Today Social Media Culture

In this essay I will be exploring the ways in which images play a part in constructing identity, pulling information from different examples and points of view. I will be looking at different issues surrounding identity within social media and society and the way images contribute or affect these issues, as well as the different techniques that can be used in photography in order to portray aspects of someone’s personality.

Identity are the things that classify us and different characteristics all add up to who we are, things such as age, gender, race, background, culture, religion, etc. “The biggest challenge when photographing people is to reveal that hidden, intangible something that lies beneath”(Carroll,2015,120). Images are tied to identity as they allow us to express our ourselves or capture the identity of others around us, through the use of colour, clothing, makeup, props and environment. On the other hand there is the exploration of how photographs can express the identity of the photographer themselves and also how social media plays a part in the interpretation of images and identities.

Social media has a big impact on the way others perceive us and our identities, this is aided by the use of images. The selfie, “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken using a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media, has evolved over time”(Oxford University Press,2018). This is another way for people to represent themselves and bring their own identity out, they have control over the photograph and what it says about them. Erving Goffman talks about how life is like performing, you have your front stage facethat you put onto the world versus your backstage face when you are in private. The degree that the individual maintains a show before others that he himself does not believe, he can come to experience a special kind of alienation from self and a special kind of wariness of others (Goffman, 1959). Furthermore, the selfie is a tool for people to show this front stage face to world or perhaps even show the more private side of themselves, as the subject has complete control over the selfie allowing them to manipulate the way their audience sees them. The selfie has quickly become a very important part of today social media culture with nearly everyone uploading selfies of how they look or using filters and different apps in order to alter how they look. However, it can be argued that the selfie creates more questions about someone's identity than it answers.

Flo Ngala (Ngala, undated), is a photographer who uses selfies in order to discover new sides to photography, she uses the work she produces of herself in order to shape the work she produces of other people. “The objective of this was never for egotistical purposes. I learned through shooting that the more I photographed myself, the more I understood how to tap into emotion.”(Ngala, undated). Her work, fig.1, shows us how selfies can actually be very important in constructing identity. Ngala brings focus to how emotions can be portrayed through these self portraits, this is very important as emotions felt from different life events and interactions is what helps to shape our own identities. This particular self portrait, fig. 1, brings forward darker emotions, along with confusion and disarray giving the audience an insight to how she is feeling. “This was also a way i grew to better understand who I was, and when reflecting on these images I saw myself in different lights, and noticed specific themes and connections in my portraits. Some images hint isolation and depression, while others reflect happiness and joy.”(Ngala, Undated).

Another approach to discussing identity and photography is by looking at how we class different people due to things such as age, race and religion. These topics are considered to be more sensitive due to issues within society. However, photography is an excellent way of tackling these issues head on by bringing awareness to these things and teaching us things we may not have previously known. For example the use of photography is a brilliant aid for bringing light to different religions and educating people about traditions and culture. The series Judging America by Joel Pares (Pares, 2016), fig. 2, explores the different prejudices within our society and how it impacts the way we see people.Pares has used props as well as lighting, makeup and clothing in order to show us the prejudices put upon different people versus the person they actually are. The images allow the audience to interact with the idea of these prejudices and what they do to us, Pares is able to speak a very loud message through the use of images and only a few words. The use of different props in Pares’s portraits give the audience the important information we need in order to build up our own ideas about these different prejudices and they way they may affect the identity of different people. “The purpose of this series is to open our eyes and make us think twice before judging someone, because we all judge even if we try not to.” (Pares,2016).