Yesterday Was Only

I’d love to meet someone who has never heard of Instagram. Wouldn’t that be some kind of miracle? An anomaly rare enough to realize you’re living your life the wrong way, that miracles do happen, that the world can still be unpredictable? At least that’s how dramatic of a notion it has become in my mind. Instagram has turned photography on its head. That’s not to say cheap DSLRs didn’t have their impact as well, especially considering the market exploded with young new talent thanks to them.

Interestingly though, original intentions of Instagram have long since vanished. Most people who take it seriously don’t even use the built in filter set. They use any number of other random editing apps to make their mobile phone images look interesting or emotional (a practice which was previously viewed as breaking the unspoken rules of proper Instagraming). From what I can tell at this point, however, the service is no more than a highly populated gallery these days. Well, this or a dumping ground for any random screen grab or funny thing users find online, but isn’t that what Facebook is for? I see nothing wrong with this behavior, it’s to be expected as it has grown far beyond what anyone had expected.

Part of the foundation of Instagrams popularity was in the “best camera is the one you have with you” movement. A nice enough idea in theory that many have taken to heart and of course the statement is true, but the idea goes deeper than that. The best camera doesn’t HAVE to be your cell phone because it happens to be with you. It could very well just as easily be an SLR, it simply depends on your level of commitment to what it is you want to shoot and the level of control you want to have while shooting.

I see a trend where people are starting to call themselves “mobile photographers” and they have two galleries set up, one on Instagram and another on a separate site where they show the “real” versions of the photos they took on Instagram… This happens the other way around too. Sometimes I find a nice portfolio of work on a personal blog only to be directed to Instagram to see the “mobile version” of the image. Is it just me or is this incredibly redundant? I can’t imagine going through the trouble of scouting out a great location and taking honest time and energy to find beautiful things to photograph only to pull out an iPhone to shoot it simply because that is where the trendy social network of the moment is? What kind of professional path could this lead you down? The only honest argument here that I can figure out is that by posting to Instagram you are doing so to be part of said community. Then again, as I mentioned in my previous article about the word professional, this is all irrelevant in the face of the simple joy of shooting so take my point of view for what it is, an opinion.

For me, personally, Instagram is a distraction. I have my fun with it but have never come close to thinking I would ever take it seriously. I have no interest in how many people may or may not follow me there, I do not use tags in any attempt to find more followers. I have, however, come across moments in the past when facing a nice photo opportunity where I would spend time thinking about weather or not I wanted to bother taking out my 5D or just use my phone. I realized it was making me a lazy photographer and it was this realization that lead me to think that I was clearly using this silly network as an excuse. I would convince myself in those moments that the photo was just a random snapshot, that it didn’t really deserve a real camera, that it was fine that I was just digging my phone out of my pocket rather than sacrificing the extra few seconds that it would take to grab my 5D, Lomo, or Contax T3.


So here we are today with a new venture. Many of you have heard of people shooting one photo every day and calling it their 365 project, something I believe was born, or at least popularized, on Flickr. Funny thing now is that it doesn’t seem like all that much of a challenge anymore, not with the way things are today. Many have no problem randomly snapping off a photo or ten every day on and tossing them up on instagram for a quick fix. Who doesn’t love to see that little “so and so liked your photo”!

All that said, I am happy to introduce a new project which I have ambiguously titled, Yesterday Was Only. Simply put, it’s my new instagram. Of course there will still be times when I toss up snapshots over there because its fun to mess around with apps on my phone and it is a fun way to share bits and pieces of life with those of you who follow along. My goal in starting this new project is to stop the internal argument that it seems easier to shoot with my iPhone at times than it is to pull out my 5D and simply always reach for my 5D when something catches my eye.

“But John, it’s so time consuming, not to mention you have to pull photos off before sharing them and it’s so annoying to drag around a big camera everywhere.”

The time it takes is negligible. Having a few shots from the day that I pull off in the evening and toss up onto my new site hardly seems like a stretch, and this is coming from someone who leads a very busy life with little mental room left for anything new. As for the camera dragging. It’s really not as burdensome as you think. It only gets in the way if you let it, or if you baby your camera. My old 5D and I have been through years of traveling and environments and it has held up just fine. Having a nice fat camera strap certainly doesn’t hurt.

