Many years ago, people scribbled on cave walls — the bison they hunted, and the experiences they shared. Years later the scribblings were made on papyrus, and eventually printed with a printing press, which eventually evolved to include color photographs. What all of these things had in common was that in order for anyone to take part in these shared experiences, they had to go to where the written experiences were or to get a copy of the experience somehow — subscription or otherwise.

In the last twenty years the changes that have come about in technology and the ability to share media online have revolutionized our ability to share our experiences not just those we know but those we don’t even realize are tied to us through our shared experiences. The time from having the experience to sharing it with the world has become nearly instantaneous.

In the days following the devastating Hurricane Sandy, and even while it was going on, people have been sharing their life experiences in the form of images captured, many of them using the photo sharing app Instagram.

Enter Instacane — a web site that collects photographs taken using Instagram. I believe that the site owner combs through photos that are tagged with tags related to Hurricane Sandy, such as , , and #relief. The owner then puts up the best photos. Here are some of my recent favorites :

To start, here is a photo of a cat standing by some fallen trees. I can’t help but think that this is an adorable moment of a cat taking in the scene around him.

Here is a sign of desperation — a wooden sign that has a plea to PSE&G to restore power to residents in a more expedient manner. It is the written equivalent of a scream in the dark of the night.

Lastly, here is an image that became too familiar to people as transit routes were slowly restored — people waiting in extremely long lines to get on public transportation. I waited in an extremely long line like this one to get onto a bus and was roughly shoved onto it by the people behind me.

If you have images that you would like to share with Instacane, I believe all you have to do is upload your photographs to Instagram and tag them with appropriate hashtags. Meanwhile, you can join in by looking out at the shared experiences of your fellow Sandy survivors.


  1. Thanks for the interesting story, Gordon!

    Here’s what I don’t get about services like Instagram — we always want better cameras with higher megapixel counts and clearer optics — and then many of us “dumb down” those crisp and beautiful images with predefined filters from services like Instagram. Why? If you are preserving a moment in history — why are you coloring that moment, and inherently changing it, to look like a 1970’s Polaroid? Why are you losing all the magnificence of the original shot that your camera is able to create?

    1. I think the people who created the service, like myself, find some beauty in the flawed photographs of yesteryear — the toy cameras, etc. For crisp photos we have Flickr. For getting that lomographic look, there’s Instagram.

  2. I’m not familiar with this service, but so many services such as this have upload limits on the megapixels the site will support. Is that the case here?
    I agree with David. It’s a bit frustrating to have crisp, clear photos ‘dumbed’ down because of size limits.


    Plenty of them have also been showing they haven’t lost their sense of humour either, by posting gags about the hurricane, but there are some astonishing pictures of flooding and deserted streets, especially in New York City.

    Instagram boss Kevin Systrom told website Poynter yesterday evening that 10 pictures per second relating to Hurricane Sandy were being posted on the service. “There are now 10 pictures per second being posted with the hashtag #sandy – most are images of people prepping for the storm and images of scenes outdoors,” he said.

    Pocket-lint has figured out that since that statement the rate has risen to 12.5 photos per second. At last count 453,460 pictures had been posted with the hashtag #sandy. There have also been 288,611 posted with the hashtag #hurricanesandy.

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