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Dazed Social 2019 4

Four major artists on how to harness social media for your career

Arvida Byström, Tyler Mitchell, Sarah Bahbah, and Harmonia Rosales offer personal advice on how they use their social channels successfully

Art 101 is a series of monthly educational how-to guides from established to emerging artists on how to navigate the contemporary art world

With our technological world rapidly advancing everyday, art is proving a complex relationship to technology. The tech revolution has made social media one of the most game-changing forces in the art world for the way it has opened gates of entry, levelled the playing field, and allowed emerging artists to project their work and network their artistry. For many Dazed faves, social media has been the cornerstone for which they have been able to launch their careers, whereas, for others, it has been the driving subject of their conceptual work. For the first instalment of Art 101, we hear from photographers Tyler MitchellArvida ByströmSarah Bahbah, and painter Harmonia Rosales as they give personal advice for how emerging artists can best harness social media for their work.

GIVE YOUR PLATFORM AN IDENTITY, SARAH BAHBAH

Palestinian-Australian photographer Sarah Bahbah makes coming of age cinematic photography for the Instagram generation, harnessing the platform as both an art form medium and a way to distribute her work. Since she began creating photographs stylised and subtitled like foreign films in 2014, her social presence on Instagram has grown to over 900,000k followers, and it has allowed her to photograph the likes of Noah Centineo and model Adesuwa. Below we hear from Bahbah on how the platform is key to establishing your vision.

Sarah Bahbah: By putting my art out there, I am giving myself the voice that I never knew I could use when I was younger. I am sharing my story and my experiences when I post my art on social media. Because I create from such a deep and personal place, I always try to make sure that I give my art the respect and sensitivity that I want to experience in this world.

There is a bit of a line blurring between personal and professional posts because my art is born from a purely personal space. I like to look at my social media like a portfolio, where all my work, excitements, inspirations and accomplishments can be presented in the one place. Although I do feel entirely close and personal with my audience because of the reception to my vulnerability in my art, I keep a separate personal account for all the dorky content that I can only really bother my friends and family with.

Find a way to make viewing representational of your work. I know the format of Instagram seems very restrictive and repetitive, but that is why presenting your work in an original manner is important. If you apply creativity to the way your work is captured on social media then you are creating a personalised and unique experience for your audience to engage with your work.

When using social media, just remember to always stay genuine to your ideals, themes, and visions. Use the platforms but don’t let the platforms use you. Don't try and keep up with the trends because they come and go so quickly. Stay curious but don’t get caught up in trying to stay up to date in understanding what other people are consuming, this will only distract you from your own creation.

You can follow Sarah Bahbah here

SHARE MORE AND FIND YOUR ONLINE COMMUNITY – TYLER MITCHELL, PHOTOGRAPHER

For over four years, Atlanta-born photographer Tyler Mitchell has visualised black utopias through dreamy, thought-provoking photography. His distinct, sensitive vision began as a teen on Tumblr when he discovered art photography and its inherent whiteness. Six months ago, the photographer made history as the first black man to shoot a cover of American Vogue which featured Beyoncé. Mitchell has also just announced his first ever solo show titled I Can Make You Feel Good at Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam. Below, Mitchell speaks of the power in online creative communities.

Tyler Mitchell: I would advise to continue to share more! Social media is the main means by which you can find a community of people who not only support you but who you can work with. Use it to share work, but don't be selfish. Engage with other people's work. Comment, reach out, be bold. It's about collaboration.

I'm surprisingly very curated when it comes to posting. When I share or post new work I try and treat each post like an artwork, or at least I try to elevate it in some way and give it real significance. This is why I post so infrequently and try and create a narrative on my page. It's not the best approach for everyone and I certainly don't recommend it for everyone. Instagram Stories is the space where I let myself be more freehanded with what I share. I am more personal on my stories and more professional in my posts. It's a good balance for me. The personal only stays around for 24 hours, so if you catch it, you catch it.

The conversation and dialogue between myself and my audience are important. It may help to inspire a kid in Atlanta, Georgia, or in the middle of Europe, who may want to learn more but simply hasn't been exposed to what being an artist is like.

Don't avoid anything on social media. Play it by your rules! I love that people can create entirely new languages and ways of communication and narratives on the same platform. Communicate how you are in real life. Holding anything back will harm you. Brand partnerships may help you or they may hurt you. It's about finding the right fit for your narrative and what you're creating. Again, there’s no black and white here.

You can follow Tyler Mitchell here

ALWAYS VALUE YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK, NO MATTER WHAT – ARVIDA BYSTRÖM

Photographer Arvida Byström is inextricable from the contemporary development of Instagram art. She uses self-portraiture to study feminism, identity, and gender constructs that largely draw on the aesthetic of Tumblr art. Her work has also been at the forefront of experimenting with publishing on social media, especially facing obstacles from Instagram’s censorship guidelines and what this means for contemporary art. Below, Byström recounts the importance of self-worth as an artist online. 

Arvida Byström: Try to say no to branded things that are only offers exposure and no money, unless it is interviews or magazines. When I get too many jobs, I usually raise my wage rather than doing all the jobs. Remember to find time for your own non-sponsored work – or at least that’s very important for me. Don't get scared when you lose a job for wanting “too much” money. Kill them with kindness in your emails and tell them that you'd love to work with them when they have a bigger budget.

Connecting with other like-minded artists for me has been key. The internet is also a great way of archiving your work, so it’s easy for people to include you in shows and give you jobs. Remember, if nobody has seen your work or you haven't talked about it with anyone, the whole world won't know you've done it. So don't be shy to share your favourites.

Don't get too hung up on likes, they won't make you feel satisfied with your work. But also don't beat yourself up too much if you ride on it sometimes. Try to make it fun and find other artists to connect with that you respect and love and who seem to be in a similar stage in their work as you. There’s strength in getting some cute online peers that you can recommend to shows and vice versa. It is a very fun way to get inspired and inspire people.

The internet is such a strange and capitalised space right now. It’s changed so drastically past years, I barely recognise it. It’s a hard place to juggle. There is no easy way, but remember to have fun on the way, and make sure to keep your friends close, because without that whatever success isn't worth shit. Also if you don’t make money off your craft in the end, at least you didn't waste your time because you didn't fuck up your life on the way!

You can follow Arvida Byström here

TAKE YOUR VIEWERS ON THE ENTIRE JOURNEY OF YOUR PROCESS – HARMONIA ROSALES, PAINTER

Painter Harmonia Rosales repaints classic artworks to show God is a black woman. Her art vows to destruct the art world's embedded gender and race constructs and social media has been one of the main ways Rosales has been able to amplify her voice. Below, the painter reflects on the importance of showing viewers the many stages of your artistic process, and how to combat plagiarism which she has been victim to. 

Harmonia Rosales: Post clear photos of your work and explain to people what they are looking at. I post my progress and then reveal the final image. I take my audience with me on my creative journey, my mistakes, my frustrations... so when the final image is revealed, they can appreciate the time it took to create it.

Anything related to my art, I post. whether that is attending an art event, museum or just visiting a fellow artist. I let people in on my career as a whole. I keep it personal on my Facebook. The reason being is because I want my audience to know what they are getting when they follow me... art and art-life, not art, going out to the club, selfies, art-life. You are your own director and you can literally grow the audience you want.

Craft your social media to what you want to promote and how you want to be presented in that craft. Be patient, your individual audience will grow, and connections will follow. Avoid posting personal photos that are unrelated to your art or message. And to protect yourself from copyright, you can watermark or post low-res pictures, but it’s only so much you can do and put your energy in worrying about.

You can follow Harmonia Rosales here