Eco-warriors, boundary-pushing beauty and telling London’s stories: these are some of the most exciting emerging voices of the Instagram generation
With a fresh new Instagram account, Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack has been exploring the most colourful, provocative and thought-provoking IG feeds by the new crop of artists. At a unique installation, Jefferson came together with Instagram’s founder Kevin Systrom (@kevin) and head of fashion Eva Chen (@evachen212) to discuss the power of the photo app in the creative world, and showcase Jefferson’s pick of accounts.
Having chosen ten of the most prominent creatives on IG to select one image to showcase each, we spoke to the exhibitors behind the most illustrious accounts about what each chosen image really represents for them and how Instagram verbalises this.
ELLIE GRACE CUMMING (@elliegracecumming)
The fashion director at AnOther Man told us: “It’s a selection of images that are recent projects I have been working on mixed with past work that I feel represent my aesthetic and visual identity. There are a mix of mood and textures in black, white and red, which are strong colours that run through my work.
“The top row of images is from a story in the current issue of AnOther that I worked on with photographer Zoe Ghertner. The middle three are backstage from the recent Phoebe English show – I have been working with Phoebe for the past 18 months, and this collection and show felt like her most progressive and exciting, the main colours being black, white and red, the legendary make-up artist Inge Grognard works on the show and when we mentioned red she immediately knew she wanted to do a red eyeliner look. The bottom three are past work with Cameron Alexander and Christian MacDonald for SSAW and AnOther Man. Fishnets, silk, tulle, fur, lace – the combination of the textures are always what I am thinking about when on shoots.
“Instagram is an amazing platform for visual people, I always think of it as a snapshot of my daydreams. It gives a great space to show work openly and diversely, it has really changed the dynamics in the fashion industry, made a lot of the stigmas irrelevant. Everyone’s is different and personal, and that’s what is so great, it’s a curated space that has no rules. It’s a freedom and space to daydream. A place to consume images and also escape to and discover other like-minded people.”
ELEANOR HARDWICK (@eleanorhardwick)
The London-based artist, photographer and Rookie contributor says: “A lot of my work is about walking along a tightrope between two binaries, and how to push those supposedly opposing forces apart. This photo is a self-portrait titled Blood and Pollen, and I was thinking a lot about the contrasts and synergies between death and rebirth, and the cycles of nature that link to cycles in life and femininity.
“A lot of people use Instagram as a well-curated portfolio – creating colour palettes and playing with the app's format and layout in creative ways. I love that, but I'm not very good at that approach. When I finally joined, I just really enjoyed the way it rekindled the approach I took to photography when I started out as a kid; which was just taking reference photos of things I found in everyday life that I thought were beautiful, and then backing them up somewhere. It's nice to not feel precious about it in the same way that I would with film or a more clunky camera.
Artistically, it's rekindled that curiosity in everyday life for me. Commercially, I think more clients are finding photographers through Instagram – and I'm not sure whether a client would necessarily find my Instagram very interesting in comparison to my actual website... so maybe I should work on that!”
FRANCESCA ALLEN (@fr3nchiejane)
Francesca Allen, a London-based photographer, explains the premise behind her dreamy IG. She says: “My photos are all about relationships between girls and women, whether those relationships are my own or other people's. I think friendships between teenage girls are so interesting, they can become really intense and you really do feel like you're living in this hot, sticky, female utopia. The sisters in the photo are Coral and Tanisha Kwayie who are, of course, insanely easy on the eye.
“Instagram's another community. A lot of photographers around the same age as me started out by putting their photos on Flickr. As a teen it was difficult to find people who shared the same interests as you and the internet totally opened that up. Flickr became boring and everyone moved on to different platforms like Tumblr to share their work, now it's Instagram. People will tire of it soon and new things will come along, it always seems to work that way.
“It's important to remember that followers and likes mean nothing at all if you're not making work that makes you happy. I lost a job the other day because I didn't have as many followers as the other photographer; I think it's pretty sad that the industry is coming to this, that your following matters more than your work.”
ELIZABETH FARRELL (@glacier996girl)
Elizabeth Farrell, the woman behind the iGeneration's eco-warrior Insta, recalls one of her most important posts. She says: “This image actually signifies a big milestone in my project: ‘Remember the Glaciers’. I remember waking up one morning, and reading a news report about how Shell was proposing to drill in the Arctic. I couldn’t make any sense of it. Have they fooled us so deep that it’s okay to write ‘Arctic’ and ‘oil drilling’ in the same sentence – as if its so casual?! I wanted to believe it was some kind of paradoxical joke. Confused about the idiocy of the statement, I just got so angry so quickly! That day I switched it around, by using my anger as ammunition to fight against Shell.
“I called up Tamara and we pitched up outside our local Shell station in London – I made signs, she made a chant. For a two-gal protest we got quite a fair deal of interest. I posted it over social media to show support with everyone in Seattle and stated, ‘This is a global issue.’ It was this flipping of negativity into positive action that has stuck firmly as a good lesson to myself and a reminder to never give up.
“For me, visuals are really important in my understanding of things, and I find Instagram the easiest way of doing this. I love the fact that I can share my work with a worldwide audience as climate change is a global crisis and we all need to work together to create truly successful action. It can be great for inspiration. It allows me to connect with a community of like-minded individuals, and contacting people around the world about their experiences and stories. In my work I like to emphasise the DIY approach and just show that anyone can do it – becoming an activist was as easy as setting up an account.”
