Scrolling through Instagram can feel annoyingly repetitive, like Groundhog Day on a tiny screen. Here, for example, is a totally non-fiction taxonomy of stuff I saw during a cursory Instagram scroll-through: Two pictures of Starbucks cups; three downward photos of people's shoes; two selfies; and (not even mad at this) two wildly adorable dogs.
Yes, it's easier than ever to share your life with the people around you, thanks to the tethers of the Internet. But if you happen to follow a bunch of over-sharers who post the same stuff, day in, day out, the minutiae of life gets boring. Quick.
"They go back to the same ideas over and over again," says Jeremy Cowart, a professional photographer based in Nashville, who has taken the portraits of everyone from the Kardashians to Emma Stone to Sting. That's why Cowart's new photo-sharing app, OKDOTHIS, which launches today, takes a novel approach to casual photography. Basically, it gives you a photo assignment, then you go out and do it.
Cowart calls these assignments "DOs," and most of them are generated by other OKDOTHIS users. Some DOs are very easy—take a picture of your desk, for example. Others are motivational—before and after photos of weight loss. Many lean artistic—shoot a portrait through a texture, like plastic or glass. Some tilt toward the adventurous—one photo category asks users to take photos of a stranger and post a short interview in the caption, "Humans of New York"-style.
Most DOs are loosely defined enough that people can get creative with their shots. In some ways, it isn't unlike taking a photography class in which the teacher gives out prompts. Cowart thinks this call to action will make for better photos. "Everyone wants to be a photographer these days," he says. "But there's a big hole for ideas. I wanted to a create a community that was a home for ideas. I want them to inspire you."
Anyone can submit a DO for others to participate in, and OKDOTHIS's small team helps curate the very best ones, surfacing popular and interesting suggestions to the top. (And yes, many of the most popular categories happen to be variations of selfies.)
The app, which is only available on iOS for now and will soon get a web component, is already gaining traction. Since launching in beta six months ago, OKDOTHIS has already seen thousands of photos uploaded. (As of writing this, the first challenge, "take a picture of your shoes," has been done 8,338 times.) It will be interesting to see if using ideas as a call to action to generate photos will translate into long-term staying power.
"Other platforms you just browse and browse and scroll," says Cowart. "Ours is literally saying go get off your butt."