I have never considered myself to be a visual artist. As an English Literature graduate and lifelong lover of words, my strengths always lay with written media and art forms, and I’m incredibly proud of that. However, when my course finished during lockdown I found that these skills inevitably became tangled up in the post university job hunt. I felt pressure to constantly improve my writing, to produce something I could display to prospective employers, or somehow monetise upon. Instead, I wanted an activity to pursue that was completely separate from this, purely for my own creative fulfilment.
One of the people I isolated with was my partner, an avid photographer. I knew taking photographs was fun, and I loved seeing the pictures he came back with after his daily walks. But I always thought it was something I simply could not do, as I never felt I had the eye for it. Around the same time, many of my course friends set up accounts on Instagram to share what they were reading and remain part of a bookish community after graduating. Affectionately referred to as a ‘bookstagram’, these accounts looked like a lot of fun, so I took the plunge and set up my own.
I took a couple of sheepish shots with my iPhone before asking my partner to help set things up, and quickly progressed to using his digital camera. I knew little about the technicalities, but I slowly learnt what angles looked good and how to get the effects I wanted. The theme of my account is books in outdoors locations, and I found it endlessly satisfying to find the perfect flower or piece of greenery to compliment a book cover. I still express myself in writing through the lengthy reviews or discussions included in my captions, but creating something visual that I was proud of – and wanted to show other people – was new for me.
Although Instagram thrives on followers and likes, I have found numbers matter very little to me, instead finding delight in the comments people leave or the enthusiastic conversations we have about literature via direct messages. I have made some great friends so far, and value the community and its welcoming members. I strongly believe if you create something that makes you happy, you’ll find like-minded people who appreciate your work. It has brought so much joy to me that I encouraged my partner to set up his own account featuring landscape and macro photography, and he loves the ways it has made him consider his work. Creating and editing pictures together has been a relaxing way to spend time together during isolation.
The easing of lockdown has impacted how I use my account. The main change is I no longer have the hours to spend interacting with others and creating my own images, but I have made things work for me and my new schedule. I post less content now, but I am still very proud of what I produce, considering I thought visual creation was beyond my means.
The other change has been moving out of my student house has meant I have lost the lovely garden that inspired many of my pictures. However, the positive side of this is my partner and I get to grab a camera and a bag of books and explore. Setting up this account was different to anything I have ever done before, so do check out my account and maybe start your own!