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How great is the word “barista”?

The word, along with the whole designed experience of a cafe, means that long before the sweet nectar is lashing across your lips, you’ve accepted that you’re about to consume something not just with function attached to it, but with craft (this sounds intolerably bourgeois but hang in there).

And when we think of craft, we think of effort, romance and care, and they make us lean into the experience a little more.

Even if the cup turns out to be a little bit… shit.

Now, imagine how the experience would change if they collectively started calling themselves “coffee bean extractors”.

No romance for either you as a customer to buy into, and maybe more importantly, definitely no romance for the person making the cup to buy into.

And how do we imagine that might end up for our morning cup?

Experiences are made of stories, and stories are made of words.

What we call ourselves or our craft, affects what it ends up as.

And so enters the slow creep of the apocalyptic phrase “content creation” over the last 4-5 years, from the marketers playbook, over to us, sole traders and wedding/people photographers.

We don’t need to wonder what a world looks like when the last drops of creative agency are taken out of us as the content & marketing machine takes hold – we just need to look at the gentle saturation of the “content-creation” generation.

I mean… it’s all in the name too. It’s not hiding what it is.

Content (stuff, any stuff, to fill space)
Creation (just make it)
Story (not today, satan)

Relentless production without the aim of either discovery or depth of relationships, pushed by Gary Vee (wait – not Gary Vee, but his team of media graduates) and distributed by whitepapers on “here’s how you can produce 64 pieces of content a day!”, just in case our solopreneur heart palpitations/labor exploitation hadn’t yet hit full swing.

If something smells like it’s wrong, trust your nose.

What the alternatives are

Recency bias will always get marketers on their marketer-megaphones telling us that we have to do the new thing at-speed (the same ones that cried “books are dead!”), but right now, we could name just as many photographers that have reached their own defined idea of success without leaning into pleasing the algorithm, as those that have. We could name as many that have leant full into their ambiguous, risky artistry, and said no to the algorithm and trending techniques, as those that have.

And that alignment shows it’s head in the work and in the depth of connections – every time.

Being human and placing priority on joy, play, depth of connection and artistic ambiguity is an act of resistance in a time when toxic algorithms are being developed by well-funded startups to take precious viewing time.

We’re not suggesting that photographers don’t have a content strategy, or don’t do styled shoots.

We aren’t saying that marketing is unimportant, either.

We are saying that we probably shouldn’t identify as content-creators, and instead continue to give respect to the stuff that got us into this beautiful mess in the first place: art, connection and servitude (these strange affirmations might help that).

We are suggesting that it’s important to check what our own alignment of values are in our practice, because connecting deeply and pushing the envelope by infusing risk and play into the work itself, is always a future-proof strategy, and humans still want to feel something when they consume that… (oh no… here’s that word…) “content”.

So knowing that any strategy can work when it’s applied consistently, and knowing the power that what we call ourselves has on the things that we make for other people, this leaves us with a pretty wild decision to make:

What do you want to be known for,

What are the musical notes you want to play,

And what do you want to spend your time doing?

“The Universe is made of stories, not atoms.”

Muriel Rukeyser

Wanna chat more about this? Hit up the Strange Atlas Facebook group.

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