A few years ago, I came across this amazing documentary that discussed how people become influencers within our society and how the idea of an influencer has evolved over time.
I want to dig into this for a little bit and give you my perspective.
To fully understand the context of an influencer, let's first understand what it means to influence. The verb to influence, in the most basic form and according to Merriam Webster, is the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways. So an influencer, in the most fundamental definition, would be someone who has the capability to impact another person’s life with the least amount of direct action; someone who has the capacity to intentionally (or unintentionally) lead by example.
Whether within the context of business, politics, sports, or art, the ability to influence ties back to one thing:
The Human Psyche
An influencer connects with people through actions and makes a psychological impact on an individual’s behavior. More specifically, an influencer satisfies a person’s hierarchy of needs (Yup I am talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory basically identifies a hierarchy of five needs that influence a person’s decisions and their motivations. Maslow categorizes the five needs into two buckets:
Lower-Order Needs: Mostly external. The most basic requirements that need to be satisfied in order to survive in this crazy world.
Higher-Order Needs: Internal. This is what separates humans from animals and provides evidence of our evolution. This is the need that an individual may or may not satisfy depending on their state of mind.
Influencers make an impact within the boundaries of the higher-order needs. Take a look at the following pyramid:
Think about it. It’s because of an influencer and these higher-order needs that:
You bought those shoes after you saw LeBron James wear them.
You started working out and eating right after seeing the transformation of a friend.
You were milly rockin’ on any block to EVERY song.
You get the point.
Influencers tap into this part of the psyche and capitalize on a person’s desire to satisfy these high-order needs.
Soooooo how does this relate to photography?
Well now more than ever, and in an abstract way of thinking about this, an image has become one of the mechanisms in which many of the connections are made between influencers and their followers. A photographer masterfully captures the objects, emotions, and circumstances that will eventually project the vision of the influencer and feed the psychological needs of their followers.
As if, the fate of both the influencer and the artist are at the hands of the photographer.
At least that’s how I see it from my perspective. I’m probably giving photographers way more credit than deserved. Let us live a little!
Oh yeah, the documentary....
Check it out! It is well worth your time!
“Influence.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/influence.
“MSG Management Study Guide.” Maslows Hierarchy of Needs Theory, www.managementstudyguide.com/maslows-hierarchy-needs-theory.htm.