Arvida Byström and Molly Soda are two artists striving to expose the violation of rights, oppression and inequality within social media. Their books, “Pics or It Didn’t Happen” does precisely this, alongside exhibiting a collection of exquisite imagery that we would otherwise be restricted to viewing elsewhere.
The images Instagram didn’t want you to see.
How did this project transpire?
Well both me and Molly had had a lot of friends being vocally upset about their photos being taken down from online, and then I got something taken down and complained about that and then Molly suggested that we should make a book.
If you had control over the Instagram guidelines, what would they be (if any)?
I mean, me and Molly have been talking about this a lot. We would still want guidelines and censoring because, you know, you need some. You need a moderator online because otherwise it would be very insane like we’ve seen with Facebook and so-called ‘fake news’. But, what I usually suggest is that we deal and censor bodies equally. Right now, there’s a divide between gender, there’s a divide between hairiness; different bodies get treated different and I think that is kind of a bad pattern.
Censoring the human body is unfortunately no surprise to us at all, even in 2017. Do you feel that we will ever have full control over our bodies?
I mean, it depends on what ‘full control’ means. I think just being a human being is like, being out of control, and that is just something that we have to accept and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it comes to society telling us what to do with our bodies, I mean, yeah, we still have a long way to go and you know, how people perceive bodies and what people put into bodies and I mean, it’s a very complex issue.
Did you receive many submissions from men?
No, not a lot. Not a lot at all. There’s a few men in there, which are really beautiful photos, but yeah, we didn’t get a lot of submissions from men. I think it’s a mix between the fact that there is not a lot of men following us, and there’s not a lot of men posting these sexy photos. Maybe people get dick pics taken down, but I feel like they usually DM these and don’t put them up publicly. But, you know, it’s this kind of dance for women and fem people in society where you get shamed for having a sexual language with your body, but you also get a price for it and it’s like a way to success or something, sadly, or maybe not sadly, but it’s like this back and forth dance where you wanna be this and you hate yourself for being this and I mean, it doesn’t help that Instagram shames you for it too.
Upon receiving people’s submissions, did you begin to recognise a prevalent theme?
I mean, of course there’s a lot of thin, white girls with fairly small boobs that are showing their nipples because, the step for them to show their nipples is not very big, so there’s a lot of those even though we try to mix it up in our curation. And I mean, I think it’s, you know, of course there’s a pattern of the people that that will send those photos, that doesn’t mean that’s everything that gets taken down from Instagram. But yeah, in our book, there’s a lot of like, body-related issues.
Sadly, the majority of society would agree that these images are ‘offensive’; do you think that this is down to the media, such as Instagram, forming a vicious circle of what is socially acceptable and what isn’t?
Yes, I think this is exactly how things work. Like if society says, ‘yeah, we’re not gonna ban this and whatever – it might be things that you’re not into, but we’re not gonna ban this’, then people will grow social acceptance for it. I think that with maybe breastfeeding in public, in Sweden or something, people wouldn’t think twice about it. I would say that people just pull out their boobs and feed their fucking babies and that’s fine, but here, it seems to be something that people hide more and they have these fabrics that they put over their boobs and you know, things like that. I think it’s just something that is not socially accepted. I guess you’re allowed to pull out your boob and breastfeed your baby but even things like that, I mean I think it’s possible to create a society where it isn’t shocking, you know? And I think that it’s kind of good, I mean everybody has bodies I think it’s, to me, that’s something to strive for, that people aren’t so shocked and annoyed and frustrated by bodies. I mean, they will do their thing even if its gross or not, that’s just how it is.
The book is such an innovative creation with an incredibly powerful narrative; what do you most of all hope to accomplish?
Firstly, thank you. And I mean, me and Molly have been talking a lot about how it’s interesting to archive something in a book that’s been removed from online, and the book in a sense, from our perspective is almost like a graveyard where you put it into history and history means that it’s, you know, the past, so I think there’s a lot of discussions like that that we find really interesting and I mean, I don’t think there’s something to really hope to accomplish by it, it’s just kinda like a project that felt like it made perfect sense, and that’s why we did it.
Purchase “Pics or it Didn’t Happen” here