Dissecting Social Media with Livy Poulin

I was there for the beginning of Livy Poulin’s modeling career — literally, right there, in the only corner of my old Allston apartment to be graced with both good lighting and unscratched walls. Our best friend, Jess, kneeled on top of a kitchen stool with an iPhone and photographed away as Livy posed. Kendrick Lamar blared from somebody’s computer; it was easy yet exciting. Later that day, Livy would select a few head shots and send them to Maggie Inc. This was September 2015.

Fast forward sixteen months, and Livy, a senior at Northeastern studying Communications and Women’s Studies, is now shooting with renown photographers for brands like Reebok and Alex + Ani. At 21 years old and 39.3K Instagram followers, social media has galvanized Livy’s career in a rapid timespan.

Considering how social media has become all-encompassing in 2017, I called the girl who is truly #AllThatAndBrainsToo to learn a new perspective. Meet Livy:

How has social media, namely Instagram, played a role in evolving your career?

I’ve thought a lot about what Instagram has provided for me as a medium with which I can share my work. As someone who didn’t frequently use the app before I started modeling, I faced a certain level of cognitive dissonance throughout the process of incorporating it as a networking tool into my everyday life – in fact, I still sometimes feel relatively uncomfortable reflecting on the fact that I’ve gained what some see as a significant “following” simply by sharing photos of myself.

But this is a warped vision of Instagram’s value in the modeling, photography, and art world. The reality is that social media is a tool, and a powerful one at that. We’ve seen its influence within the political sphere, we’ve seen how it’s altered and morphed the way we communicate interpersonally, how we build relationships, how we talk about health, how we express love, opinions, and ourselves. And we can also see its influence within the artistic community, and how that has become intertwined with brand marketing.

I used Instagram to connect with photographers and models in Boston, to book my first photoshoots and begin building a portfolio. The more I engaged with the community, the greater my network became. Without becoming a part of this community, I don’t believe I would have had the same opportunities to practice and improve and build meaningful working relationships. As easy as it is to criticize social media today, I appreciate that it provides a space for models and photographers to connect and network.

In general, do you like social media?

I’ve seen a few different sides of this world of social media. I’ve definitely seen it in its most toxic form, and I’ve seen it used in inspiring ways as well. All that it really is is a platform, though- a platform that has made individual-to-masses communication possible instantaneously. It’s still up to the orator to present the message. I don’t think we can blame the existence of social media for the negative effects of toxic messages. It’s up to the individual to decide what message to send, and it’s up to all of us in society to decide how to receive it.

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Insta story from Livy’s shoot with Jo Bailon.

What helps you feel creative and confident when you’re at a shoot? Do you have any go-to artists?

I don’t always listen to music when I shoot, but when I do, it really makes it easy to get lost in the creativity process —  which of course always results in amazing photos. I feel most creative and confident, however, when I have a connection with the photographer- whether it be via meaningful conversations, or sharing an artistic vision, or mutually expressing positive reinforcement and support.

How do brands usually get in touch with you?

Brands usually have someone send a DM on Instagram or an email directly to me if they want me to promote their product.

What are some of the best parts about working with brands? 

Luckily for brands, social media has provided easy access to direct communication with a large pool of models and photographers. Brands are able to advertise for little or no cost, which isn’t really a great phenomenon because being paid in apparel or accessories or “likes” doesn’t pay your rent or buy your groceries. Some people also believe that this trend has diluted modeling and photography industries, which is an interesting analysis.

The benefit of this phenomenon, though, is that it often provides a non-traditional path for models or photographers to find work, develop client relationships, and make their own impact in the industry.

I know that you’ve unfortunately had to deal with people trolling your Instagram at times. Is there any advice you’d give people dealing with trolls of their own?

I’m not the one to give advice because I feed trolls constantly. I would never let a stranger speak to me that way in person, so when it happens online I immediately become defensive and respond. Confrontation has ended well maybe once or twice out of countless encounters…

Sorry to ask this question, but do you have any plans or dreams for after graduation?

My top goals for post graduation are to move to a new city, and to avoid the 9-5 office job for as long as possible.

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Gloucester, MA: styling by Meg Galvin, hair and make-up by Michaela Bosch, and photography by Jo Bailon.
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Livy at the MFA’s “Cities” exhibition in June. Photography and make-up by Robyn Walsh.
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Brooklyn, NY: photography by Frankie Marin.
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Brooklyn, NY: photography by Dave Krugman.
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New York, NY: photography by Kaitlyn Mikayla.
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Boston, MA: Underrated and beautiful photography by an invincible force of light, Jess Gulotta.

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