My trip to Maine last month was my latest stab at shooting random concepts in what I call, “instagram shooting”; a style of collaboration between model and photographer, where you go into a shoot with nothing but a mood board or established “vibe”.
What I’ve noticed from these meet ups in my own personal photography, is that the photographs I get from these types of sessions can be inspiring, but they can also be unmemorable if there’s no intention. For me in particular, if I come with no expectations, I’ve found that I end up with images that convey vaguely artistic / conceptual ideas that neatly match both parties established IG themes, there is no vulnerability or risk, and everybody goes home happy. The images are well done and beautiful enough to solidify their appearance on IG, everyone kind of says their own thing on their captions, some other strangers probably save it for their own inspiration, and then the cycle continues.
Unfortunately, however, due to this style of collaboration, Instagram is no longer a showcase of an artist’s authenticity or genuine voice; it feels more like a never ending Pinterest board with little to no rhyme or reason - outside whether or not it will compel the viewer to hit the heart at the center of their screen.
Up until recently, most of my portfolio has been executed in this IG “shoot and go” fashion, and I have gotten some amazing (and thoughtful) images by executing my photo shoots in this style of collaboration; but only if the person I am with is open to experimentation, or if I begin to construct a better idea of what I’m trying to say as the shoot progresses. Those who have shot with me before have often heard me say out loud, “what am I trying to say,” and I’ve incorporated that ritual as a way to combat this lazy style of shooting. Landing on an inspiration board is about as noteworthy as being added to a never ending “Vibe” playlist on Spotify; artists shouldn’t want to blend into an aesthetic, they should want to stand out as their own force to be reckoned with. Much like how a production is made in Hollywood where everyone is on the same page as to what is being said or captured, I argue the same thing should be happening with models and photographers who collaborate with one another on their projects.
Devil’s advocate would say this social media method of collaboration, forces you to think on your feet and work with what you have, and it’s a great tool for networking within one’s community and cultivating artistic and collaborative relationships with artists in your particular area more quickly. Models and photographers cycle through one another all the time, and thus we have the ebb and flow of the art community on social media. If you shoot enough, even if the photos don’t mean much, you’ll eventually gain a following, and voila! You’ve mastered Instagram.
Nowadays you see this cycle :
See an idea, reform the idea, shoot, share to your followers, repeat.
So where does that leave the spirit of art? The whole reason why you would, or should, create anything in the first place? Photography, even among artists, has become too commercial, capitalized, and trivial.
My frustration is that photography has become over saturated, and it’s hard to continue having a voice in this medium, even with my foot firmly planted in the niche of the 35mm film world. Even though I have actively tried to go into shoots with the mantra of, “what am I trying to say,” I’m finding it increasingly difficult to accomplish that said task just by recycling ideas circling around a vague “vibe” or “mood”. I don’t want to shoot someone simply for the sake of shooting them. I want to say something.
Even if the scene I’m trying to convey has been rehashed a million times, it can be very poignant and inspiring if I am executing it with intention. I want my art to be more personal. More mapped out. I want you to feel the emotion in the model’s face, I want you to care about the visual story you’re seeing, outside of just the passing thought of, “oh that’s a pretty photo”. I want you to feel something. Photography is a visual tool of documentation. I want to capture more than just uninspiring (even if they are pretty) portraits.
With that said, continuing forward, I’m going to be making each photo shoot I do more focused. (I had this in mind when I shot this past weekend actually, and I felt like I came back with some of the best work I’ve done in awhile.) Whether I’m focusing on a specific story I’m trying to tell, or a central theme, I want each shot to be more meticulous in meaning. OF COURSE, I will still do shoots that are casual or candid, but I want to reach a point where when you see my work you say, “that looks like something Anna Madsen took” and have you be correct.
I hope as time progresses, I keep getting better; because damn it, I have a lot to fucking say.