Daniel Arnold had $90.03 in his bank account on Thursday when he had a clever idea: Why not sell some photos on Instagram?
Arnold, a Brooklyn-based photographer, enjoys a bit of fame on the network: He was lauded by Gawker as “the best photographer on Instagram” two years ago, after getting his account suspended for posting a photo of topless sunbathers at the beach. He’s since returned with a new account and now has 22,000 followers and more than 1,300 photos in his stream.
In addition to his photography, Arnold has written for MTV and The Fader. Right now, he says via Gchat, “I am between classifications, and until yesterday wasn’t really making money doing anything. Been looking for photo work but in its absence i spend most days walking around the city taking photos (iphone and 35mm) for up to 8hrs a day.” His mode is what you might call humanist urban voyeurism: street scenes, faces on the subway, people having un-self-conscious moments. Stuff like this:
But walking the streets with an iPhone doesn’t pay the bills. On the eve of his 34th birthday, Arnold didn’t have a clue how he was going to make rent for the following month, so, at midnight, he posted this message on Instagram:
Hello, I just turned 34 this second. For one day only I am selling 4×6 prints of whatever you want from my Instagram archive for $150 each. I swear I will never sell anything this cheap again. If you’re interested, send a screenshot of the photo(s) of your choice to firstname.lastname@example.org (one d) and I will send a paypal invoice, followed by a signed print. Easy peasy. Happy my birthday. I love you
The response overwhelmed him. Orders poured in. A day later, he’d received nearly $15,000 worth of requests, and collected some $5,000. One buyer offered him $1,000 up front for prints of any photo that had received more than 1,000 likes; Arnold still hasn’t tallied how many that is.
Because he has so many photos, no single image has emerged as the overwhelming favorite, he says. A number of people have ordered this one of a pantsless subway Santa Claus, and this one of an affluent-looking gentleman getting a shoeshine on Ash Wednesday is popular too. One man asked for a print of the topless photo that got Arnold’s original Instagram account banned. He’s French, naturally.
Originally, the sale was only supposed to last for 24 hours. Arnold, who’s still working through a massive backlog of orders, says he hasn’t decided what to do about that restriction, but it sounds like he won’t turn them down. After all, “I’ve been eating toast three meals a day all February.”
“And it’s not like I’m any kind of entrepreneur,” he adds. “I’m a business idiot.”
Disclosure: I’ve known Daniel Arnold for about 20 years, and own several prints of his photos.