Over the last several years I have seen social media change a lot of things. Good and bad. Entire businesses have had to reinvent their marketing strategies, regular girls taking iPhone photos on the beach have made modeling careers out of it, and we now have access to information more then ever before. It has been a major reason my “business” [for lack of a better word] has done so well. I never would have thought my blog would evolve into a photography career. I can thank Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and my blog for that. I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if it weren’t for social media.
Although I enjoy sharing all the beautiful places and unique moments that are most special to me.. it comes with a heavy price. Every time I post a photo at my favorite beach, coconut tree, or picturesque destination I am impacting that time and place more then I think. Now.. in the grand scheme of things I don’t have a lot of followers [which seems pretty bizarre to say 40k is not a lot of people but compared to my peers with hundreds of thousands of followers.. I seem pretty small] but it is enough to turn a few peoples heads. And that’s not always a good thing.
So I have been asking myself a lot lately: What am I doing to give back to the places that have given so much to me?
And you know what I’ve realized? Not a whole lot. Like a lot of other people [who take photos of beautiful people and places] I just take what I need and leave the rest of it behind. I essentially take it and call it mine without taking responsibility for the repercussions. I think I underestimate the power of social media and how it affects everything around us. Once I put a photo up on Instagram, the popularity of that place, person, or thing is likely to grow. And with it comes a negative impact. I take from places, other people take from me [which is a whole other story], and it is exponentially repeated. Take, take, take. No one is giving back. I have seen it happen to beaches on the North Shore and some of my most beloved places on the Big Island. Places become overpopulated, disrespected, and changed forever.
Sharing is a dangerous thing. You put yourself, your thoughts, your words, your vision, and/or your point of view out there for the world to see. You become completely vulnerable and have no idea who is going to take it and how they are going to use it. And in a lot ways we abuse the things we use for our own personal endeavors. I've never asked a photogenic coconut tree if it was okay to take its photo and geotag it (sounds so hippie.. I know.) But have we thought about the impact our actions will eventually make on a time, place, or thing?
I was recently talking to a very well-educated Hawaiian friend [whom I highly respect] and he gave me a lot of cultural insight into this shift of visually sharing online. If you don't already know, Hawaiians are directly connected to the land. Their entire culture is dependent on how it grows and evolves. It has way deeper meaning than any organic California vegan is emotionally and environmentally conscious towards the food they eat [which I find a little selfish.. most of the people I talk to only care about what they are putting into their body but not what they are putting back into the earth.] They were born from the kalo [taro] and all their gods are connected to a natural resource [if not the resource or keeper of a particular resource.] it is a deep, indigenous relationship. They give back to the land that provides for them. And everytime we take a photo of a certain place, our negative effects on that place are affecting a culture and sacred place. Thats's probably hard for some of you to wrap your heads around. Hawai'i is such a beautiful, photogenic place. I know. But sometimes it would be nice [and responsible] to put more thought into how we share those images (in hopes that we are keeping places sacred.)
I think the idea of being discovered as an "Instagram Photographer" or becoming "Tumblr Famous" has us jaded. When a company emails you asking to work on a campaign it is easy to compromise the people and places around you. I'm guilty of this. I will shoot a lifestyle campaign at the expense of a photogenic location. And there is always some level of contrived imagery involved. So essentially, it's not real. And we want to make everyone believe it is in hopes that we will sell the product (or whatever the company asked us to promote.) Marketing is such bullshit sometimes.
But after processing these thoughts I decided to make some changes. I hope to be more conscious of my decisions and find balance between shooting photos and sharing them with others. And I really hope my words and actions will inspire others to do the same. I would like to be more real as a creative.
Now, more importantly.. these photos. The place and person I took these photos with are very special. But I am not going to tell you where it is or when I took it. I just hope you enjoy them for what they are.. not because you want to see the place for yourself, shoot in the same location or use the same model. And not because I want credit for being a "good" photographer. I hope you just enjoy it for what it is [Although Vee is pretty incredible and we always seem to make magic together. I thought these images were very appropriate for the topic because she is striped down and exposed in a very raw, feminine way.]
I am not going to quit social media. I wish I could sometimes but that isn't the reality of my situation. I will, however, try my best to respect the people and places I am photographing. To give before I take and to be conscious of how my photos are being perpetuated through social media.
In retrospect, if I could take back any negative impact I put on the places and/or people I photographed in the past.. I would. But I hope we can all find balance in this crazy, digital world and be much more diligent with our social media footprint.