Are you ready for an article about Gen Z? I am. Born after 1995, these young people are old enough now, ready to make splashes, to influence the world and be the talk of the town. A separate identity is emerging for them, distinctive from that of the older millennials. They are stepping out of the shadows and into the sunlight with their fresh youth culture. (And with the words ‘fresh youth culture,’ I age about 50 years.)
The emergence of Gen Z has started to become obvious to the rest of the world over the last year. It came with the realisation that there was suddenly new, unknown slang, and a meme culture that even millennials are struggling to understand.
Meme culture may sound like an odd way to define an age group. But Gen Z are the ones who grew up with social media, smartphones and memes as a fact of life. They are a whole new generation unlike anything we have ever seen before.
And they are already making their mark on Instagram. It’s a refreshing mark, yet one that shows how generations can repeat themselves and humans are prone to patterns.
What are Gen Z, those teenagers and young adults, posting on Instagram? Candids. But not the candid you’d think of, while also being precisely the candid you would imagine. If that makes any sense? Maybe not, so let’s go back to basics.
According to the dictionary, a candid is a ‘…photograph of a person taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.’ But Instagram has taken the candid photo to a whole new level. Faking it to a magazine-like quality. Perfectly posed men and women caught in the middle of the laugh, enjoying themselves while looking effortless put together. Caught staring off into the distance deep in thought, except the picture is perfectly framed and they don’t have a hair out of place. We have all learned how to perfect the natural pose (or at least I have.)
But that is no longer trendy. Oh, we’ll definitely continue doing it for the next 20 years, long enough for us to become grossly unfashionable and then fashionable again. Just like the whole decade of the 80s. But for now, the truly candid photo is ruling supreme. Sort of.
There are two kinds of candid photos that are being popularised. Taking on a whole new meaning, in contemporary photographic language, candid now means an un-filtered natural photo. So perhaps your photo is still grainy, and your friends are smiling for the photo, but it’s not picture-perfect. It’s just a photo.
Sound familiar? You may have a photo album full of photos like this, snapped away before digital cameras let us preview our pictures and realise that we could retake them at more attractive angles. Well those plain, naturalistic photos are back and a conscious choice. If someone ruins the photo by sticking out their tongue, or half the room doesn’t even realise it is happening, well even better.
The current period in digital image capture shares remarkable similarity with the age of home photography from the late 80s and early 90s. Cameras were commonplace, the world was used to them. The need to pose, to capture a perfect photo had disappeared along with the novelty of owning a camera.
Now the novelty of phone cameras has also disappeared, and we are finally getting less excited about our ability to take artistic photos and are just back to recording fun moments with friends. We are still posting them, of course, and social media lives on.
The second candid photo trend has been renamed ‘plandid.’ Plandid? Planned candid. Doesn’t that defeat the point? Yes, it does but we just need to accept that language evolves, and we can’t rely on words to retain their meaning forever.
The planned candid is just as posed as the current Instagram photos, but it has a certain graininess. The quality of the photo is unimportant, in fact the messier the better. All that needs to be perfect is the naturalistic pose of the subject. It’s the ultimate fake candid photo.
And with that, I propose we all start using artistic terms such as ‘naturalistic’ when discussing personal and amateur photography. I am sick of the word ‘candid.’