his own work, he’s also able to browse through others’ for inspiration.

However, he admits that drawing from Instagram has had an influence on his photography style, in particular by the “hypebeast” trend characterised by architecture, street wear, and dramatic tones. Such images saturate Instagram feeds and can rack up thousands of likes on popular accounts.

“I gradually moved on from the ‘hypebeast’ phase and sought for something more meaningful,” he says. “I eventually turned to documentary or film photography, which was what I started out with.”

Image by @aiksooon

Although styles change and trends evolve, the passion to create striking imagery is unwavering in all four creatives. What drives them to pursue doing what they do?

“Taking photos gives me the freedom to be myself,” says Yafiq. “The photos I post on Instagram always reflect the way I feel. It’s how I share my thoughts and emotions to relieve stress.”

While events may not always go as planned on shoots, these lads are just as happy to connect with the people they hang out with. “It feels good to create memorable images for others, or commercial work for others to build their portfolio,” says Aiksoon.

Image by @_yaisyusman_

Amidst the competition on Instagram, there is one universal truth: remain authentic to yourself and your process. Struggling to attain “likes” and validation can be draining and ultimately sows resentment and unhealthy comparisons within communities. “Don’t get caught up in the race to be the most-liked,” says Ivan. “Likes and followers may indicate a person’s current popularity, but not necessarily how good their photos may actually be.”

“Always stay true to who you are. Genuine posts will always be the most satisfying,” Yafiq concludes. “What’s the point of having a large following when you’re not true to yourself?”

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