From Ashley Kauschinger’s interview with Lissa Rivera for Don’t Smile:
AK: What do you think the role of art and photography is playing in contemporary society?
LR: The language of photography deeply influences communication, identity, and self-image. The media uses repetition as a psychological tool to promote particular ideals of beauty, using familiarity to reinforce recognition. Those ideals are not static; they change over time. Today, the practice of photography is open to almost everyone, and the general public has the tools to build a public archive of their own likenesses and ideals. Art is not threatened by this phenomenon, any more than writers are threatened by the sale of no. 2 pencils. But because of the very human desire to assimilate to one’s surroundings and mimic repeated trends, visual culture remains deeply inflected by both its own history and by the imperatives of capitalism and consumer culture, despite its radical democratization. Physical beauty is still presented to women as an element of survival. These trends tend to reinforce gender roles that police sexuality and relationships. A lot of image culture, especially in advertising, and in mediums closely allied to advertising like television and social media, seems targeted to produce feelings of anxiety and lack. At the same time, artists and photographers have the potential to both interrogate contemporary image-culture, and to transcend it.