BJP speaks to VICE’s editor in chief Ellis Jones and senior photo editor Elizabeth Renstrom about the magazine's annual photography issue, which is this year inspired by identity both online and off
As the apps we use become a bigger part of our daily routines, the line between our digital and real lives is increasingly blurred. “But there’s a tension point where privacy comes in which makes everything even more complicated,” says VICE editor-in-chief, Ellis Jones. How much of ourselves do we share publicly and how do we decide which pieces to share? Which labels do we use to describe ourselves? And how do we avoid others imposing labels onto us? These are a few of the questions posed in The Privacy and Perception Issue, this year’s theme for VICE’s annual photography special.
Split into four chapters – privacy, sexuality, intimacy, and gender – the magazine is inspired by how identity plays out both online and offline. Senior photo editor Elizabeth Renstrom says she wants people to engage with the ways in which the internet has changed the role of photography, and how artists are using it to challenge what is considered “the norm”. “People are now so aware of their brand and how they’re crafting their own image every day,” she says. “Being a photographer just adds a whole other layer, and I think a lot of the portfolios deal with that.”
Artists featured in the issue include Glenda Lissette, who, having inadvertently become an ‘influencer’ as a result of social media, themes her work around Instagram self-portraits. She uses Photoshop to create imagery – where falseness is emphasised and decontextualised – to critically draw attention to how we interact on social media, and how brands try to sell the female body. American-based Signe Pierce, by contrast, uses self-portraits that have not been digitally manipulated, although they appear to be, to consider the negative impact of this increasingly digital world. Renstrom says that the intention is to show how a diverse group of photographers can cover a theme in a variety of ways.
The issue also showcases a great mixture of international voices. Aarti Singh, for example, one half of Suno Labs, was born in the United States and raised in northern India; he seeks to tell more complex narratives about the south Asian country, and to make sure they are seen and consumed in India, as well as abroad. “It’s always been important to us to feature diverse voices and talent,” says Jones. “We’re a global magazine with a global audience and we try to put together an issue that we think would be universally relevant and interesting no matter where you’re from and what age you are.”
Renstrom is also keen to point out the contribution of younger, up-and-coming talent; many of which were found online. “Instagram has really democratised the medium,” she exclaims. But the issue, rather ironically, highlights the negatives of the internet. So is the purpose behind it to warn people of the dangers? “We didn’t set out hoping to shock our readers,” says Jones. “But I do think it’s telling that so many of the pieces deal with some kind of personal trauma. It speaks to how complicated and scary it can be growing up online and having to navigate those feelings, sometimes in a very public place.”
The Privacy and Perception Issue was created in collaboration with Broadly, VICE’s gender and identity focused site. It is free of charge and available internationally. Head to https://www.vice.com/en_uk for more information.