Another Instagram encounter

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Above: The late Astill Alleyne adjusts a costume from the band Tribal Connection in February 2008 before the band’s parade on Picadilly Street. The masquerader, Bill Trotman, has played with the band for years. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

BitDepth#1188 for March 14, 2019

 In January, I created another Instagram feed. The first, @macmark, finally got pressed into use as a way of sharing the rather whimsical photos I’d taken to making with a smartphone and it was there that I began to make some sense out of the service as an image sharing platform.

Instagram is more than a little bit quirky. I signed up when it appeared on the social media landscape in 2010. 

When I finally posted my first image there six years later, I discovered I had 700 followers. Who were following…nothing.

Were they patiently waiting for my brilliance? I had no idea.

Instagram readily rewards pulchritude. Sumptious meals, glorious landscapes, well-sculpted bodies and exotic locales do very well on the service.

I’ve shied from the type of image posts that draw huge followings, so I committed to reaching people in a slow but genuine way, picking an approach and sticking with it, both for consistency and for my own discipline and satisfaction.

Adding hashtags was another surly addition. They are necessary to help people find your work thematically, but they also feel like wearing shorts that are cut high and tight to get attention. 

I do look kind of good in that particular sartorial choice, but it isn’t my preferred wear for any outing. Or inning for that matter.

Getting people to be attentive to a thematically organised, photographically driven body of work is also a bit of an uphill slog.

Instagram readily rewards pulchritude. Sumptious meals, glorious landscapes, well-sculpted bodies and exotic locales do very well on the service.

Those are photographs I may end up taking on the way to doing other things, not real topics for my consideration.

The new feed was meant to serve a purpose. I’d sometimes get asked how long I’ve been a photographer. Most folks respond poorly to the answer, which is 43 years. I’ve seen disbelief, but mostly there is just barely disguised confusion.

So I decided, as the young people say, to bring my receipts, to show what four decades of photography looks like.

I was influenced by the recent work of Dominic Kalipersad on social media and the impact of his longer captions on his intended audience.

I played to the strengths of Instagram’s format, always reproducing its feed three images wide and chose ten days of three posts each. An eleventh post came on Tuesday afternoon as a Las’ Lap offering. 

On February 24, I launched Trinidad Carnival – An Instagram Exhibition featuring archive Carnival photos and immediately discovered why curators don’t start working on a show a couple of days before it hangs. Yes, Dr Johnson, Ms Zukari, I know that now,

The Instagram Exhibit

The posts were sometimes tied to the Carnival events of the day, Machel Monday, Kings and Queens Finals, Panorama and on the two Sundays, I posted portraits of practitioners of the Carnival arts who had passed on.

I also ended up writing 7,000 words worth of captions across 36 posts, not including the hashtags, discovering along the way that Instagram has a 2,200 character limit on posts.

If I’d known that much writing lay ahead before starting, I might not have.

As it was, I  really blundered through the process, filling three legal pages with notes on strategy while agonising on an almost daily basis about which subjects fit together best in that three image tier.

Then it became a matter of deciding on what should get posted, and I agonized for days over that, making lists, consulting the Carnival calendar of events while also acknowledging that an alarming number of people I’d photographed had passed on.

I decided that the two Sundays would be days of reflection and remembrance and scheduled visual eulogies for those days.

Each image also gets posted with some background information (too much for Instagram, I’ve been told), to give it context for anyone who might have missed the subject matter or who might be unsure of the context of it.

Curiously, the longer captions rarely get separated from the photographs on Facebook. Perhaps that’s because they provide useful context for the images, giving them a value beyond their visual appeal.

The posts also appear on Facebook, where they have enjoyed much greater popularity and traction, though Facebook buries them faster. 

I discovered there a resonant love and respect for the Indo-Trinidadian participants of Carnival, and so far, an early portrait of Jit Samaroo leads on shares and likes, with comments on his work and that of Drupatee Ramgoonai suggesting tremendous potential for more meaningful participation from that community in the festival.

Instagram is also great for getting things right. Several quiet notes were sent to me from better-informed sources, often family members, correcting information I’d either gathered from faulty sources or from my even flakier memory that set facts right in near real-time.

The work is here. The show “nah leaving,” as it were, and other work, past and present will be added continuously to the feed.

The Daily Postings as they appeared

The Calypsonians we lost

Machel Montano through the years

Peter Minshall through the years

Carnival’s Kings and Queens

Chutney Soca stars

Their Other Jobs

The Panmen behind the scenes

Mas men (and woman) we lost

J’Ouvert

Carnival in the 1950’s (my father’s work on the subject)

Carnival Tuesday Lagniappe: The Groups