JTF (only facts): Published 2021 by Muddyisland Books / self (here). Softcover, 136 pages, with 76 color photos. Includes 8 pages of thumbnails, and 1 set of stickers. There is a short text by the artist near the back of the book. (Cover and post the shots below.)
Comments/Context: In the not too distant future, it seems likely that we will begin to see scholarly exhibitions and PhD theses addressing the question of how Instagram has changed the aesthetics of contemporary vernacular photography. While the original smartphone selfie transformed the nature of the selfie, the precise organization of the Instagram persona has similarly changed the types of photos many of us share with others. Rather than casually posting any photos that might come in handy, Instagram has spawned a microcontroller culture, in which crafting a semi-permanent visual identity is taken very seriously. For some, every photo represents an opportunity to show off the perfect friends and family, the right clothes, the right things, the right vacations, and any other manifestations of happiness, success, or apparent accomplishment that might contribute to a certain personality type. It is a general view of how we are represented (and not who we actually are), built through the systematic accumulation of non-random snapshots.
We’ve known for a long time that when tourists visit a major attraction, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon, they tend to take very similar photographs as souvenirs – standing in the same places, doing the same poses, and essentially coming home. Same photos as many people who visited the same place the day before and after. In the age of Instagram, this tendency toward closeness has been greatly amplified. The scenic spots and great places are now known as Instagrammable sites, and visitors go there to recreate the poses made by those who viewed their photos. Favorite poses (standing back in front of the camera, jumping and smiling, making hand gestures, or whatever else) are copied and repeated over and over by those who follow, as evidence not just of being there but of knowing how to make the right photo.
Pierfrancesco Celada . Photo Book instagrampier It is a one-site case study of a twenty-first century phenomenon. Celada’s apparent subject is the Western District Public Cargo Action District, a public dock in Kennedy, Hong Kong, on the western side of the island, but he is mostly interested in the photography that takes place there. And while such an ordinary spot might not seem inviting at first glance, the pier has a wide concrete area (like a boardwalk) facing directly onto the harbor and the city skyline beyond, making it an ideal spot for a selfie with a dramatic backdrop. As a public dock, the area is also filled with cargo containers, wooden pallets, cranes and other practical shipping equipment, as well as packed items waiting to cross (such as bricks, blocks, bamboo poles), which can likewise be used as a backdrop for making a picture. The place has become so popular with Instagrammers that it has its own unofficial name – Instagram Pier.
The visual metaphor of portraits of people taking pictures has been explored by many artists (notably Martin Parr), so Celada shows us nothing we haven’t seen before. What differs here is the in-depth study of photographic behavior in one place, and the differences and patterns that can be observed by comparing a seemingly endless stream of visitors searching for versions of the same. In many ways, the compositional options on the pier are decently limited, forcing personal creativity into a narrow range of improvisation: shoot with water and the city in the background, and use one set of curved railings under the water or a few posts to anchor ships to the pier as supports , or turning toward the street lights (with black and yellow striped concrete bases) and things assembled on the pier itself and embedding them in an unexpected way, perhaps with a lucky cargo ship or a high-speed ferry passing in the distance. So, in a sense, everyone on the sidewalk is constrained not just by setting, but by the history of the photos that have actually been made and shared.
Celada’s portraits of stage acting on the sidewalk are divided into groups: isolated photographs of subjects, separate photographs of photographers (apparently amateur or professional) at work, broader shots of both photographer and subject together as a separate unit, and wider layers. Views of the sidewalk where several separate photographic activities are taking place simultaneously. In the wide-open setting of the sidewalk, all the strutting, the looks and the stunt designed for the camera look totally alien. The people in the pictures make strange faces, gather in tight groups and make flashing signs of peace, lie on the ground, jump in the air, roll over a ledge, run along the sidewalk, climb on containers, and generally mount wherever and however they can, and spectator pictures of Celada creates a layer of distance between these antics and our voyeurism, making the behaviors more polite and unnatural.
Celada Photos for Photographers puts our focus back on the hard work it takes to create Instagram-ready photos. Hobbyists hold their selfie sticks, pose in front of their smartphones, set up timers on mini tripods, or bravely try to help their friends get the perfect shot. The professionals work on an entirely different level, squatting, lying, and kneeling to get the best point possible, and with the help of assistants holding long arms and filling lights, trying to control the visuals they can while guiding their clients. Many Celada photos for photographers capture the boredom inherent in such tasks, where all the client wants is exactly what has already been done hundreds of times.
When Celada steps back to capture entire scenes of photographers and subjects in the same frame, his images head toward the almost gruesome reality of Jeff Wall’s staged settings. The best thing about these photos is to capture two out of three photographers working with a babysitter or a couple, each with their own movements and expressions. And when so many of these groups come together, all trying to get the same shot, the layers get almost insane.
Wedding shots are perhaps the most baffling, as they introduce brides in long, flowing dresses and grooms in elegant suits to the bold sidewalk. Smiling couples work side by side, helpers argue over an unruly veil, and couples stand atop cranes or inside wooden pallet tunnels, all under the careful supervision and supervision of a team of photographers. In one memorable photo, an entire wedding party (for about twenty people) lounging on top of a freight crane, groomsmen dressed in jackets and bridesmaids in pink tulle; Even more bizarre is a group of three seeming strangers who joined the photo on the left side, as if they were blowing up the whole scene.
In yet another strange and glorious photograph, a couple in a tuxedo and red dotted dress are sitting atop a huge pile of bamboo poles, looking at the sunset very seriously, while another man stands nearby (and certainly out of their frame) on the bamboo poles while his friend (or son) struggles ?) to raise his camera high enough to get the correct perspective. Many of these photos contain a quiet comedy of them, and Celada’s behind-the-scenes photos reveal the absurdity of the entire establishment. When you flip three or more different hairs, duck faces, and gymnastic moves in one frame, along with several others checking their cameras and phones, it’s hard not to laugh.
as a picture book, instagrampier It has its own clever design and construction details. The photo on the cover, of the embracing couple, looking over each other’s shoulder at their own phones, surrounded by a cloud of heart-eyes emoji, the invisible echo chamber online already impressed by their posts. Inside, the final papers are doubled, one showing the empty sidewalk with a single camera left behind, and the other showing a Google Maps chart of the sidewalk’s location. Celada’s photos are generally surrounded by lots of white space, which encourages us to slowly digest each photo, rather than scrolling through them nonstop. Near the end of the book, a set of thumbnails shows how different people used the yellow and black striped concrete bases of street lamps as parking spaces. The book ends with a page of stickers, which we can use to decorate our favorites inside (like the graphic add-ons on Instagram) – the idea that we can add more photographers and protesters to already crowded photos via these stickers is wonderfully inspired.
If we take instagrampier Seriously, it’s a thoughtful sociological study of how images are crafted specifically to create an Instagram identity; And if we don’t, this is a sharp caricature of funny and ridiculous 21st century behavior online. Of course, they are both, and that back-and-forth tension makes the photo book so memorable. What remains for me is the feeling of endearing ambition that fills so many of Celada’s subjects and their efforts to capture the perfect photo – I think it goes in line with our very human desire to be seen, accepted, and appreciated. While we may fully admit the foolishness that often drives this quirky photo, it’s hard not to root for these guys to somehow get the stunning photo they dreamed of.
POV collector: Pierfrancesco Celada does not appear to have a consistent exhibition representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors will likely follow up directly with the artist via their website (linked in the sidebar).