All in all, I realize I am being bold here in the assumption that I will be able to keep this up day after day. YoungDoo lovingly joked that I wouldn’t even make it a month. The fact is, though, that once I started shooting like this, once I made the conscious effort, I started noticing things around me again that I thought I had forgotten about or started to ignore. The way the light hits a wall at a certain time of day. The life hiding in the mundane, often overlooked nooks of my day to day life. Once I started shooting these in the past week or so I was reminded how many beautiful moments I come across and all I am doing is letting myself see them again, I am refusing to let them pass without honoring them with my ability to capture them and represent them to the extend they deserve to be represented because without me these details are born only to die seconds later and I figure they deserve better than that right?

Of course, some days it will be hard, my life deals me with some grungy, busy sorts of days and that is where the real challenge will come. In finding at least one beautiful thing even in days when nothing seems like it could be beautiful. I feel like I have started to let that part of me slip a bit over the past year or so and it feels good to re connect with it it again. So heres to new challenges, may it be fruitful and entertaining. Head on over, follow along, and we will see where we end up.

P.S. – I can imagine the flood of “wait, these aren’t desktops!?” emails and messages. No, they are not but that doesn’t mean they won’t be. I plan on taking an image from each week to post here on as a wallpaper for you guys to enjoy.


  1. Tom McLaughlan - February 12, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Beautifully put, John. A personal opinion, yes, but also very persuasive. I wish you well with Yesterday Was Only. As for me, I’ve never bothered with Instagram. My problem is figuring out how to carry my camera as well as my laptop throughout each day. Or perhaps my real problem is having an excuse that I can posit as a problem :-)

  2. Jack Brannen - February 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

    *Wait, these aren’t desktops!?*

    Here’s one guy who wishes they were! But I understand if you want to curate a little more strictly than that. I’ll be grateful for one a week!

  3. Nathaniel - February 13, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I love this idea.

    PS I spy an orange typewriter again.

  4. Johnny - February 14, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Wow! I never looked at the whole “Instagram” thing like that! Looking forward on yesterdaywasonly

  5. The High Dosage - February 14, 2013 at 2:53 am

    Great idea John!
    I’ve attempted something like this with my olympus Epl1 and my sony a33 a number of times but have only kept it up for like 2 days at a time max. And those are relatively easier cameras to lug around!! Haha
    The yesterday blog already is already looking to have some marvelous pictures.
    And I’m glad you didn’t outright trash instagram I think it can be a fun and exciting and Inspiring place.
    After all look at how it inspired you! ;)

  6. The High Dosage - February 14, 2013 at 2:54 am

    The orange typewriter, the kerosene, and the record player are extraordinary shots. Bravo

  7. Amy Sakurai - February 14, 2013 at 5:34 am

    I never got into the “sharing” part of Instagram (I mostly just played with the filters)… and my app has long been retired. I’ve done some daily photo projects, and I really liked how they shook things up for me and made me pay much more attention to my environment.

    Your photos at are of course a real treat, and I’ve been enjoying every day so far. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Philip Curwen - February 15, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Loving the yesterdaywasonly pics..Are they all with the iPhone?

  9. John - February 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Philip, nope, these are all with my 5d at this point. Which is a big part of the reason for starting the project. To have photos from my day to day that could have a potential future outside of the web. Happy to hear you enjoy it!

  10. su - February 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

    john, the new photos at are lovely… keep up the amazing work.. :)

  11. xaero212 - February 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm I’ve just found one of the best photo blogs of my life. Seriously. Please keep this up forever. In such hard moments like these (in my life) it’s the true Healing for me. These photos are very warm & fabulous.

  12. Charlene - February 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    It’s amazing to go to see this web site and reading the views of all friends regarding this piece of writing, while I am also keen of getting familiarity.

    Also visit my web-site … Charlene

  13. Ben - March 6, 2013 at 5:37 am

    What is your instagram account?

  14. John - March 6, 2013 at 9:22 am

    Ben, my account handle is 50ft:

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