Gideon Jacobs is a writer who previously worked as a Creative Director for Magnum Photos. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, VICE, It’s Nice That, and other publications. Jacobs also has a new radio show on 8ball Radio called to “How to Exist OK.”
Tell us a little bit about what you are currently working on.
These days I’m making a conscious effort to do less editorial writing, especially photo writing, in favor of making projects that feel definitively mine. I had this realization recently that the whole reason I quit my job at Magnum Photos — a gig I really loved in some ways — was that I wanted to make my own work, and yet, most of the writing I was doing was for various publications, and the subject was generally other people’s art. So, at the moment, when I’m not doing boring pay-the-bills copywriting stuff, I’m focused on projects like this collection of stories that all of must fit within the confines of an iPhone screenshot, or this project called Confession, which is basically a phone line that exists as a modernized version of a catholic confessional.
Who are some of your favorite photographers and artists working today, especially those who are utilizing social media as part of their practice?
I’ve long felt that as the digital world begins to rival the “real” world in complexity, dynamism and depth, we’ll need as many good photographers mining that realm for imagery as we have photographers running around the streets with cameras. So, I’m really into projects like Craigslist Mirrors, where my friend Eric Oglander finds stunning images of mirrors that are up for sale on Craigslist.
Tell us a little about #ScreenshotStory and #InstaRoadTrip2016
The Screenshot Stories thing began because I believe that photography has won the day, that images are society’s go-to vehicle for storytelling, that pictures are the medium we are most comfortable consuming. Although I love photography, and have spent a lot of my life thinking and writing about it, I don’t take pictures. I write. So, I had the idea to think to start thinking of my written stories as images (I actually forced myself to write these things and then save them as JPGs). That is, I’m writing words to fill out the dimensional frame we are most comfortable with — the cellphone screen.
#InstaRoadTrip2016 is a “fake” road trip I took last year on Instagram. (This article on Vice probably explains the project best.) I drew a route across America, as so many people do, and figured out where I would “stop” each day/night. Then, in real time, I searched photos on Instagram that were geotagged in town I was “in”, screenshot-ed them, and presented them as my own, writing lengthy captions about the story of taking the photo and my interactions with their subjects. Throughout the month long “journey,” I’d regularly drop explicit hints that the trip was not “real,” and that I was writing these captions from the comfort of home. The idea was to create a tongue-in-cheek commentary that highlights the fact that photography has gone from a means of recording reality to a force that informs it. Instead of living our lives and periodically capturing the “Kodak moments” as they occur, we now manufacture them.
How do you feel about social media as a medium for artistic practice? What are good and bad things about it?
Social media is a fresh wild wild west as far as I’m concerned. It’s still so new, and I think we’re still figuring it out as a society. While we have quickly gotten the hang of using it as a means of expression and communication, I’m not sure we’ve gotten the hang of how to intelligently consume content there, especially when it comes stuff like truth and representation. To me, this is both the worst and best part about social media. I’ve enjoyed highlighting the lawlessness, and sometimes playing with the confusion. For example, I once pretended to get stuck in an elevator and posted all these screenshots of text messages I was sending an imaginary woman I met on Tinder.
What do you want to work on next?
I want to write a bigger, longer thing. I was an actor as a kid, and I have this idea for a strangely formatted “novel” about a kid actor. This wouldn’t be autobiographical. More of a “write what you know” sort of thing. Also, I want to make some IRL performance pieces.
Find Gideon on Instagram to see more of his projects.