Amidst the think pieces about Instagram aspirationalism and the head-to-concrete contortions of the Boyfriends of Instagram page stars, 'lack of authenticity' is the rallying cry of those who condemn the 15min flatlay set-up, carefully candid poses and the 'sponsored by' disclaimer that seems to run the world of online marketing. No one lives like that, people say. How tiring would it be to maintain?
I've been absent, but not idle and part of that time has been spent working with people who create these fantasies. It's true -- they don't live like that all the time. The image you see on your Instagram or social media feed is a collaborative, conscious piece of work. The nuance that critical articles tend to miss is the fact that many 'creatives' don't aspire to authenticity, in the strict, literal sense. An Instagram feed can be a creative portfolio and where the 'disruption' buzzword comes is in styling the everyday into something like an art piece. The skill I end up admiring is not how someone manages to 'live a life' like their Instagram feed (believe me, no one does), but the pride they take in making sure every detail is right. What's authentic is the familiar, relatable delight of any creative upon seeing a project finally coming together.
The 'performance' is often pure, ludicrous fantasy; a world where flowers overflow, collars are perfectly pressed, and every moment is perfectly framed and polished. And as long as you're not going around believing your flatlays are curing cancer or that this is a lifestyle that is somehow inherently superior (or even maintainable), it's a pretty surreal and unique experience to be creating it.
Like any creative art, you're not meant to see the gaffer tape on the lights, pointe shoe dust trails and abandoned tulle behind the curtains (though I am a huge advocate for finding the beauty in the behind-the-scenes - see Klaus Frahm for a recent favourite). The gaffer tape of my last few months - slivers of it in between uni and other work - has been running through the rain with 8kg of camera gear and a tripod; it's about being at a venue hours in advance to set up the elaborate set pieces, and that wonderful moment of 'got it' when you look down at your camera screen. The gaffer tape is the camaraderie of a team collapsing together on a couch after a long evening in the Opera House, bubble tea in between mad car dashes in heels, models commiserating over their tired feet, and 2AM editing, over soba noodles and bonding over exhaustion.
It's pretty fun gaffer tape, all things considered.