Its been a while since I wrote this text, but it still has its 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?
But all I can do is watching two very young fashionable girls taking their pictures. Both are prepared for their semi-professional shoot. They have their phones. Sitting on a yellow, throne-like chair just here to be photographed. They try to do the well-known poses: left hand on the chin, smiling shyly. Smiling a bit more, eye-catching face. Changing location in front of a plant, next to the small balcony, switching to the other girl. Same positions for her. Between the slightly changing settings and postures both are permanently busy with correcting their hair, checking the pictures and discussing them before continuing with another go. Same pose, same look at the camera, changing background. Straightening hair, changing place, 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 camera trying to face them both seductively but still in the shy pose of just a young girl. Imagine the filters they are probably going to use.
Together, the two must have taken hundreds of identical pictures while I was eating a tasty Rainbow Chia fruit something, feeling my belly getting bigger with every bite nevertheless already thinking about what I should have for dinner. Still not finished with taking the same boring pictures probably for their instagram, moving gracefully from one side to another, I start thinking. Nowadays where everybody can be a model and photographer because even cheap equipment is quite good, nothing seems to be original anymore. And my second thought is about the never ending self-reduction of women. That is how, so it seems, a lot of women are still content to be seen, as pretty accessories to men rather than liberating themselves from an expensive and one-dimensional restriction.
Many women are still not able to talk about something other than outfits and styling. They copy the styles and locations from other women and are therefore reproducing instead of 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 invest 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 pages in the internet to make sure they get in the recommended restaurants, they buy their dresses after pictures they found in magazines made for women to tell them how to be. They start wearing ridiculous big fake eye lashes that actually make them look like a cow. And they all look exactly the same because they use 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 the blogs run by women are only about beauty, fashion and lifestyle. More than a century after the first women’s movement and 100 years since the achievement of a voice in politics 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 still hurts a bit. Anyway, I enjoy that tasty little cake because I love cake. There are two ways I probably will die: hit by a car (or scooter) on 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 shoot I start to observe them more obviously. Both are dressed in a white blouse, only difference is that one wears a beige culotte while the other wears a beige skirt. They pretend to be without any flaws, showing an arrogant but 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 Bauhaus for making everyday objects an object of design. The earth is falling apart but we focus on the perfect design of our apartment. 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 spend €100 on a dress in my entire life. I was infected by the superficial, good looking surroundings. In the small world of Canggu, a former fisherman‘s village that has become what it is today in a 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…
That’s not like all the similar pictures you will find in albums that were taken before the digital and social media revolution. Of course there are millions of similar pictures that show people on their vacation in front of the Eiffel tower and other (famous) places in the world that have been done before instagram. Not planned to get published, pictures like these have been taken to catch a unique moment, they were private souvenirs not a business. The difference between those is most of them show just a normal level of lacking creativity but emotions. Most of them were badly made, they show fingers in front of 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 pictures which circulate obsolete stereotypes, solidify them due to the supposed monetary success. The self-reduction as a quick chance to get rich and famous doesn’t need creativity.
The same moment I realise that I just wrote my first blog post, holding one of the well designed cushion against my tummy, the same moment they started to use the flashlight to take more pictures of each other. But I had enough and left. There is a great ice cream 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