Its been a while since I wrote this text, but it has still it’s relevance.
I am sitting in one of the countless trendy cafés in fancy Canggu, Bali, trying to think about what to do with a blog and which article I could publish first. Something profound, meaningful at least but funny as well. However, of course not too analytical. Who wants to read something deep in these days?
However, all I can do is observing two very young, very fashionable girls taking pictures. Both well prepared for a semi-professional session; they have smartphones. First, sitting on a yellow, throne-like chair, only here for that kind of purpose. Like professional models they try to do the well-known poses: left hand on the chin, smiling shyly. Smiling a bit more, duckface to the cam. Changing spot to the front of a plant, followed by a spot next to a small balcony, then, switching to the other girl. Same poses from her. Between the slightly changing settings and postures both are permanently busy with correcting their hair, checking pictures followed by discussing them before continuing with another go. Same pose, same look at the camera, same backgrounds. Straightening hair, switching places, first girl one followed by girl two. With freshly straightened hair, girl one sits back at the table, this time with her right hand on the chin, looking up to her partner in crime and the cam, trying to face both seductively but still in the shy pose of just a young girl. Just try to imagine those filter they’re probably going to use. Yes, the job of a model truly is exhausting.
Together, both must have taken hundreds of identical pictures while I was eating a tasty rainbow chia fruit-something, feeling my belly growing bigger with every bite, nevertheless already thinking of dinner. While they still haven’t finished taking the same uninspired pictures, presumably for instagram, moving gracefully from one side to another, I start thinking. Nowadays, that basically everybody can be a model and photographer as even cheap equipment is quite good, nothing is original anymore. My second thought, though, is about the never ending self-reduction of women. Meaning, so it seems, a lot of women are still content to be seen as pretty accessories to men rather than liberating themselves from an one-dimensional restriction that is, after all, rather an expensive one indeed.
Women still seem to believe they are more desirable when their preferable occupation are on outfits and styling. So, sometimes it really is the only, at least, their main interest. Thus, they spend a lot of time and money on that. And to be sure to make it right, they copy the styles of others and go to locations they know of by others. Therefore, millions are reproducing rather than creating. Let’s produce the same shit! All it needs is a phone and a dress. Copying things that already work is kind of smart, though. Why investing in original creativity when the results aren’t guaranteed? To gain traffic it needs to serve demands.
The more freedom we have in terms of equality and possibilities does not make us more self-confident. Actually, we live in a world where people are afraid of being individual. Especially women. They check the web to make sure they get into recommended restaurants, they buy their dresses after pictures they found in magazines which are made to tell women how to be. New trend are ridiculously big fake eye lashes that actually give them the look of a cow. Above all, they all look exactly the same because they are using the same filter, filters that make adult women look like little girls, and little girls look like little Lolitas. Stars across the head, hearts around the head, big fake eyes, big fake lips, face in the shape of a heart. Silly, ridiculous but damn successful. In 2019, it is still shocking that most of those blogs run by women are mainly on beauty, fashion and lifestyle. More than a century after the first women’s movement and 100 years since the achievement of a political voice, and in times of a misogynist in the Oval Office who’s only role for women is being the silent beauty next to him who has to shut the fuck up when he grabs her by her vulva!
Only to protest I order a carrot cake although my belly starts hurting. Anyway, you only live once and I do love a good cake. (There are probably two ways I once will die: being hit by a car (or scooter) in the streets or because of too many cakes. I blame my beloved grandmother for this dangerous passion. She was just too good at baking.)
Still not finished with their photo session, I start to observe them more obviously. Both are dressed in a white blouse, and while the one wears a beige culotte the other wears a beige skirt. Both pretend to be without any flaws, showing an arrogant, nevertheless, put-on self-confident smile. Both try to be someone, both want to be perceived in a world where every little thing in life is charged with importance. Thank you modernism for making everyday objects an object of design. The earth is falling apart but we focus on the perfect setting of our living rooms. The two girls focus on their perfect look. The more they start to look influencer-ish the more I start to look deeply thoughtful: Left hand on the chin, face up to the sky, perking my eyebrow like I am thinking about really deep shit while I keep on watching them secretly out of the corner of my eyes.
I mean, it is easy to judge them, two young girls who eventually grow up with programs telling them how to look in a self-observing world while only two hours before I really thought about buying a dress for 2.195.000 IDR (that is about 137 Euro). I never spent more than €100 on a dress in my entire life. I also was infatuated by the superficial, good looking surrounding. In the very small world of Canggu, a former fisherman‘s village that has become what it is today in a very short period of time, there are so many urban stores that it‘s hard to decide where to go (but actually all offer pretty much the same for the same price, so calm down, you won’t miss anything). Just follow the pretty flow. However, I decided against it because what I don‘t need and what I can’t carry in my 40 l bag for the following months, I won’t get. And, yeah, to be damn honest, I just bought one beautiful dress that I don’t need but that was made for me. I paid around 32 Euro for it. What was I going to say…?
Travelling to a hotspot for influencers is kind of tricky but funny at the same time. When you wake up in the morning, dressing for the day without even thinking about it but receiving all the looks from women who obviously spend a lot of time finding their outfit only for that time of the day. And who have invested in their bodies. I’ve never seen so many women that have undergone cosmetic surgery like I did in Bali.
I mean I had fun watching those two friends in similar dresses on one of the many swings in the beautiful human made natural miracle that the rice paddies of Tegelalang are. Astonishing to see the Disney Land-like sold out beauty because every picture I saw of it before going there gives actually the impression of peaceful silence. Instead of being alone, there is one attraction next to another, literally. And above you, you’ll find a bicycle on a rope on which you can cross the valley. And more stuff to get all the attention of the willing people, so everybody can produce the same picture for which you have to pay for an overpriced ticket that allows you around five minutes and about 20 swings. And of course you will find women on them dressed in colourfully robes blowing by the wind. You know these kinds of pictures…
All that has nothing to do with those embarrassing photos of albums made prior instagram and pre-digitalisation. Of course, those also show millions of people on vacation, posing awkwardly in front of some sightseeing hotspot such as the Eiffel tower and so many other famous places all over the world. Not planned to get published, those pictures have been taken to catch a unique moment in life, they were private souvenirs and not a business. The difference between those is that most of them show just a normal level of lacking creativity but emotions instead. Most of them were badly made, because it just didn’t matter if they had artistic quality: they show fingers over the lens, no composition at all and the models were just their children in weird 90s outfits… The plagiarism on instagram on the other hand has a massive impact as the circulating pictures help to propagate obsolet stereotypes, and even more as they solidify them, only for the sake of supposed monetary success. The self-reduction as a quick chance to get rich and famous has truly no need of creativity.
The same moment I realise that I just wrote my first blog post, holding one well curated coffee shop cushion against my painful tummy, the same moment they started to use the flashlight to take more pictures. But, I had enough and left. There is a great ice cream shop just around the corner…
Just recently I discovered on instagram a group of female photographers called Bell Collective, named after Gertrude Bell, female traveller at the beginning of the 20th century. They want to show that also women on travel are up for hiking and exploring nature not only for the perfect tan. They started because they were annoyed by the (self) presentation of women on social media like instagram. I can‘t stand how women present themselves on instagram either. So, to me the Bell collective is a revelation!
*all pictures copyright by Nicole Guether