My Final Major Project is photographing portraits of young gay men I'm approached through the social media platform Instagram. Exploring the modern pressures of being homosexual online. Pressures within the homosexual community online like being-
not gay enough
not popular enough
not good enough
not interesting enough
not good-looking enough
not got a good enough body etc.
People making snap judgements on others purely based on appearance without taking the time to get to know the person behind the online profile. Looking at how we all make snap judgements and label people as this or that type of person and then move on to the next. Addressing that how we judge others says more about ourselves as individuals than it does about the person being judged.
It's a minefield online for the modern homosexual. With 86% of young LGBTQ members (17 - 29) suffering with some form of mental illness due to the pressures and scrutiny online. Resulting in cases of internalised homophobia, feelings of inferiority and self-loathing within the homosexual community. Which is a community that holds the ideals of peace, love and acceptance. Doesn't sound that way, does it?
People are comparing their real-lives to other peoples edited online lives and online personas completely forgetting that these social media influencers only present the elements of their lives that want others to see. No ones life is picture perfect and everyone has their own demons and battles to fight.
So, for the project I'm approaching young homosexual men I've never met before and aiming to photograph them unguarded and completely void of all that social media pressure and scrutiny. Highlighting that underneath it all and behind every online profile is a real person with their own insecurities and worries.
Photographing them in their own domestic environments to help make them more comfortable as the domestic is a safe space we all create for ourselves, without the scrutiny and judgement of the outside world. Almost like our own sanctuaries in a constant never-ending stream of information, images, updates etc. Where we can be our most authentic self free from outside pressures.
I'm fascinated by this idea of who we really are opposed to the version we choose to display to others online; social media is almost like make-believe or playtime for adults. Presenting ourselves to the world the way we want to be seen opposed to the way we may be in reality face-to-face.
Editing ourselves just as we edit our posts. Presenting only the elements of ourselves and our lives we want others to see. Thus, feeding the unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of what reality looks like. Social media is a paradox as people are able to present themselves to the world opening themselves up for praise and admiration but also judgement and scrutiny. They go hand-in-hand. It's impossible to have one without inviting the other.
Choosing to focus on homosexual portraits as I am homosexual myself and have always felt part of a community I never fully belonged to, as I possess none of the modern "stereotypical" attributes of a 21st century homosexual man my age. I wanted to approach these online personalities and form friendships with them. As we worked together getting to know the real person not just the person or persona from the online profiles.
Are people different to their online personas or merely an exaggerated version of their authentic self?
Models Instagram - @ethan_johnson