“Will that make me more popular, or more successful? People are a slave to winning other’s approvals. I refuse to bend a knee to convention and what society expects of me as a woman.” Madonna, 60, added: “I think Instagram is made to make you feel bad.”… “I was lucky enough to have a life as an artist before the phone and Instagram and social media because I did have that time to develop as an artist and a human without feeling the pressure of judgment of other people or comparing myself to other people.”
Photography has long played a crucial role in how we shape the narrative of our lives. Milestones are documented, creating an archive that can be looked back on for years to come. But the value of facilitated photographs—whether a carnival’s fake backdrop of Niagara Falls or giant stilettos at the Happy Place—are a bit more difficult to parse. The photos are blatantly staged and not attached to important life events. Rather, they’re about creating evidence of having participated in a grandiose hypervisual event that mirrors that one-upmanship of social media.
But there is still a difference between old carnivals and the current crop of pop-up experiences. Carnivals and fairs always featured a range of activities for their guests—there were games, rides, prizes, and wonders of all kinds. Photos were a treat, a way to remember a well-rounded day. Guests at pop-up experiences appear to be there for one reason only: to document themselves in a place that has been carefully designed to give every attendee the exact same photos and, by extension, the same memories.
One resident told radio station France Info: “We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos, rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath the window, or bachelorette parties who scream for an hour. Frankly, it’s exhausting.”