The Instagram Vigilante Who Intends to Make Horizon Lines Straight Again

Monica Prelle
Dec 30, 2019 · 2 min read
Photo: The Greatest Lake by Monica Prelle

There are a lot of important conversations outdoors enthusiasts should be having right now — protecting public lands, how climate change is impacting the environment, and wildlife conservation — but none of that is as important to one social media vigilante as calling out Instagrammers on their crooked landscape photography.

Exasperated by what he was seeing on Instagram, a 37-year-old software engineer, who goes by the alias Maverick, started the account Make Horizon Lines Straight Again, in order to educate people about the importance of straight horizons in photography.

“The more popular the outdoors become, the more crooked landscapes get,” Maverick says. “People act like the horizon isn’t flat — it’s a real travesty.”

According to the 2018 Outdoor Participation Report nearly 150 million Americans participated in an outdoor activity in 2017. This is an increase of 1.7 million people since the year prior and continues three years of growth. Americans are loving the outdoors so much that experts say overuse is now a real problem.

The photos Maverick re-posts are “disgusting” examples of landscape photography. He shares other users’ photos, tags the photographer, and in the comments uses the account’s signature hashtags #makehorizonlinesstraightagain and #theresatoolforthat.

“Berating amateur photographers is effective,” he says, “because of the harassment that ensues.”

The account has quickly grown to more than 100,000 followers and has started a movement of horizon-line vigilantes. Commenters tend to be aggressive and many Instagrammers have been shamed into deleting their accounts. One follower wrote “you’d make Ansel Adams vomit” on a photo of Yosemite Valley that was so crooked it incorrectly made El Capitan look taller than Half Dome.

When Suzie Gallagher’s notifications blew up because of a crooked photo she shared from her vacation to Lake Superior last summer, she went into a deep depression and eventually deleted her account.

“I worked a second job and saved for that trip for three years,” she said. “I was hasty in posting the photo because I was overcome with joy at seeing the greatest lake of all time.”

It was a crooked horizon line, Gallagher admitted. Still, even if she learned her lesson, she refuses to use Instagram ever again because the shame is too great.

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