A while back on one of my posts, I asked my audience on Instagram if they thought that influencers kind of ‘look the same’. If you were one of the many that contributed to the discussion, you might’ve noticed that instead of taking it to mean that we’re all motivated to do so by brands, the association was with Instagrammers influencing each other. This of course, is undeniably true but in most cases, I think it’s less about a subconscious admiration of each other’s work and more about wanting to fit in and be perceived as acceptable. The mindset is: being an individual is empowering but only if it’s validated by others. While it may be normal, this often makes us feel way more pessimistic about our work than we need to be. If you can identify with this, here are my experiences on where to find healthy inspiration from social media.
Unlike the majority of my Industry News posts, I’m not going to focus this post on brand relations. Instead it’ll be about how to get your content to stand out in an increasingly standardised world. When my Instagram was a part-time effort and I was new to collaborations, I experimented with a various genres, from images of London to food and even selfies (which I make a point not to do now). I won’t pretend it was part of any particular strategy – at the time I did it because I enjoyed it. Importantly, it meant that before anyone could really identify what my brand was all about, I was learning what I really wanted to be seen doing. You don’t know if you don’t try. This meant that when I was finally attracting paid work, I was on my way to what you see today, according to my vision. I still have a long way to go and I struggle between giving Instagram what Instagram wants and building a portfolio of strong editorial content. But at the end of the day, I found my niche and critically, this is what a lot of people can’t identify for themselves. So they look to brands to tell them and as we all know, this doesn’t end up well.
Furthermore and very understandably, when newbies on the scene decide that they want to make this a ‘thing’, they emulate what’s already popular out there, even if it doesn’t seem fitting to their subject matter. As a result, you find the same filters, outfits, locations, captions, photographers – anything to capture what the girl with 80k followers and 5k likes is doing. And in our line of work, there’s a fine line between mimicry and outright plagiarism.
What’s really interesting is that in Asia, particularly with my experience in Singapore, the culture surrounding Instagram really promotes creativity. Sure you get ‘insta-models’ like any place would, but if we really look at the popular lifestyle, travel and fashion bloggers, they’re not short of real talent. And any whiff of a copycat stirs a viral rage that is both understandable but more so, frightening. Take the scandal last month with influencer/photographer Daryl Yow, who was found out to be stealing stock images and crediting them as his own on social media. The amount of high profile individuals that spoke out about that was astonishing, you wouldn’t see that level of backlash from the community if it were a 100k influencer in the UK. And if you want proof, it’s happened before. Are we too forgiving here, not because we lack passion and honesty but because not enough of us can put our hand up and say that we know exactly what our social media accounts stand for? Perhaps we don’t like to admit it but some of us are a few lazy decisions away from just copying a popular girl’s aesthetic?
Generally speaking, everyone saves images that they take inspiration from, looking to Pinterest and Tumblr for references. It’s always a good idea to plan a moodboard. But often we look to ‘lesser’ sources for inspiration and you’ll recognise this in yourself if that account makes you feel envious, intimidated or like you’re not good enough. It should have nothing to do with numbers or even what the creator looks like, even if we convince ourselves that it does. I’ve definitely been guilty of trying to steer my work towards the typical fashion blogger template and when I look at the results, it’s exhausted and generic. Dedicating time to accounts that motivate you is the way to start building content that stands out. Some of my favourites to watch for their creativity and execution are @mossonyi, a couple based in Manchester whose videos will make you want to learn Final Cut Pro as much as you want to binge Netflix. Then there’s @parkncube which most of you will hopefully be acquainted with, if not love. Everything that gets published is nothing short of contemporary art. I ask myself how proud I am of every photo I want to post and if I’m on the fence about it, it won’t go up anymore. I also love @dirtyyydan for her artistic direction, there’s always something familiar and approachable about her images but they’re so refreshing and distinct.
Of course, you’ll have your own creators that you personally aspire to, as well as those guilty pleasures that we love to stalk for their latest Zimmermann outfit. But ask yourself, “are they’re pushing the boundaries of their skills?”, “Why are they popular?” and importantly: “Do they encourage you to be your best self or do they make you want to be prettier or skinnier or richer?”. I’m not saying you should unfollow anyone that makes you the least bit envious because often that problem lies with us and our insecurities. However, we could all evaluate who our role models are every now and then, particularly when we have one of those creative lulls or fall out of love with our hobby and for some, our job.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this shoot was inspired by my favourite photographer, Tim Walker.
shot by Alise Jane
Paul and Joe dress | Anthropologie headband | Danse Lente bag | ASOS belt