This week, I'm out with my new 50mm lens and my other half. It's not only a gorgeous walk in an alpine forest, but also a chance to show you why portraits are so much more valuable than selfies. It's been bubbling away in my head for some time, and I'm slowly realising why portraits really do mean so much to me. Warning, it gets thoughtful, cynical.. and then hopeful. Plus I end up excitedly offering a limited number of local photo sessions.. eek!
This hashtag, #PortraitsNotSelfies, which I started during the summer, got a lot of attention; people really responded to it. My 'Portrait Adventure' photo sessions really took off too, and I noticed people opening up to having their photograph taken. When clients realised that the 'shoot' was actually just a drink with me, followed by a walk or a hangout, they felt excited not self-conscious; relaxed not tense; completely themselves and not necessarily distracted by when they might post these pics on social media. Once they realised that one has nothing to do with the other, everything changed.
Over the last couple of years, I've been struggling with my own emotional reactions and academic analyses of what I see on social media.
Everything from the inundation of warped body image, fitness and food obsession, happy families, perfect travels and perfect tans, idyllic couples, make up-hair- outfit comparisons, and selfies.. SELFIES.. endless reams of more and more selfies. Now, in isolation, none of these things bother me, but the crescendo in the sheer volume of them,
and the subtlety with which they are all weaved together to form personal (and easily believed) narratives, is disconcerting.
But I couldn't work out why this was so destructive. It felt it too easy to judge, even myself, for my own edits on selfies; for wanting to share pics from only the loveliest views or happiest moments- it's only natural. But something in the bigger picture was happening, and it felt negative. Why does it matter if people want to share this stuff? I love seeing what my friends are up to, where they are, what's making them smile..
why did I feel an innate shift away from authenticity?
It clicked when I watched an ep of TREW NEWS, with Russell Brand. He chatted about fame and madness, and the tenious relationship between the two. Specifically, he talked about the ultimate celebrity being at the the extremity of consumer culture; he talked about the media doing whatever they can, to make people consumable products. Then it occurred to me.. on social media, WE are the MEDIA.
We photograph, edit, share, narrate our own lives into products, which our followers/ friends consume.
But more dangerously, we are becoming astute to the brand-obsessed culture we live in, by in turn branding our identity online. BRAND IDENTITY: A buzz-phrase from advertising culture, marketing culture.. any culture where identity is created in order to invite people to emotively connect to a consumer product/company.
Think about that:
A synthetically created narrative, which invites an emotional connection with something constructed and not real.
Basically, we sort of know we are being sold something, but we still get choked up watching Christmas Adverts. The same is happening on social media, and we are all fueling it, playing along with it, and also becoming subservient to it.. The way we connect online, is via a fundamental disconnect. Eek. I'm getting pretty cynical here, so let me cut to the chase.
When I take these personal portraits, or let someone else take mine (like in these photos), I dismiss style, idea, brand, and where it will be used. I just respond to the person, the environment, the chemistry and the moment. Simple. I don't construct stories, I try to tell the one I am seeing. When I get tearful messages from clients, who feel genuinely touched by their portraits, I think it's for this reason. We have begun to believe our own story, to such an extent that when we let someone else tell it, we can't believe how much truth we have hidden.
When I take these photos, It's like I'm telling all your secrets. And they are so much more exhilarating, beautiful and artful than anything you think people want to hear or see.
For this reason, I have decided to do something a little nuts. I want to put my money (and camera) where my mouth is, and offer up the '50-50'..
A one-on-one 50 minute session, on my 50mm lens, for just 50 Euros.
(Sorry guys.. this is one for the locals in France only). I'm only offering this to five peoples.. book one for yourself, buy it as a xmas present for someone else.. whatever. Let's break down this disconnect, and create something soulful and REAL to keep. It really doesn't matter what anyone thinks, or if you ever share it. Just give yourself a chance to see yourself again, through fresh eyes.
Iconic Documentary Photographer, Dorothea Lange, hit the nail on the head here:
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
WORD. Let's do this. Get in touch.
Photographs here, taken by myself and my other half Hobo Chic... this teaching's paying off, he's getting good!
NOTE: These sessions are not to be used for commercial distribution, or PR (band promo, modelling, advertising etc) this is purely for personal use Any distribution outside of these contracted guidelines is in breach of copyright and will be subject to extra charge.