To Reza Bahrami, Instagram is more than just a website created to post selfies. Through his series ReCognition, the Iranian photographer questions our behaviour on social media, duplicating and reenacting ordinary, dramatic and sometimes odd pictures.
In October 2017, Reza and his wife embarked on an extravagant journey called ReCognition. ‘Sarah and I started going through more than 5000 public accounts on Instagram. It took us more than a month!’, the Los Angeles based Iranian photographer says. Their mission? ‘To go over thousands of pictures and chose the most creative, dramatic, authentic ones, recreate them and post them on Instagram.’ The choice of the platform was an evidence : ‘it is one of the most popular social media nowadays’, says the photographer, who confesses he has a ‘love-hate relationship’ with the medium. Impressed by how much those apps influence our lives, the artist let his creativity run wild and committed to the project.
In ReCognition, there is no need to look at the diptychs for hours, since none of the staged images really resemble the original ones. Amateurs of ‘spot the differences’ games, beware. Here, content is more important than style. Should I post this picture? Why did I post this image? Should I delete this comment? Each photo on Instagram seems to inspire us, raising personal and societal issues. Why do we insist on posing in such uncomfortable positions? How should we present to the world? Is there a good way to do it anyway? Through this project, Reza questions the way people present themselves, exploring the borders of the public and private spheres. It might be easy to strip down, to put ourselves out there, but it is sometimes hard to understand why. Reza tried to answer that question by contacting the Instagramers he chose for the project. The words of the author of his favourite photo – a cigarette butt tearing a hole in a one-dollar bill – still seem to resonate. ‘I took this picture in a bar, with one of my ex roommates. She had just gotten her diploma, and I, a new job. We were there to celebrate. After a few drinks, we realised how hard we worked to earn money that would immediately be exchanged for goods and services.’
Translated by Lou Tsatsas