Max Dauven: Heracles series
The three photographic works in the Heracles series (Heracles fighting his vitruvian Body; Heracles and the Nemean Cat; Heracles Gymmaxxing) are an exploration of the visual language of men's rights activists, esoteric fitness influencers, incel culture, and similar players on a wide variety of internet platforms.
On display are compositions consisting of a classic Heracles statue, as well as certain memes, symbols, and viral media that are particularly prevalent in the media used by the above-mentioned protagonists. Certain set pieces are direct quotes to specific individuals: Heracles, for example, is a reference to the radical right-wing Bronze Age Pervert, active since 2013, which has strongly influenced some of these subcultures and propagates a return to supposed role models of the ancient world. The championbelt is a reference to Andrew Tate, who has also become visible in the mainstream in recent months.
Online communication has for too long been seen as irrelevant and trivial, despite the fact that its subcultures have a great influence on how a large proportion of people behave on Internet platforms. Very slowly, this realization is coming to mainstream media. We need to understand the visual languages of these subcultures in order to engage with them. For me, this task is particularly exciting from a photographic point of view, because as a photographer you have a understanding of visual language and how images work.
Memes and viral media are also interesting from a photo-theoretical viewpoint because their fundamental properties - mutating, changing, sharing with other people, producing content as a collaboration - rely on the media specificity of the digital image. The image must be packable and manipulable, otherwise memes and viral media as we know them today could not exist.
In my work, I use almost exclusively analog photographic techniques: The photos are created through long exposures in the photo studio and are not digital collages. I use this concept to place online imagery in the context of artistic photography, making it accessible to a broader audience who might not otherwise frequent subcultural online forums.