Alongside social media networking, the genre of ‘True Confessions’ websites were a powefully active genre of the last decade. Grouphug, which was moving, shocking and disturbing, (grouphug some nsfw), partly because of its content and partly because of the very real but momentary therapy the site seems to provide troubled souls. It feels odd to be witness to such raw feelings.
The phenomenon of PostSecret added pictures to secret-sharing, and individuals were encouraged to decorate and send in a postcard that pictured a secret truth. Set up by Frank Warren and with roots in mail art, the site has spawned a Number One New York Times bestseller, webby Awards and most significantly, won an award from the National Health Association for its contribution to suicide prevention.
When PostSecret works powerfully it is because of the makers curation of word and image, where the image works to express a feeling as much as an idea.
Dazed Digital (the website of fashion/culture magazine Dazed and Confused) has just launched its Just Tell The Truth project which invites readers to “anonymously divulge your transgressions, big or small, with a personal piece of confessional art. To be redeemed, simply pair your confession with an image of your choice from our gallery of Rise photographers.” The campaign accompanies a more highbrow event at London’s Royal Opera House in which film-makers art critics and writers among others discuss current fashion and culture.
The mix of truth and fiction in all of these projects is the reader’s judgement. But what gives the confessions the feeling of vulnerability, when the reader has a sense of something at stake for the poster, is when word and image sync. Like the D&AD award-winning French Connection campaign the simple, conjunction of word and picture, not overthought or overworked, is undeniably powerful and often undervalued in advertising. Its emotional honesty is visual communication’s sweet spot.