I created this photo series for Every BODY Visible to highlight the tension between what is deemed to be inappropriate and what is deemed to be natural and authentic. I believe there is strength and power in vulnerability, and that when we share our vulnerability with others, we are able to connect with each other more deeply.
I took my first pole dancing class in 2010, about a month before Instagram launched. I started teaching pole in 2012, and although I saw no reason to join Instagram initially, I ended up creating an account because my students kept approaching me with skills they’d found on the platform and wanted to learn in class. I shared my first Instagram post in 2014, and I only used the account to promote my classes, share training and performance clips, and connect with other dancers.
It was because I was a pole instructor that I ultimately became a photographer. I started getting attention for my photography (and ultimately, business) because my photos were shared on social media. I eventually created a second Instagram account for my photography.
Now, 100% of my income comes from freelance photography and retouching (and the occasional performance). Although I have my own website and am on multiple social media platforms, most of the inquiries I receive that lead to bookings come from Instagram, and a lot of these inquiries are in response to my photography work in NYC nightlife.
My first post to be removed by Instagram “for violating community standards” was on my photography account. It was a photo of a topless female aerialist taken during a show at House of Yes, but I had censored the image according to Instagram’s guidelines prior to posting. Although the image was not in violation of their rules, there was no way that I could refute its removal. Since then, I have had posts removed on both of my accounts, I have been blocked from posting, and I have seen a significant drop in engagement over the past year.
Now, whether I post regularly or not, I rarely get new visitors organically, and my follower count drops every time I post. I avoid certain hashtags, particularly those related to pole and to women, because I’m afraid of getting blocked again.
There’s no denying the huge impact - both positive and negative - social media has had on the way we create, share, and consume content. It is unfortunate that we can be so dependent on it to promote our work. However, for some of us, it’s the only way we can reach our particular audience, and do so safely.
Today, on International Internet Day, you can join us in protesting discrimination and censorship on social media by posting a photo with the hashtag #everyBODYvisible. You can either post your own photo or use one of ours, which can be downloaded here. Tag Instagram chiefs @Mosseri, @SherylSandberg, @DavisAntigone, @maxinepwilliams, @Schrep, and @Guyro. You can also submit your own story on the Every BODY Visible website.
Video by Lamont Richardson.
As of publishing this blog, the hashtag #everyBODYvisible is currently locked on Instagram, but you can still post and tag the names above. This is exactly why we are protesting.
Models pictured (from left to right in group photo at top of page):