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The rich & the photographed
Have money, will flash it on Instagram seems to be the motto for rich teens even as voyeuristic have-nots lap it up.
Remember MTV Cribs - the TV show that legitimised the voyeuristic vignettes of celebrity living and decadence? Well, now there is a photo version of it - Rich Kids of Instagram, a Tumblr photo blog, whose tagline reads, 'They have more money than you and this is what they do'. In keeping with its in-yourface motto, the anonymous founder of the site puts together Instagram, a smartphone app that compiles photos taken by affluent kids living it up. Posted with gilded frames and hashtags like #dom, #wealth and #caviar, they give you a peek into the lives of the rich and not-so-famous. A caption below the photo of an uber-luxurious yacht reads, "How else do you expect to get around in the Hamptons?", while another shot of a horse is captioned, "Do you have a horse in your backyard? Didn't think so. "
So what do seemingly endless deposits of cash buy you? Going by the photos, rich living mostly involves reckless wastage of champagne, gold-plated AK-47 s, backflips from helicopters into oceans, standing barefoot on sports cars, private jets and yachts, treacle-basted shiny bikini bodies and things;lots of things, especially gilded. In a phrase, it is insouciant profligacy, just because they can. In fact, one photo caption puts it perfectly - "Our everyday is better than your best day. "
Understandably, blogs and numerous opinion pieces, presumably written by the much less privileged and entitled, are frothing at the mouth with indignation. One critique scoffed and invented a new category of photos, "receipt porn". Very aptly put, it refers to the multi-thousand euro and dollar receipts rung up, obviously, at restaurants we would not come near sniffing distance of. And eloquent as these kids are, one gargantuan bill says, "LOL get on my level. " Paid by AMEX, of course.
But you can hardly fault the medium or the platform for this crime inflicted on most of humanity. Instagram, now with 80 million registered users, is built for the urban stream of consciousness - from photos of garden brunches, to artsy shots of pigeons on a power line, self-portraits in new sunglasses and sundresses to cannonballing into a pool. The whole point of the gamut of fancy filters (cross processing, selective blurring) is to elevate mundane life to a jealous-sigh-inducing level on social networking. Sure, in photographic mastery terms, it requires zero effort - two swipes and a tap on the touchphone and voila, the photo becomes, "Awesome", "Super", "Envy". Technique is what Flickr is for. Instagram is about "Look where I am right now and what I am doing. Please comment. "
It is, of all things, a smartphone app, made for iPhones and Android phones, which cost more than the average salary. So, the app itself is not really responsible for the gag-inducing photomontages of the ridiculously rich.
Some of the parents of these woo-hooing kids it would be seem are a tad unhappy. Alexa Dell, the daughter of Dell CEO Michael Dell, had posted a photo of her brother gorging on a breakfast on board the family's private jet, which was picked off the internet by Rich Kids of Instagram. Her feed later disappeared for what seems to be her indiscriminate geo-tagging on the photos that posed a security risk for the Dell family. Whether her over-sharing on social networking, a norm for teenagers, brought her a grounding, we don't know.
Another gold-framed on the viral site, which showed 19-year-old Annabel Schwartz, a fashion designer and a student, holidaying in St Tropez, earned her ire, much unlike her peers, who seem to mistake the online world's scorn for envy.
Schwartz told the Good Morning America website, "We all grew up quite nicely but I don't want to be embarrassed by the fact that I can enjoy myself in Saint-Tropez. " Fair enough. But it really doesn't take much to comprehend that "social" in social sharing means a shot of you floating in a bathtub of $4, 000 champagne with a gold AMEX card stuck between your teeth will float in virtual ether forever.
Instagram just announced that their new update will not involve new filters but will focus more on creating photo narratives around location data. What it means is that much like searches via hashtags and profiles, you will soon be able to home in on photos of say, motor-boating in the Bahamas or skiing over fresh snow in Aspen.
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