One of Instagram‘s most popular photographer with 232 thousand followers feels a need for transiency and renewal thus he plans to delete all of his pictures published until now. His pictures can be seen only until december 6th in 2014. After that you can never see them again. I don’t question his rights to do this, but the sense of this action.
I have to confess I didn’t really follow Koci’s work and now I possibly won’t have a chance to make up for checking out his entire body of work on Instagram (he has 1136 pictures by now). However since he plans to delete all of his images by december 6th, I may not have the time to see them any time later. Time had an interview with him, Richard Koci Hernandez says he has too much pressure on him because of his incredible following. Some times he doesn’t publish his newer different than usual works because of the (real or imaginary) expectations of his followers. He dares to experiment with new things and he is afraid of posting some of his stuff. He thinks there is a need for transiency to let his works get a new start and evolve from its current level.
He was struck by this idea after a Henri Certier-Bresson exhibition where he could enjoy the experience only for a brief period: he had only a short time to watch the exhibition and then it was gone. Koci says Instagram rather makes pictures permanently available, they can be seen any time. He thinks his pictures shouldn’t live forever, they should have a lifespan that ends at a point. He also tells however he will return and continue to use Instagram with a fresh perspective.
I agree that technological development exposes us to more and more visual stimulation and it changes our connection and behaviour as well. But I don’t think removing images forever after a time would increase their value at all. Nay! I think it rather devalues things if we show them only for a brief time and then delete them completely.
Digital book burning
I don’t like digital decay that surrounds us anyway without intentional deletion. I don’t believe we should (or even should be allowed) to remove once they are published. With such a removal we take away the possibility from posterity (or those who get the word too late) to become familiar with the images that now a quarter of a million followers find worth to see. I think the Internet is the huge library of the world, where we collect our intellectual properties. Removing and deleting these digital properties is something very similar to me to the book burning regardless of the nature of them, if they are photos, videos, books or anything else that can be interesting and important to others.
I don’t think human culture could benefit in any way from eradicating previously conceived art pieces from time to time. I also don’t think Rembrandt‘s paintings, Michelangelo’s sculptures, Mozart’s compositions or pictures of any photographers would become any valuable if we would say today you can see them, but tomorrow we will burn them and it will cease to exist.
I believe to understand why Koci says he wants to move on to do other things differently. It is not unknown in art history that an artist makes changes to his creation or even completely overpaints a painting. But the same time I really wouldn’t be happy if we would only know Picasso’s later and most evolved works and none of the early attempts he made before cubism.
The author has the right but the responsibility too
I quite often write about copyright (especially on my Hungarian blog) so I have to add: of course the author has all legal rights to decide about the publication of his work and even withdrawing it from publication and deny further publication of it. Usually newspapers and books aren’t shredded or burned to end the publication of an artwork when the author decides not to allow it. Maybe it wouldn’t be possible to remove all the copies that are already in a library somewhere.
Internet however is a completely different technology. Changing, altering or completely removing content is just a few quick and easy move. This possibility also means great danger and it raises the question of the authors’ responsibility. How and how much they alter the recorded history with their edits. Moreover if these changes are marked or the informations just unknowingly change or disappear on the web.
Update: Koci made a final offer to buy prints from his photos before his great Instagram purge. Visitors could order their favourite photos in the last days. As his website says: “Before I do [the delete], I’d like to offer the opportunity for anybody interested to purchase prints. These images will never be available at this price again.”
What do you think about Koci’s Instagram deletion idea?