Behind this dispiriting stream of empty images is what Russians call poshlost: fake emotion, unearned nostalgia. According to Nabokov, poshlost “is not only the obviously trashy but mainly the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive.” He knows us too well.
There is of course nothing wrong with a photograph of your pug. But when you take that photograph without imaginaton and then put a “1979” filter on it—your pug wasn’t born in 1979—you are reaching for an invented past that has no relevance to the subject at hand. You make the image “better” in an empty way, thus making it worse.
I’ve always felt weird about applying too many of Photoshop’s and iPhoto’s filters to my photos, preferring instead to manually adjust the levels to get the colors just right. But I’ve never been able to formulate a very compelling sentence that explains why all of these “vintage” filters seem so weird to me. The closest I’ve gotten is saying that they make my photos seem dishonest, like they’re lying about the moment or about the subject somehow. Here, Teju Cole nails that feeling with a Russian word for which there doesn’t seem to be an English equivalent.
Dappled Things: Pinkhassov on Instagram – The New Inquiry