hiatus from the hype
I recently made an Instagram post with a caption that briefly summarizes this little break I'm taking from social media and other platforms where I post my work. You can read it here:
I'm taking a break.
I don't want the reader of this post to think that I'm giving up what I absolutely love dearly. As I stated, I'm still going to be shooting for various purposes like church, other freelance/client work, or just for fun. But to go more in depth with the reason why I'm not posting my work on a public platform for the time being: I just feel like putting my work out there to ultimately wait for some sort of engagement or validity is a toxic way to showcase it.
I found myself counting my likes every time I made a post. I would add the proper hashtags just so the right people would see the content within the post rather than see the person that is in that photo. We should decorate the clothes we wear; the clothes should not decorate us.
So I'm taking the time away from social media to reprioritize myself as a photographer and a human being in general.
What really makes a picture?
The thing that bothers me about the Instagram community today—and this is the complete honest truth about how I feel, and how my own thinking has become—is that I am distracted by what makes certain portraits "conceptual" or artistic, and I completely forget that there is a person in the photo. People tag brands and other Instagram profiles just to try and get featured on a page that will shout you out for the day and it ultimately becomes about how well the aesthetic looks to their target audience.
I start to care more about what the subjects are wearing and the props they're using. Then it goes into my brain as a stock photo of something that looked cool at that time. There's a pattern of content creating that completely disregards narrative and substance. There's no story. There's no actual context other than you just got together with a model that you thought looked good or attractive enough to shoot easily. They become something that you want to decorate your feed with or add to your aesthetic with.
You start thinking concept over context, instead of the other way around.
Please don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on this process at all. I think that these photographers are incredibly talented and these photos are beautiful in their own respect. I'm just bothered by the fact that there aren't many other portrait styles that tell more stories by just simply taking a photo of someone and reminiscing on a moment. You take a cool portrait, you put some cool caption under it or vague song lyric, you hashtag it, watch the likes roll in, then you rinse and repeat. I caught myself in this process and that just didn't feel real to me.
Remember looking through physical photo albums and instantly reliving the day that a photo was taken? Family members and friends could look at a group photo of their trip to Disneyland and make fun of how the oldest used to look so chubby growing up, or how a photo of your brother eating ribs and getting sauce all over his fingers made someone remember how much that boy loved eating, or how incredibly funny it was how drunk your cousin got at the reception of your wedding and started dancing on tables. The words I remember hearing any of my friends and family say was, "WOW! Do you remember this day? Do you remember? I miss this." This is the reaction I crave from people as they look at the photos that I took of them. I don't want them to remember how awesome and talented the photographer was or how aesthetically pleasing the shot was. I want them to remember their day; their moment. I just happened to be there to capture it.
A photo should tell a story. So I'm going to focus on telling a story. I'm gonna focus on the actual people that are in that photo. I'm gonna tell their story. I became a photographer to show people perspective. I became a photographer to show people purpose. I became a photographer to show people people.
And I don't want to rely on a camera to do just that. If I have nothing to show without the camera, then I shouldn't even be holding one. If I can't show people the image of love without a camera in my hand, what makes me think I can do that with a camera?
Photographers, keep this in mind next time you take a photo of a human being. They are worth getting hype over, not the aesthetic.
Models, make sure the photographers you work with value who you are and not how beautiful or sexy or pretty or handsome or cool you are. You are cool. You are beautiful. You have a story worth telling.