New Delhi: A "cow mask" photography series uploaded on Instagram by 24-year-old photographer Sujatro Ghosh recently took the Internet by storm.
Shot entirely on a mobile phone, the series features a woman wearing a cow mask posing at different iconic landmarks in India.
Ghosh said he wanted to highlight "women's safety is a more serious concern than cow vigilantism", using the mask as a metaphor.
Mounting it in an art gallery would have restricted its reach. "I never wanted to showcase my photography within four walls," Ghosh, who now has more than 25,000 followers on social media, told.
"There is no doubt that Instagram has helped me to reach out to a much larger audience, making my project successful," he added.
It is not just Ghosh, but many other artists who are opting for Instagram to convey their stories -- whether it's raising awareness about contemporary social issues or glorifying the beauty of Indian Railways.
Gone are the days when photographers would wait to get a date at a gallery to showcase their magic; now it's all on the social media.
The presence of stalwarts like Raghu Rai, Dayanita Singh, Pablo Bartholomew and many others on social media platforms, embracing this sharing, shows how Instagram is gradually becoming a public gallery.
"With renowned photographers joining Instagram, it shows how they have taken the medium seriously. It is not just a pastime any more," noted Shanu Babar, administrator of "Window Seat Project", a crowd-sourced community page.
With over 22,000 followers, the pictures on the community page and their catchy captions would convince you to start travelling by train once again.
For Mumbai-based photojournalist Anushree Fadnavis, who is working with the Indus Images, Instagram is not about uploading just photographs or getting more likes.
It is about capturing the visual world that narrates the stories of commoners.
"You don't need a DSLR; all you need is a tale to tell. Even mobile clicks are great. And Instagram is just that platform where even an amateur could show off talent," commented Fadnavis, who has more than 96,000 followers.
Her photographs, mostly shot on her mobile phone, focus on capturing the travels on Mumbai's local trains, especially in the women's compartment.
Whether it's a transgender whom she has befriended or a daily commuter uncomfortable at getting photographed, Fadnavis finds a story in every single woman who boards the city's lifeline.
"It's a way for me to connect to people," says Fadnavis. "There resides a mini Mumbai within the local trains. So many faces, so many hopes and dreams in those eyes."
After their success on the social media platform, these photographers are now on a new high as global recognition beckons them. They described how their projects are reaching beyond borders.
Ghosh said that after his cow mask series went viral, he has been approached by an art gallery in Italy to showcase the photographs.
"Had I not put them up on Instagram, art galleries from other nations would have never known about them. My work was seen and appreciated by people the world over. Social media brings all under one roof," Ghosh noted.
Fadnavis too, has been invited to a number of exhibitions post her popularity on Instagram.
"Not just exposure, the platform has opened doors for me and for so many others," Babar said.
"For a serious photographer, an Instagram account is his professional profile. I make sure that I put up quality content on a regular basis," Babar noted.
Seeing the craze for photography, Instagram too has taken steps to further inspire budding talent, as well as the professionals in the field.
It is helping people build relationship through shared experiences. One good example of this is the World Wide Insta Meet or #WWIM.
"Inspired by our community, Instagram announces two weekends every year dedicated to Instagrammers meeting each other in person," said Tara Bedi, Community Partnerships and Programs for Instagram in India.
Although Instagram is turning into a gallery sans boundaries for photographers, the option of too many filters often ruins the charm of original images.
Showkat Shafi, a photo-journalist associated with the Al Jazeera network, believes that over-editing eats away the soul of a photograph.
"Mobile phone cameras have turned everyone into a self-proclaimed photo editor. Photography is an art and should be treated like one.
"Treating it like science with editing apps ruins it. Flaws shouldn't be edited. Instead they should be celebrated with skilled photography," Shafi told.
So, on this World Photography Day it is time to test your love for that art. Just shoot and upload on Instagram.
(August 19 is World Photography Day)
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