Last week one of my photos was accepted into a local art exhibit for mothers who are also artist. Meg Koning who organized the show said that when she switched from family photography and entered the fine art world, she found it very competitive and impersonal. Her goal was to create a different kind of experience, to invite other mamas into the fine art world in a warm and genuine way and to offer something encouraging, so she created the Artist Mama Exhibit.
The venue was lovely, called Sugarhill Studio on a farm in Longmont—a family’s garage artfully remodeled a few years ago with a frosted glass garage door and floor to ceiling windows. The stage area was further transformed by Diana Dellos’ multimedia mural of soft colors woven together with a floral arrangement that enveloped a couch where the featured speaker sat, sipped wine and shared with us her experience as a mother and an artist.
The evening became something of a question and answer session, and I mostly listened from my seat in the back with a friend as the small crowd of artists peppered Sarah Cornish of Four Hens Photography with questions. While the atmosphere was indeed warm and encouraging, an unmistakable theme took shape that I found troubling—the obsession with social media.
There seems to be this soul-crushing, confidence-shattering “need” to view the artwork and photography of others and to follow their social media personas, making comparisons that inevitably leave us feeling one-upped and left behind. And of course, as business owners, we are expected to contribute, constantly. Trends are changing faster and faster, algorithms switching the rules of the game; the special trick that got you noticed yesterday no longer works today. The current demand is to “be real,” to “show up” on your feed, which means turning the camera on yourself, because that’s supposedly what your audience really wants to see. This theme was in the questions posed by the audience, in the answers from the guest speaker and in the conversations I had afterward with other photographers.
A few months ago, I read an impactful article in the Atlantic and canceled both my Facebook and Instagram accounts. I have debated blogging about it, at least in part because of the irony—I just really need a platform to let everyone know how liberating it feels to be free of these platforms! But the truth is, liberated is not the only sensation I’ve been feeling.
“Stockholm Syndrome is a condition in which hostages develop a psychological bond with their captives during captivity.” Wikipedia
There have been lots of different emotions since canceling my accounts: joy, grief, anger, isolation (not an emotion, but I’ll go ahead and mention it anyway). I sometimes feel like I have shut the door; however, a conversation is happening on the other side and no matter how unhealthy, might it be better than sitting outside by myself?
The reasons I canceled my accounts are varied, including the macro impact of social media on our globe and also personal reasons like protecting my own psyche and worry about the example I set for my kids. Please note: this blog is not a message of judgment—there are no “shoulds” here—rather, just a brief description of my own internal struggle with my decision because at least half of the time I’ve wondered if it is even possible to have a business in this day and age without social media.
I am grateful for a handful of women who have given me the courage to stick with my resolve to not engage via social media. A few are mamas I've met at playgrounds and elsewhere. They rarely respond to my text messages promptly because they intentionally put their phones out of sight so they’re not distracted by them. They are present for their children, for me when we’re together, and for every person who is with them in the flesh.
Another is the friend who accompanied me that night to the exhibit, made an evening of it with ice cream after the show, and reminded me of the value of face-to-face interaction (or mask-to-mask when we have to), of word of mouth advertising, of slow and natural growth that isn’t based on an algorithm and a gimmick. Finally, I’m thankful for Meg Koning, who organized the Artist Mama Exhibit, who consistently pushes for community among women artists, who challenges us to see each other as allies rather than enemies, and who works hard to create warm and inviting spaces for family photographers.
Maybe we can all be encouraged by Meg's example—both artists and nonartists alike—to make time for playdates and barbecues, to make conversation with the stranger in line next to us, and to view each other as allies rather than competitors. Could it be these smallest of steps that bring a change in ourselves and in our world? I hope so.
Holly Freeman is a lifestyle family photographer (and not much of a fine arts photographer) based in Lakewood, Colorado. Please check out her portfolio for samples of her typical work and reach out to learn more about scheduling a session.