Updated: Jun 23, 2020
On the 5th March 2019 I travelled to Cardiff, Wales. The purpose of the trip was to meet and do another domestic portrait shoot with Ross who I first met back on 26th August 2018 at Manchester Pride, UK. The first shoot I did with Ross was way back in the summer of 2018 before any form or idea for my project was formed, merely finding him of interest from stumbling on his account on Instagram and contacted him to photoshoot some portraits. The very first photoshoot with Ross would later go on to form the foundations and tentative steps into my portraiture and conceptual based project surrounding homosexual representation and identity online.
Since the project idea and formation began with Ross it seems fitting that I should re-shoot him using the new refined way and approach of shooting I'd developed towards the end of the project. I did consider using the portraits we originally took together however, they just didn't fit the same visual as the other newer portraits I've taken of other sitters. It felt like Ross was still performing for the camera on some level in the 2018 shots as you can see he is conscious that he still wanted to look pretty opposed to being unguarded and raw.
The photoshoot with Ross this time felt more intimate as it was just me and him. Our first shoot together was much more of a transactional experience; he wanted photographs for his social media and I needed photographs for a project. However, 2019 was a drastically different encounter, Ross seemed solemn and was at a crossroads in his life not knowing where or what direction to go in since returning home to Cardiff, Wales from Belfast, Northern Ireland. This time it felt like for the first time I was seeing authentic Ross. He spoke about how he's struggling with his identity online and that his online life and persona was eclipsing his real-life. He was doing things and going places simply because he knew it would be good content for his social media followers not necessarily because he wanted to.
Even going as far as saying he'd lost friends due to the fun loving, party goer, up for any adventure persona he was portraying online, with people unfollowing him out of jealousy/envy and him unknowingly and unwittingly making them feel inferior. This was due to the fact he explained in-between shots that the image he was presenting of himself online got that distorted that people from his real-life couldn't recognise him anymore and by Ross presenting this amazing and exciting life it in-turn made others feel like their lives were boring and uneventful. This realisation I could tell really upset him as he said that was never his intention but he can see now how him perpetuating this persona could insight that negative reaction from people. He's since stopped and said he's taken a step back from life online and is aiming to enjoy life first-hand instead of living and documenting everything through a screen. Is this the future of social media, are people getting bored of seeing constant perfection that is almost unobtainable?
Models Instagram - @its.me.rossi