ISAMAYA FFRENCH (@isamayaffrench)
The make-up artist, model and photographer spoke to Dazed recently about her recent road trip across four states in the US and its eclectic landscape. Ffrench explains: “For quite a while now, Josh and I have been creating images together that carry a strong shared aesthetic, but this trip is the most extravagant foray so far into producing a complete series of editorial style images without a third party involved.
“I pushed him to take photographs of me in motion, which was new for him as we usually produce very still and quiet images,” says Ffrench. “I could picture it perfectly and at one point Josh was convinced the process wasn’t working as he couldn’t capture the perfect form.”
JUNO CALYPSO (@junocalypso)
Checking in on her one-woman honeymoon in a Pennsylvanian hotel, photographer Juno Calypso created The Honeymoon. The photo series explores the absurdity of the constraints around female sexuality and identity in a garish setting. Speaking of the chosen photo, she says: “I think this image says I’m a creep and I like the colour pink.”
The immediacy of Instagram is what works for Calypso. She explains: “I don’t have to wait for a gallery – I can instantly showcase new work to an international audience, making connections with other artists, curators and publishers without getting out of bed.”
MAISIE COUSINS (@maisiecousins)
Maisie Cousins is a London-born photographer, performing themes of femininity, power and indulgence in her work, as in her recent all-girl art exhibition Female Matters. With this piece, Cousins explains: “I enjoy photographing people close up, it's enjoyable and intimate.”
And it's the far-reaching nature of the digital platform that draws Cousins in. She explains: “It's like a digital sketchbook that doubles as a way I can communicate with other artists. People now spend a lot of time on their phones, when they get up and when they sleep. To think that they're looking at one of your pictures before they start dreaming is pretty cool.”
BRAD HOBBS AND ASHER HERR (@meet_the_locals)
Brad Hobbs and Asher Herr are two photographers based in Peckham, capturing the life, cultures, religions, businesses and daily encounters on the streets of south east London.
Herr explains the importance of documenting the emotional atmosphere of an image's time and place, where “I'm trying to capture it as I read it on peoples faces. Talking to people about all the 'regeneration', being poor, being rich, what they think about art, young people, lifestyle, estate agents, alcoholism, drugs, expensive coffee shops, religion... and trying to get all of that across in an image.
Speaking of the chosen exhibition image, Hobbs says: “I am a very social person, I like to make friends with everyone. Spending time in a hair salon in Peckham gave me a chance to meet some great people. This image of a lady asleep having her hair done was completely by chance, I was actually shooting photos of the owner of the hair salon and this caught my eye, it was a spur-of-the-moment thing but sometimes those types of images come out better than anything you could plan.
“This really for me sums up the meet the locals project showing the community for what it is right now because in five-plus years it will all be completely different and that really interests me. This hair salon is a local business and has been there for years and years, but it's in a prime location in the heart of Peckham where unfortunately there is a lot of change happening everyday.”
For Herr, the physical image remains an important medium. However, it's through Instagram that his work has blossomed. He says: “Culturally it is clear that the most democratic and important images we have are on a screen. Instagram allows me to stop looking so closely at myself or my circle and connect with an infinity of images from all over the network. It has given me opportunities to meet and work with many different people, and is of huge cultural importance. How we use Instagram to work says a lot about our characters, and shows interesting things about our character.”
SAM COLDY (@samcoldy)
The east London-based photographer chose some of his most recent work for the exhibition, illustrating his progression. “I try to evolve and experiment each time I work so I think choosing anything from a year ago wouldn’t really represent me at this moment. So next week, I think it might be a different image. I look at my work for so long whilst working on it, that when it’s finally done, I’m slightly bored of it, I don’t tend to like much of my previous work as much as my current. So basically, I guess it says that I have a short attention span.”
Explaining the impact of Instagram on his art, Coldy says: “It’s entirely visual, so for me it’s perfect. Essentially I get to exhibit my work to those interested, or to those that got suckered in with my nude selfies. Just kidding. I just show my art, I like that it can just be an image, you don’t have to say anything about it. I think Instagram is the platform that the majority of us engage with most. So it helps me to show my work/art to the biggest audience possible. There’s some extremely talented people on there that constantly produce awesome work at an impressive rate, this only helps to make me push myself and be inspired by others. It keeps me on my toes.”
SAMUEL BRADLEY (@samuelbradley)
Samuel Bradley, the London-based photographer, considers his approach to image-making on both the social media and digital platforms. He says: “I think this image is quite typical of my approach to Instagram and in some ways photography as a whole. I’ve chosen to shoot this woman because she’s dressed entirely in white but has this shock of red hair. There’s something ‘out of time’ about her, you couldn’t pinpoint the era of her attire but there’s something dated about it. It’s the kind of photograph I might make with a stylist and a model, but in this case I’ve stumbled across it on the outskirts of Vienna after a morning of aimless wandering.”
Instagram, for Bradley, is a place for careful consideration, as well as the occasional whim. He explains: “I treat my account like an ongoing book, but then every now and then I’ll tear out half the pages, you can’t swap them out, there’s only that delete button. In that sense I try and think retrospectively about the content I’m posting. Maybe in image you post now won’t be understood until you’ve posted the next two, or the one forty weeks back no longer means anything and can be axed. I’m not precious or sentimental about that, I’ve still got the image, just not the likes. That’s probably the one issue with using Instagram though, worrying too much about what your audience will think. That’s not how art should work.”
Click here to follow Jefferson on Instagram