Is Instagram killing creativity?

 Is Instagram killing creativity? | Soho House

By Sam Dameshek

Photographers Sam Dameshek and Mike Rosenthal open up about fighting the urge to shoot for social media

Sunday 13 February 2022 By Abigail Hirsch

At 15 Sam Dameshek was sitting in his high-school math class in Orange County sending hundreds of emails with his portfolio to break into the industry.  Now, only six or so years later, he shoots magazine covers and talent such as Sydney Sweeney and Shawn Mendes, and he has Instagram to thank for it. When Mike Rosenthal was starting out, digital cameras were a foreign concept, let alone Instagram or any social media.

With an age gap nearing 20 years, the two photographers have different relationships towards working IRL and online. ‘I’m not opposed to finding work via the internet, but there is a magic to physically connecting the dots,’ says Dameshek.

Rosenthal and Dameshek step into the West Hollywood House Studios, powered by Genesis Motor America, to discuss gaining momentum as photographers in two very different eras.

 Is Instagram killing creativity? | Soho House

MR: ‘I was familiar with your work before today, but did a deep dive when this conversation was put together. Really impressive.’

SD: ‘You’ve got quite the legacy yourself. It was cool to see a lot of faces that are still prominent now.’

MR: ‘It’s been interesting. I’m at the point now where I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. The marketplace itself has changed so rapidly and dramatically.’ 

SD: ‘100%. How many years have you been shooting?’

MR: ‘Roughly 22.’

SD: ‘You’ve seen the transition from analogue to digital. You’ve seen social media take it’s rise.’ 

MR: ‘Before photography I was working in the film business for the genius cinematographer who shot Titanic. Stills were transitioning into digital, but the motion side was still shot on 35mm. I went out and bought the Nikon D1, the first digital SLR.’

 Is Instagram killing creativity? | Soho House

Both by Sam Dameshek. Above, by Mike Rosenthal

 Is Instagram killing creativity? | Soho House

SD: ‘I wonder what my job would feel like if I started earlier. What would the landscape look like?’

MR: ‘On one hand, the industry offers more opportunities due to increased access. At the same time, I’m thankful that I’m not coming up now because it’s so hard to get noticed.’

SD: ‘Also, the added pressure of social media now. I don’t want to admit that Instagram alters the way I view my work, but it does. Unfortunately, a lot of what is good work from an artistic standpoint isn’t what ends up being well received on Instagram.’

MR: ‘Before, we were editing for print. A magazine is larger than your phone, so you have more room to explore the image visually. An image would also last for at least a month; you’re choosing the image to represent a certain period. Now you have an edit for that swipe – it just lasts as long as somebody’s finger can move.’

SD: ‘Recently, I’m caring less about what translates to an audience on Instagram. The right people watching are still impressed by the right work. I’ve seen a direct translation of photos that won’t perform as well on social as the photos that bring work or catch the attention of someone I want to work with.’