“Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self”:


  • “In an article for American Photo magazine, Jordan G. Teicher recently introduced several very young photographers who have reached a notable level of recognition while having no professional or artistic training besides browsing Instagram feeds and taking pictures with their phones. For example, Pablo Unzueta was 20 and still in college in April 2015 when he was invited to contribute to the New York Times Portfolio Review, while David Ingraham within five years from joining Instagram has “got representation, gallery shows, and publication in magazines.”4 Does that mean that today’s teenager with an iPhone can make as good photographs as educated and experienced magazine photographer of yesterday?” (Manovich, Tiftentale 2). 
  • “First of all, competitive photography is and always has been a highly skilled and highly aesthetic practice. Its practitioners often have called it “art photography,” or “photographic art,” as in the name of the global organization, the International Federation of Photographic Art (Fédération internationale de l’art photographique, FIAP), founded in 1950. 14 Second, this photography is always made for public display—it is produced to be shown in juried exhibitions, to be published in specialized photography magazines, to compete for recognition and prizes, or to be posted online and to compete for “likes” in the case of Instagram” (Manovich, Tifentale 5 ). 
  • “Are all selfies really self-portraits? Our lab’s explorations of millions of Instagram photos worldwide between 2012 and 2015 and the work on Selfiecity project where we compared selfies from six global cities (selfiecity.net, 2014; selfiecity.net/london, 2015), suggest that many so- called selfies are not self-portraits in traditional art-historical sense. They do not show a person isolated from their environment, as both self-portraits and portraits often did historically (think for example of self-portraits by Rembrandt and van Gogh). Instead, they are records of events, activities, experiences, and situations that include the photo’s author” (Manovich, Tifentale 14). 


  • Some Instagram users are becoming more famous than professional photographers 
  • Learning to communicate through social media photos is becoming a basic social skill 
  • With smartphones, photography is becoming more easily accessible 
  • “Competitive photography” is skilled and made for public displays 
  • On Instagram, about 80 percent of photos are non-competitive, and 20 percent are competitive 
  • Anti-selfies show the ambience of backgrounds and the environments 

Thoughts: The idea that some Instagram accounts are more successful than photographers who take photographs for a living is somewhat surprising to me. I knew that social media platforms have allowed us to reach more people and become more well-known, but I did not expect that “competitive photographers” could be less well-known than a “home mode” photographer.

Questions to Consider:

  • Is it surprising that 80% of Instagram accounts are non-competitive, while 20% of Instagram accounts are competitive?
  • What is the significance of an “anti-selfie”?


Manovich, Lev, and Tiftentale, Alise. “Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self.” N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2016.

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