Any photographer that claims their medium is a purely honest form of representation is full of shit. It’s no accident that “framing” defines both the act of contriving a photo and the act of contriving criminal evidence against an innocent person. A frame is a form of structure, and whoever builds the structure has a level of control over the people who inhabit it. In the era of Instagram, more and more of us are exerting control over the way we frame ourselves and others—whether we realize it or not.
One might wonder if candid photographs even exist anymore. We pose while a friend or significant other takes shot after shot with our head tilted slightly to the right, then left, then forward; we spend minutes, or even hours, selecting and editing the perfect photo; we carry outfits in our bags to change into if the right light strikes; we set up mini-photo studios in our bedrooms or living rooms; we even pose in front of Instagram playgrounds in droves, not caring about how many people shoot the same shot against the same colorful wall. It’s as if every day is a wedding shoot, except we’re simultaneously the photographer and the couple getting married. We think that we are experts at branding ourselves, that we have the ultimate level of control because we’ve been surrounded by brands all of our lives—except we don’t.
We might be framing our photographs, but they are influenced by, and reside within, multiple other frames: Instagram and the Internet to name the most obvious. These frames not only influence how we frame our photographs (there’s a reason why “Pinterest” has become a stylistic descriptor), but how often we post them, how we perceive the space we post them in (a “curated” virtual art gallery, of course), and what we do, or do not, decide to post (most blood is okay, but not menstrual blood unless you’re trying to disrupt the system). And, because we spend so much time figuring out the right outfit, the right background, the right light, we never consider that we’re not only the framers, we’re also the ones being framed. It seems like a joke—one that would be laughable if the ones constructing the overarching frames we represent ourselves within weren’t often brands and corporations that want something from us: our images or money or likenesses or likes. So as we all shape our own personal brands—or branded persons—(even me) through our sculpted photo “diaries,” it’s worth thinking about what we give up every time we gain a new follower.