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by Olivia Van Arsdale, ’17

New Photo App Gains Traction

It’s no secret that Upper Arlington students are big on the photography scene. We are home to three different photo classes: Photo I, IB/Honors Photo, and Photo Tech, not including all the multimedia classes that teach how to edit such pictures. The walls of the school are lined with framed pictures taken by the winners of the Photo Club’s annual photo contest. It’s not uncommon to see students walking around the district with fancy Canon cameras slung around their necks, snapping pictures of trees and old brick walls.

For years, Instagram has monopolized the social networking mobile photography scene. Alongside images of Friday-night football games and oversaturated group selfies, one can still find real art on Instagram (if you look hard enough). But as the artistic aspect of the app slowly fades away, a new champion of mobile photography rises to fill that niche that photographers have been searching for.

VSCO, short for Visual Supply Company, has become popular among amateur and professional photographers. According to the VSCO website, when its app VSCO Cam was launched in June of 2013, it was downloaded over one million times in its first week. It operates somewhat like Instagram, where photographers can upload and share their pictures and use in-house editing tools to improve them, but with one big difference: a user can’t ‘like’ other pictures, and there are no visible follower counts.

This addition might just make VSCO Cam incorruptible.

When Instagram was a newer app, it was a home for photographers too. However, when some people reached mass Instagram success, others strived for the same thing, turning the app into less of a photo haven and more of a visual Facebook. And then Facebook literally bought Instagram.

However, VSCO lacks the feature that made Instagram fall from the favor of photographers – tangible viral success. Without the social attention from ‘likes’ that Instagram became famous for, it’s possible that VSCO will retain what it stands for now: photography, for the love of photography, and the value of visual art in itself.

Junior Zoe Pappas, an avid user of VSCO, described it as an “underground Instagram.” She also said that it was much more personal to her than Instagram and generally preferred not to share her identification on VSCO Cam.

“I’m honestly more open about my Tumblr than I am about VSCO,” Pappas said.

Personally, my own experience on VSCO Cam has been nothing if not refreshing. Without the pressure of social interaction, I’m more free to post what I want, instead of what I think other people will like. Additionally, I like the VSCO “presets” (give it up, VSCO, they’re still filters, you aren’t fooling anybody) better than Instagram filters. They tend to look more natural to me and are less likely to make my photos grainy or over-saturated.

VSCO is still far from a perfect system. Its layout, while offering a cool and minimalistic look, can be very confusing to navigate. It’s so compacted that I sometimes still have trouble finding my settings because everything is tucked neatly into a little unassuming corner. I’ve been using the app for weeks and I still don’t know the difference between a ‘Grid’ and a ‘Journal.’ The presets are named irrelevant things like C1 and F1, making it difficult to intuitively know what each one does.

It feels like a private world for photographers; less of a social gathering and more of a multinational collection of beautiful pictures, of individually meaningful art.

We’ll see if it stays that way.