The art of the photo dump

"It's obvious that Instagram is no longer a collage of smiling, heavily edited pictures" Sofia Chiscop discusses the latest Instagram trend

Sofia Chiscop
2nd March 2021
Heavily edited Retrica pics, #OOTDs and everything beautiful. Instagram in 2013 depicted society in an idyllic way. Not only was it the place where the highlights of our dull lives were posted, but even those peaks were polished.

Looking back, although Instagram was supposed to be “a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures” (Instagram Faq, 2013), we made the complete opposite out of the app. I’m saying “we” cause we, Instagram users, did it. In the end, Instagram is a tool, and we decide how we use it. We might acknowledge the negative effects that all those editing apps and filters have on our confidence, but, in the end, by continuing to use those tools, we, too, keep perpetuating that endless toxic cycle of false expectations. We’ve all been there, commenting about the like-seeking behaviour that Instagram has created while editing pics of ourselves looking #flawless. Breaking news: no, we definitely didn’t wake up like that.


With time, new additions such as Instagram stories or Reels have been added. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about how we looked anymore, it was about the way we presented ourselves, the persona we created. If, before, we only presented a poster of our lives to the world, now it was more like a 3D image. “Look!! I am chill and cool while also looking perfect” we all seem to scream. Hey, I am the first one to admit it. My Instagram bio stated “likes to party hard in her backyard”, but it never said, “has breakdowns and stress smokes in her backyard.”

And now, the photo dump. A phenomenon that was predominantly observed on Facebook, specifically on your aunt’s posts after a holiday. We all came across that wide range of unrelated pictures grouped for one post, but until recently, we would have rolled our eyes at this Gen X phenomenon. And then 2020 came, and, somehow, between all the chaos that characterised the past year, the photo dump emerged on Instagram.

In a way, I’d say that it came at the right time. Photography had become a way in which to expose a fetishised element of the self, instead of a practice of capturing moments. I’d like to think that 2020 was the year that showed us how important a sense of belonging and community is, that made us throw away all of our personas and show Instagram our real face, or faces, through photo dumps.

Photography had become a way in which to expose a fetishised element of the self, instead of a practice of capturing moments.

At the same time, I can’t help but notice how, although photo dumps showcase Instagrammers during the run-of-the-mill moments of their lives, the pics still seem curated. The photo dump, in my opinion, epitomises the cool person phenomenon and further deepens persona building. As ELLE pinpointed when titling the photo dump as “Photos I look Hot In But Couldn’t Find An Occasion To Post” (2020), you may post pictures of yourself doing unflattering things, but, most definitely, you will still choose the ones in which you look flattering.

But, in the end, isn’t that human? It’s like wearing your best jeans on a night out or knowing which hairstyle suits you, we all do that without being considered fake for it. So, why give these online practices such a bad reputation when we consciously apply them in our “offline” life?

It’s obvious that Instagram is no longer a collage of smiling, heavily edited pictures. While there are still accounts that seem to be stuck in 2013, for every “bad for your confidence” account, a body-positive, transparent account seems to appear. In the end, the photo dump typifies the contrasting nature of Instagram as it shows the spectacular as well as the mundane.

Featured Image: @ellenfadooble on Instagram

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