Lately I have been thinking a lot about images. Or rather, of being the creator of them. What has the current zeitgeist done to the photograph as a commodity, and to us as photographers - when we are so flooded with images every second that we are awake?
I started to think about it all when I heard a quote by photographer Albert Watson a while back. He said that a photographer, in Watson's own view, should be happy with their career if they succeeded in creating three images in their life that moved people. And he doesn't mean to necessarily move someone to tears, but to make the viewer feel something. That got me thinking about images that has moved me, and I tried to remember a couple of them. And then I realised that pretty much all of those images, the ones that rose to the top of my mind, were from before the launch of social media.
I mean, I see amazing, beautiful imagery on Instagram every single day. And I scroll by it. Sometimes I like it, or even save it. But I don't think that I could pick out a particular photo on Instagram from all the years that I've been on there that moved me emotionally. And I'm not talking about people's private images (I am moved by photos of my nephews every day, I just adore them) because those are created without a professional purpose to reach a non-familiar viewer. I'm talking about photography created by professionals; beauty, fashion, travel and so on. Photos that have been created with the sole purpose to move us. To formulate a vision, tell a story, depict a fantasy. These photos on Instagram are all technically beautiful work, executed to a fault. But I've seen it. I've done it. I know it. And I am indifferent.
Trust me when I say that I completely include myself in the above statement. I don't think I have ever created an imaged that moved anyone, and I never realised that I wanted that either. But I do. I really do. And I believe that Instagram (which I love and am completely addicted to) has taken over a lot of our photographic purpose. We create for quick-fix likes rather than for the intent to hang our work on a wall some day. The process of creation is so fast - the blink of an eye - that the thought behind the process has become muddled. As if the creation is compulsory, but the purpose of the product is lost.
In the same way the amount of images we see every day has muddled their actual impact on us. I mentioned Instagram above, but this is really applicable on most image driven mediums - like Pinterest. I think the main reason why the images I could remember to have moved me were taken before the launch of social media is because that type of image was more rare in my life. I can pinpoint these images and when I saw them, where I was and with whom etc. Because they were few and far between, the impact became greater. Those photos are what got me into photography in the first place, what made me want to do what I do. It was the works of Francesca Woodman, Camilla Åkrans, Cindy Sherman, William Eggleston, Ellen von Unwerth, Helmut Newton and so many more, that lit the fire inside me. That gave me my path and my torch. And then... I lost that path. I lost my voice almost, or at least my voice of purpose. I'm sure this has to do with the fact that I also became a working photographer - e.g. I create someone else's vision on a daily basis, not my own (or rather, I create their vision fused with my version of their vision). But still, the constant influx of photos on my phone and screen is ruining my mind.
I have considered a few solutions, like removing myself from Instagram (sry, I would probably die so can't), but that's really not going to help. On the contrary, really, because I never think that turning away from the world of social media will be successful to any photographer. I believe the problem runs deeper. And I don't care if anybody else changes their way of doing things either (I imagine most people like things the way they are), but I have decided to chase this dragon. I want to create with a purpose beyond likes and money. I want to latch on to the will to move my viewer, to make you feel something again. I hope I will succeed. I will spend this year thrying to figure out how.
Do you feel like this too? Or is it just me? When were you last moved by an image? - Emily
P.S. Below are a bunch of behind the scenes from a shoot I did for KIT Beauty with makeup artist Oscar Svensson and beauty journalist Lisen Sundberg. It was one of my favourite shoots last year, because it touched my creative nerve. It wasn't anything big, quite low key and a small team of people, but it sparked something that (at least) almost moved me. D.S.