We are firmly nestled in an age of digital wonder, where anything is possible. Our interactions with technology have resulted in permanent ways to impact our lives or visualise ourselves in the future, at the very least on the superficial level. Looks can be altered permanently with machinery in a plastic surgeon’s office, vision corrected to perfection via the popular ‘Lasik’ (laser) surgery, and somewhere in mid-2019, people began using Face-Tune to show off how they’d look like in fifty years’ time.
But in an age where anything truly is possible, we are also endowed with the gift of impermanence, where we can import ways and features in which we want to look, and have them fizzle and dissolve away with a shake of our heads.
That’s right. Today, we’re talking Instagram filters.
I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a slightly similar, yet strikingly different Instagram-story of someone’s face. I used to follow House of CB, a London-based womenswear label, on Instagram, and still follow the founder, Conna Walker. Walker looks like the epitome of elegance and boss-woman, and her sleek pony, clear skin, full lips and fleeky brows are a signature look featured in every Instagram story. But this time, her eyes were sparkling slightly more than usual.
I realized that the story featured not just her glowing appearance, but small text on the top-left corner: “perfect face”, the text stated, followed by the name of a ‘creator’. I clicked on it. Could I get a ‘perfect face’ too?
Thus began my foray into Instagram story filters. I now have ‘Diana doll’ and ‘Boss Diana’ filters by Diana.
Love Islander Joanna Chimonides is another UK influencer I follow on the ‘gram, because I was intrigued by some of her Love Island 2019 decisions. She uses ‘Barbie’ and ‘Bill$’, Instagram filters that suit people with specific facial features such as cupid bow’s lips and sharp cheekbones (I have none, oops). I decided to try the filter too. But I looked vastly different from Chimonides. My lips looked unnaturally large; my eyes looked steeped in at my temple. Yet, she wore that filter like a second skin.
Joanna’s Instagram (You go queen)
Fine, the Instagram story filter was easily applicable, as if it were my second skin – but a second skin does not mean that it is a natural skin, and that prompted me to explore the world of Instagram story filters further — we all use them, whether it is to jump on the bandwagon, to explore different looks temporarily, to spice up our Instagram stories, to enhance our looks. But some of them distort and contort our features to fit into a specific stereotype of beauty – while some rest uneasily on the bridge of our noses, as if saying that our ethnicity does not provide a smooth-enough canvas for the filter to be transposed upon, and transform our looks into the ideal we are going for in that fifteen seconds of story.
I decided to talk to Marie Varillon, an art director in France. She creates and curates creative realities, and digitizes alternate realities of the face to enable the average Instagram user to change their appearance.
Hi Marie — it’s an honour to be talking to you. I saw your Instagram filters and had to ask – Why did you decide to create Instagram story filters?
I decided to create Instagram filters because I am an artistic director and illustrator, and for me it was a new way of being able to express my creativity; but also because I love learning new skills and learning to create filters was a new challenge for me!
That’s exciting! I think it’s wonderful to make your mark in a digital world creatively by creating these flickering filters that can add a whole new dimension to one’s look — did you use Instagram story filters before creating your own?
Yes! I really liked testing the most creative or funniest filters! I could spend a lot of time scrolling through the filter gallery!
I see! Let’s go back to your own beautiful creations; myosotis and paquerettes! Can you describe your IG story filter’s intended effect in one sentence?
I just like creating filters that allows everyone to feel beautiful, but also to make it possible [for Instagram users] to make stories [when they want to] without worrying about whether our face/head appears “okay” or not!
Are your filters inspired by any culture ?
Not really! they are rather inspired by my illustrations, or my creative universe!
Do you think that your filters are suitable for every person’s face, given that sometimes some filters work best on people with specific ethnicities and corresponding facial features ?
Yes — I’m trying to create filters that can be used by as many people as possible. I try to be the most inclusive because the filters are accessible to everyone, and everyone should be able to use them all.
I found Marie to be an extremely passionate and creative individual who goes beyond the typical Instagram filter creator who may look to emulate a certain ethnicity’s standard of beauty and thereby allowing others to transpose these ethnically-rooted alterations on their faces. Instead, she highlights certain characteristics of beauty or wanderment and creates a filter that is inclusive — unless you have a particular dislike for pastel blue and pink!
Thank you, Marie.