I have a confession to make… I love colorful street art.
Murals and public art spark so much joy, and I’m indebted to the countless artists who’ve helped bring my content to life over the years. In so many ways, their beautiful backdrops have echoed my view of the world and personal style. I’ll be forever thankful to them.
So why does photographing on murals and walls feel like a sin lately?
For example, The Atlantic posted an article about the overall state of Instagram. The algorithm, engagement, and what is (and not) working for publishers. To sum up the piece, anyone who’s carefully curating content on their feeds (and especially photographing on walls) suck.
Even James Nord of Fohr, someone in the industry whom I respect, once stated, “If you’re an influencer who is still standing in front of Instagram walls, it’s hard.” His words stung.
Since my earliest days on Instagram, colorful walls and murals have been the core DNA of my content. Plus, this was long before the epic lines of people at Paul Smith’s iconic pink wall in LA, as seen on HBO’s documentary, Fake Famous (more on that topic here).
The War Of Walls
Nord’s assessment about influencers on walls also isn’t wrong. Altogether, my Instagram engagement has been suffering. But then again, to his point in this episode of A Drink with James, the same can be said for most influencers.
In fact, at the time of the video, he stated that, each month, 60% of influencers with over 100K followers are losing more followers than they’re gaining.
In most cases, we’re ALL feeling it. Overall, it’s as if we’re all riding this strange, odd, algorithm anxiety-inducing tide together. All the while hoping we can come up for air soon. Also, YES! There are plenty of influencers who continue to skyrocket to fame without shady tactics. Furthermore, I’m very clear that I play in a role in the success of my content and algorithm (aka – I’m not blaming Instagram). I’m part of of the problem. Period.
HBO’s Fake Famous
Listen, this post is not all about defending my content nor colorful walls. Well, not really. You see, I’ve noticed an increase in negative sentiment and almost a sort of backlash about influencers taking photos on colorful street art and murals. For example, HBO’s Fake Famous poked fun at LA’s famous pink wall at Paul Smith. The opening scene gives you two-minutes of b-roll full of tourists, visitors, and bloggers capturing imagery in front of it. You can almost hear the laugh track as the scene plays out.
Even now, I still have people drive past us when we’re photographing at walls. Some honk and beep, others yell things at me out windows that would make anyone blush. Oh, and then the whistles. Those are just greeaaatttt. Even this past weekend, someone shouted at me across the street in a condescending tone and said, “Oh yeah… we see you superstar!” I politely smiled and kept photographing.
Frankly, I wanted to crawl into a shell and hide. I always do. To this day, I tend to seek out walls in quiet corners of the world to avoid the honks and horrible commentary. It all feels so degrading (and I’d like to believe that I have thick skin).
Wall That and Then Some…
Beyond making fun of people on walls, I hate the perception that those doing so are seeking fame, fortune, etc. Take Fake Famous, who dilutes walls and the influencer industry down to its worst qualities (and shadiest of tactics). Every profession has a continuum of talent. Some influencers choose to cheat the system and fake their following. Admittedly, it’s extremely hard to watch it happen. I can’t stand when people prioritize fame and a quick buck over kindness, authentic content, and compassion for others. Thankfully, there are so many phenomenal creatives who continue to value integrity, character, and an incredible work ethic above all else.
As @stephemcneal reports for @buzzfeednews, “Fake Famous sneers at an industry that has been primarily built and run by women.” She goes on, “I’ve never watched a documentary that has filled me with as much rage as Fake Famous.” I highly recommend reading her article. Thankfully, the documentary includes interviews with @taylorlorenz; her commentary restores any semblance of actual reality of the industry.
The Case for Colorful Street Art and Walls
One of the main reasons why I started posing in front of colorful walls was to show the way I see the world. Since I was a child, I’ve actively chosen to see the world through colorful, rose-colored glasses, even when it’s hard to do.
My choice to do so was never related to the fact the images got more likes, comments, or engagement. In fact, I attribute it to authenticity, transparency, and above all – COMMUNITY. My Instagram feed isn’t about ME. It’s about everyone and anyone who takes a minute out of their day to connect, comment, DM’s, etc. They’re who really matters.
Beyond that, I want to talk about WHY street art and murals matter. They’re not just about creating photogenic moments. I’ve seen cities and neighborhoods beautified by street art, children’s arts programs flourish, and struggling artists get their well-deserved time in the sun. Equally, most street art makes a statement on social, political, gender… the list goes on and on.
Street art breaks down walls between people and create conversation. Moreover, the intangible benefits of these pieces are works of art themselves.
Therefore, in this era of overly-commercialized Instagrammed walls, how does one keep stay true to themselves while not becoming completely irrelevant? In essence, it’s time to pivot.
The Beauty of the Pivot
Several years ago, I made the conscience decision to expand my content. I did this through adding more posts about travel, interiors, home, beauty, cooking and other lifestyle content. In fact, if you look carefully at my feed, you’ll notice the change has been occurring for quite some time.
See more from our Portugal trip here
Above all, this shift was never about appealing to an algorithm or an audience. I’m simply evolving as an individual. As such, I have new interests and priorities which are reflected in my feed! Plus, I have no plan to walk away from walls.
In Closing: Colorful Street Art
Sure, while it may be “unpopular” to photograph on walls (and the cat calls will inevitably continue), the most important lesson I’ve learned being on Instagram?
Be (and show) your most authentic self.
It’s your best, and frankly only option. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters? Showing your personal lens of the world to others.
Frankly that’s the only “like” you ever really need.