In 2017, is it possible for your social media followers to know who you are without seeing your face? The Spanish creative director and photographer Isabel Martinez, who goes by @IsabelitaVirtual on Instagram, says 'Yes.' And after amassing over 700,000 followers on the platform in the past five years, posting zero selfies in the process, she's out to prove that they might even know you better for it.
This week, Martinez rolled out a new project with Instagram titled, "Virtual_Soul," which explores the idea of the self in the age of social media. She asked 12 different artists who follow her on Instagram—and whom she believes connect with her artistic vision on some level—to create portraits of her, based based solely on the images they saw on her account. Most of them had also never met her in real life, meaning that they'd never her face.
"The starting point was the fact that all of us are building our identities on social media; we’re in a selfie era," said Martinez over the phone from Barcelona. "But there is also a very important group of people showing their identities not through their faces, but through their creative work and style."
A quick glance at Martinez's account and you'll gather that she's an artist who loves color, details like a gold hem or sequin embellishment, as well as surreal style and backdrops. In addition to photographing fashion weeks around the world for W, she's also worked closely with brands like Delpozo, Viktor & Rolf, and Iris Van Herpen to bring their designs to life.
"I want to express that you can show who you are on social media with other parts of your personality—not just your face, your friends, your muscles, and your ass," added Martinez.
That being said, she doesn't knock those with a disposition for selfies and sharing every aspect of their personal lives—it's just not for her. The beauty of social media, in her opinion, is that it allows you to be whomever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. But because of this, it also has come to define you.
“It effects not only how people perceive us, but also our self-perception,” said Martinez of Instagram.
Martinez was pleasantly surprised by the results of her "Virtual_Soul" experiment, however, and saw similarities throughout the twelve works, which ranged from abstract to formal portraiture. @UnskilledWorker, for example, gave Martinez two sets of eyes to highlight her visual nature, and multiple artists highlighted her hands rather than her face.
Following the release of the different works online, Martinez will also finally reveal her identity to the public via Instagram live on May 25th at 11:00 a.m. Well, her physical identity, that is.
"I don’t want to disappoint them!" Martinez said with a laugh at the prospect of showing her face. "Everything is better in your dreams sometimes."
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