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Youth, Loneliness and the Internet

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

Aubrey Simpson
February 21, 2019

Youth is spent trying to be perceived a certain way. Either through how we look or act, an image is created that is hyper- what we want to be. It's a performative trip through adolescence and one that Aubrey Simpson captures through transcendent photography.

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In the quest for acceptance, it has become apparent that the very devices aimed to bring us together can have the opposite effect. Cameras meant to capture moments of happiness end up showing staged representations of what actually happened. It's often hyperreal and performative, all distilled into the images that are presented as true to life.


On a recent series entitled These are the best days of your life, Simpson draws the viewer in through seductive lighting to draw our attention to the plight of attention and image, of how we see ourselves and others and how far that can be from the truth.


Simpson says, "I wanted to photograph our isolation, and all the alienation and estrangement that goes with being a young adult. These images are my exploration of detachment and disconnection, birthed in reaction to the phrase i’ve heard again and again."

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Everything is steeped in a contemporary irony. When we are seen to be our most happy, we are sad. When we look like we're together, we're never further apart. Intimacy in the moment is reserved for phone conversations. Your friends are props, conversation is a distraction from the 'real-er' life unfolding on the glowing screen.


Going on, Simpson says, "Our Snapchat stories are the daytime tele of our empty days. These are the best days of your life."

There's a sense that things only actually happened if they were captured, anything else is insufficient enough to even be stored as a memory. When does it end? If we lock the phone, the screen acts as a scratched and well-worn mirror, but the face it reflects isn't the same without the filter. The personality of our instant messages doesn't bleed through. We are two people.


There's an appearance for real life and another for our digital one. We're never here nor there, nor in fact anywhere. Yet at the same time, we're everywhere all the time. Simpson captures this disconnect, a well-worn theme explored in a new way.

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