An old photo of Warhol, Normalized

An old (probably Polaroid) photo of Warhol on the left, and the same pic “Normalized.” (image via BuzzFeed)

A year ago, Fast Company checked in on Instagram, the immensely popular photo-sharing app, nine months after its launch and called its growth “staggering.” That was before Facebook acquired it, this past April, and then, in May, Instagram hit the 50 million users mark. The lesson here? People really love taking and sharing pictures. And they also love filtering them.

But there has been digital photo backlash, especially against those filters that make your photo of your friends drinking beer in the park look like it was taken in 1970. (Even though you were negative ten years old in 1970.) It was only a matter of time before all that angry blacklash was filtered (pun intended) into an app. And now it’s here! Welcome, Normalize.

The creator of Normalize, Joe Macirowski, doesn’t quite bill it as a way to fix your oh-so-obnoxiously filtered Instagram photos in the iTunes store. Instead, he says:

Normalize is the no-button solution to bad photos. No “Exposure” of “Contrast” sliders. No graphs. No color wheels. No confusing controls whatsoever. This isn’t like other “auto enhance” apps.

Whether filtered by another app or shot and turned out yellow or too dark, Normalize turns a photo back into what it’s supposed to look like.

But he doesn’t really need to, because others have done that for him. The best-headline award goes to Complex: “Normalize App Will Strip Away the Hipster Filter on Those Regrettable Instagrams.”

I would venture to point out that if you’re using Instagram, namely the filters, whether or not you are a hipster, you probably don’t find them “regrettable.” Maybe we will all download this app when we are 50? But never mind.

The other interesting thing, of course, is that Normalize is just another app like the rest of ’em — i.e. you/we are still not doing any of the real work! It’s still digital smart phone photography! Another excerpt from the app description:

Normalize is the fast, easy way to bring new life to dull photos! The image-improving techniques used by this user-friendly application make colors more vibrant and hard to see details stand out like never before.

That sounds suspiciously like a filter of its own kind to me.

At this point, Buzzfeed has probably the most interesting take on Normalize, as they’ve discovered how well it works on actual vintage photos. Witness the updating of Andy Warhol, above.

Still, with our old photos getting updated to look new and our new ones being filtered to look old, it’s all getting very confusing. Too bad we can’t write the date a picture was taken directly on the back of it, like my grandmother still does in looping script.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

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