Instagram is just a log-in away. Before we enter its visual realm, the platform prompts us to “capture the moment and share it with others around the world.”
Instagram’s seductive promise: patina-laced snapshots and memories that attract plenty of attention via the right blend of magic moments, filter-induced faux nostalgia, and strategic hashtagging.
At the same time and across the platform, near-identical “individual” captures tend to resurface in countless of variations on a theme, be it thoughtfully presented breakfast arrangements, famous sights, or current works by edgy street artists.

Out to highlight this dichotomy and cognitive dissonance, São Paolo’s Bruno Ribeiro launched his Real Life Instagram project, although he is a self-professed fan of the social media platform. “I am a huge fan of Instagram. I find both the app itself and how it has changed our habits really impressive. It has introduced photography to our daily lives. Using it makes us more aware and helps us to spot the smaller details in our everyday routines. Overall, it makes photography more familiar. And that’s something I find really fascinating.”

35-year-old creative director Ribeiro is employed by the London advertising agency AKQA and well-known for his creative commercial clips. Take the (in)famous $73,000 bar tab – a co-production with Ogilvy Brazil. His latest, self-initiated project is an urban installation of analog Instagram frames. By positioning colored filters in Polaroid-style frames at a huge range of different London locations, he imbues even the most unassuming objects with a sense of value and importance. At the same time, these “posters” come with typical Instagram attributes and information: user profile, location, likes and hashtags. And while they offer a glimpse of his personal perspective and view of the city, they also invite amateur photographers to reappropriate this fixed point of view and make it their own. New aspects, like moving elements behind the filter, as well as the continual accumulation of new hashtags help to reinvent the original frame. By framing a specific view in public space, the notion of “sharing,” as mentioned on Instagram’s welcome screen, extends to a new dimension.

Artist Bruno Ribeiro in the making-of process, © Bruno Ribeiro
Artist Bruno Ribeiro in the making-of process, © Bruno Ribeiro

Ribeiro himself is always on the lookout for new creative outlets. His installation is both Instagram tribute and a reminder that it is okay to leave the online realm behind – if only for a brief moment or two. A project that resonates with many people, as the overwhelming response reveals: Media in more than 150 countries reported on the unusual intervention. In the end, the artist’s main agenda is modest: He wants to inject joy into people’s lives – something Real Life Instagram achieves with elegant simplicity.

Text: Vanessa Obrecht
Header image: London, tourists taking pictures of a Real Live Instagram, © Bruno Ribeiro