• jacob smith

The War of Art: Photography Trends in a Disconnected World

Jacob Smith discusses a terrible photography trend that's ravaging the feeds of influencers around the world.

One issue I have noticed over the past several years with culture has been overall gravitation towards immediate gratification. With society being more connected than ever before social media has taken a firm grasp over what is acceptable and what is looked for in art. With these factors, there has been an upswing in hive mind mentality towards creativity and it feels cheaper and more generic. When I started in photography it was still not an issue and artists were encouraged to have individual websites and online portfolios to highlight their work and projects. There was still an individuality and artist mindset towards things and creative endeavors were abundant and flowing world wide.

With the ever-increasing need and thirst for social acceptance over platforms such as Instagram and Facebook; I sit back and watch trends. Each trend was, in the initial concept, unique and wonderful but get's overused and tarnished with every work published. Now certain ideas are just basic photography tricks and concepts. Those will always get a pass from me because they have been around forever and they aren't the typical trendy need of the everyday user of social media.

I can't count how many times a day I scroll through my various newsfeeds and see carbon copy images go by. Now don't get me wrong. I still enjoy and approve of all creativity, especially this year wrought with calamity. But certain ideas and concepts don't need to be popularized and trendy. For instance… “Facetime Shooting”

A few months back there was a trend being used by many and initially, I took it as a way to vent and beat the boredom during the lockdown. It was called “facetime shooting.” I almost jumped on board because I was used to a certain level of output. Output that had been taken away instantly for an unknown amount of time. But the more I sat and pondered the "how" and "why" behind them, I realized that they weren't a good idea to focus my creative attention on.

Just the simple dynamics and mechanics behind a virtual shoot left me scratching my head over what is going on with everything else. I used to just shake my head seeing things like milk baths or black tape project images being produced years after the popularity had waned. But facetime shoots left me wanting to investigate further. Some people I can understand why they had to go that route. Due to weakened immune systems, being sick, having a family that had weakened immune systems. This piece isn't about you. It's more for everyone else that jumped on the bandwagon.

To me, there is always a certain level of emotional and physical interaction with my work. Expressions are genuine. You get a bit more personable with the subject when you are one-on-one. With facetime shooting... that is almost impossible. It felt cold and almost robotic. When I looked even further into the concept itself I realized that it was worse than initially imagined. When you take screenshots of your webcam you are only capturing your image at the highest resolution of your screen settings on your computer. Take out factors like the quality of the clients' webcam, internet speeds, lighting, etc. You are still taking virtual photos at the highest resolution your computer display is at. Which for the majority of people out there is 1080p.

That's 1080 pixels at the widest edge of an image and 72 pixels per inch for the entire image. This is the entire screen too, not just the webcam image. Screenshots aren't meant for fine art. When you load that up into photoshop or other editing software and crop your image down to make it workable. You now have the issue of having a photo that is even less than 1080 pixels and at 72dpi. You can't print these images. They can only be used online and nothing more. All of this content would ultimately not be usable by anyone within a short few months of getting back to business as usual.

I began to realize that the industry as a whole was having an identity crisis and struggling with everything else going on. With the level of work and focus every aspect of this market has improved and taken a step forward while that immediate gratification ideal caused it to take 5 steps backward. My vision changed at that point. I realized I needed to be doing something creative during my time in lockdown here in Nashville. How can I do that? How can I do something that will ultimately increase my workflow and keep my art progressing?

I decided instead of following a trend that I would purchase new editing equipment and work more on my skills as a photographer. It was long boring days ahead of me, but I knew that my end goal would be better all the way around. Once lockdown ended I started getting back to work and my end quality images increased visually due to the direction I went with my productivity.

Thankfully I haven't seen too many of these facetime shoots pop up anymore on my social media for me to eye roll over. But I know that everyone now has a weird gap in content and quality in their portfolios because of this.

This was a trend all because of an immediate gratification culture set in motion years ago with the ever-increasing need and want of being an influencer. I started before this was ever around so I have always kind of done my own thing. I don't use Pinterest, I don't purchase presets. I shoot.

Another idea that occurred to me during the lockdown was that I needed to craft new set pieces and wardrobe items. I had been taught how to sew when I was younger so hand stitching wasn’t an issue to me, but I had always neglected to learn how to properly sew with a sewing machine. I sat down for 2 weeks and learned how to do just that. There were lots of moments of cursing and frustrations but overall I learned a new skill that would help with my work. It was a perfect time to better my creative self. Why squander the moment? We were forced collectively to have a reset period. Might as well make the best of it. My project had been planned for several years and finally, I made myself do it. The finished product was a pair of pink sequin bunny ears. Not the greatest piece of costuming on the planet but for me just learning how to sew and picking a rather difficult project I was proud of them.

After that project was completed I kept scratching my head over what else to do with my forced downtime. So I began the arduous process of practicing different lighting techniques in my studio setup to increase my abilities on that end. Lots of days spent setting up my gear and taking photos of my mannequin or random items in the house playing with light. Those images didn’t last too long in my archival processing. I deleted most of those after loading them up just to see what I could do with my equipment on hand.

When you sit down at the end of the day creating wonderful art you would more want to feel accomplished and be able to look back months and years later and still find something interesting in a photo. Maybe even find something new that you didn't originally see. In the current trendy atmosphere that can't happen.

I'm happy that this one particular trend has run its course but there are a thousand others that are still going on and being used. Lockdown did a lot of things but it showed the true nature of influencers and the influencer culture and it proved to be wrong. Why settle for less quality and originality simply because everyone else is doing it? That's a herd mentality that will end up causing more harm than good. Strive to be unique and promote your individuality. Don't do something simply because you see a hashtag is trending or that 100 other people are doing it.

Learn how to sew. Knit a sweater. Unplug from social media, listen to music, go for a walk. Look for things that will prompt your creative juices to flow. Following trends shouldn't be one of them.

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