‘The Follower’ Project Uses Open Webcams to Find Your Instagram Photoshoot

‘The Follower’ Project Uses Open Webcams to Find Your Instagram Photoshoot

Big Brother is watching you take your Instagram photos. In delightfully dystopic fashion, a Belgian artist has used artificial intelligence to scour open security cameras and match people’s Instagram photos to footage of them taking them, showing us how eyes — both human and digital — are on us at all times.

We’ve all been on the quest for the perfect Instagram photo, and a new project from Belgian artist Dries Depoorter has caught people in the act. Depoorter’s ‘The Follower’ tries to match footage from open security cameras to photos published by users on Instagram using artificial intelligence — and the results are scary. The Follower went live on September 12 and promptly went viral on Twitter and TikTok.

According to Depoorter’s website, The Follower began with Depoorter recording a weeks worth of footage from a series of open security cameras in New York’s Time Square, Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and Dublin’s Temple Bar from EarthCam. EarthCam, if you’re unfamiliar, is a New Jersey-based company that provides unrestricted access to a global network of live-streaming webcams. Depoorter then collected all of the Instagram photos posted in those locations using the posts’ geotags, and then used software to compare the image with the recorded footage from EarthCam. Depoorter did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Depoorter is no stranger to using artificial intelligence to identify subjects in photographs — his 2022 piece Border Birds analysed birds flying over the borders of Mexico and the U.S., Morocco and Spain, Greece and Turkey, and France and England. Likewise, The Flemish Scrollers uses AI to chastise politicians that are distracted by their phones.

But The Follower feels much more voyeuristic because the urge to present yourself in an appealing way online is a deeply vulnerable one. That vulnerability isn’t necessarily apparent in a final Instagram photo, but The Follower juxtaposes the finished product with the raw journey of finding the perfect pose.

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