Building a presence

I decided to make an Instagram for my photographic work. I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me sooner; I think I got complacent, hanging in an in-between space where my personal Instagram became a melange of the personal and professional. This, of course, isn’t ideal if photography is something I want to pursue. It’s important to keep these separate, to build a dedicated presence.

So, I created @neljadephoto. I was skeptical at first; I felt a wave of unworthiness wash over me as I searched hashtags such as #photography, #urbanphotography, #photobook, and so on. How could I ever live up to these beautiful accounts? Not for the first time during this project, I buried my phone in the corner of the sofa and retreated into a blanket for the rest of the day.

Once I plucked up the courage to upload one of the images from From The Bottom Up, I felt immediately better. I began to receive some positive reception, which was heart-warming. I have felt a notable lack of engagement with other people during this project, perhaps due to the nature of the work itself. Receiving feedback, despite being from a modest group of estranged Instagram followers, gave me a necessary boost in confidence and I began posting more.

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For the most part, feedback was positive. However, I did receive a comment on one of my images which was controversial and prompted a spiral of emotion which I’d like to make sense of here. The image, captured at Royal Pavilion Gardens, shows an example of latrinalia – a phenomenon which I have been exploring as part of the project.

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The image prompted the following response, to which I was instantly horrified at.

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I felt like the worst person in the world, like I had failed as a photographer by capturing this image. Since I had spent previous weeks exploring feminist thought, I had initially been compelled by this toilet graffiti – the notion that a woman could just ‘have sex’ in this way felt powerful to me. Unintentionally, I had given a platform to someone with ‘the mindset of a rapist’. This upset me greatly, and I immediately replied, as shown above.

Upon reflection, though, I don’t think I responded in the right way. Even if this graffiti was written by someone who might seek sex without consent, is it not worth exploring anyway? If toilets are spaces where this kind of expression can take place without surveillance, does this not add to the legitimacy and necessity of such investigation? I think so. My knee-jerk response to being associated with these sensitive subjects had clouded my thought process; I felt personally attacked and wanted to delete the comments. I haven’t, though – such conversation is so needed and, if my work sparks such discussion, then I think I’m doing something right.

To continue inspiring this kind of discussion, I adopted a style in the presentation of my images. I decided to caption each image in the following format: [location of image], [comment informed by research/thought process]. This is demonstrated in the images below. I felt it vital to contextualise my work and to position myself in a certain light, as a photographer wanting to challenge the power of taboo.

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All in all, Instagram has been a useful tool for building my presence and creating an identity as a practitioner. I will continue to use it to exhibit my work, and to make contact with other creatives to inspire and inform my practice.

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