Several professional Bay Area photographers have joined the international blackout of their photos on Instagram.
The photo-sharing site angered users Tuesday by issuing a new policy that many interpreted as allowing Instagram to make money by sharing its users’ images with advertisers.
Justin Sullivan, a full-time professional photographer based in San Francisco, normally posts his latest of a series of photos of the Golden Gate Bridge whenever he goes on Instagram.
But after Tuesday, Sullivan – like countless others – started using a simple blacked-out image.
Sullivan was among the more polite Instagram users. Others uploaded an image of a middle finger, instead.
“It’s a wonderful app,” Sullivan said, “so easy to use. You can share across so many platforms with one button. But I’m going to try and not post anything until I decide what they do on Jan. 16 (when a new policy is supposed to be issued). I looked into other apps but I wasn’t, frankly, too impressed.”
Sullivan has more than 700 images on Instagram, including a series of photos that he takes whenever he crosses the Golden Gate Bridge.
“They were going to license things and gain money that the user would never be any part of,” Sullivan said. “It’s your own art and there’s value connected to that. It devalues the industry.”
Richard Koci Hernandez, assistant professor of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and an Emmy Award-winning photojournalist, estimated that two dozen professional photographers he knows on Instagram deleted their accounts Tuesday, including half-a-dozen from the Bay Area.
Like Sullivan, though, Hernandez is keeping his Instagram account but is using a blacked-out image instead of his normal street image photo of a bicyclist riding through the fog through downtown San Francisco.
“The blacked out image is like a black flag,” Hernandez said. “It’s like the black armband of the internet.”
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom tried to calm users’ fears in a blog Tuesday that seemed to placate “casual users,” Hernandez said.
“They seem to be happy,” he said. “It’s the professionals and serious amateurs that have really left for other platforms and I don’t know whether they’re going to come back after this initial mass exodus. I, on the other hand, am still cautiously optimistic that it will turn around.”
Until a new announcement comes out on Jan. 16, as expected, Hernandez is keeping his account active.
But he won’t post a new image until he sees a new term of service agreement he can live with – along with a good explanation from Systrom.
“They’re learning that people read the fine print,” Hernandez said. “There needs to be some kind of explanation.”