Real-Life Instagram Turns A City Into An Indictment Of Our Distracted Photo Culture

Artist Bruno Ribeiro thinks we spend too much time taking photos with our phones. So he created an analog version of Instagram and placed it near London landmarks. Surprise: people took out their phones to capture the moment.

Walking down certain London streets, you’ll run into “Real Life Instagram“: an analog version of the app made of cardboard and cellophane and stuck to a post or wall to frame an interesting view.


The artist behind the project, Bruno Ribeiro, explains that he was inspired to create it both as a tribute to Instagram and a reminder that it’s worthwhile to occasionally leave your phone in your pocket.

“I’m a huge fan of Instagram–both the app itself and also the way it changes our habits,” Ribiero says. “It brought photography to our daily life, not just when we’re on vacation. It made us more observant of details–things we haven’t seen before, and it made us learn more about photography in general.”

On the other hand, he says, Instagram is just another way that we stay tethered to our phones, and he wants to help push people to disconnect. “I’m from a pre-Internet generation,” he says. “I’m 35 years old–I’m kind of an old guy. I think the obsession with being connected 24/7 is kind of weird. I’ve been living abroad for a long time, so I see technology bringing people who are physically far away closer, but it’s simultaneously pushing people away from their own neighbors.”

The project, he hopes, will help people take a moment to notice things about the city. “I want to say, look at this amazing cathedral you’re missing because you’re checking your email,” Ribiero says. “But I also want to bring a little joy to people’s lives–it’s not that I want to be very serious and make a statement. I don’t want to preach. If people are commuting and see these on a lamppost or a wall, and they smile, for me, it works.”

Since the summer, Ribiero has put up about 30 of the frames, choosing places that he would photograph if he had his iPhone–a famous landmark, or some graffiti, or an interesting detail on a building. He says he wasn’t expecting any particular reaction to the series, but passersby immediately became fans.

Ironically, as much as the project may have helped people take a minute to appreciate their surroundings, they’ve also been pulling out their phones when they see it. “When I’m putting one up and leave the spot, there’s a line of two or three people waiting to take pictures,” Ribiero says. “It’s crazy how fast people have reacted to the installation.”


He plans to continue “as long as people are having fun and still interested,” and since people have been writing to ask when he’ll be visiting cities like New York or Sydney–and because he loves to travel–Ribiero might also soon take the installation on the road.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.