Hilton Als is a man with an enviable string of achievements and accolades to his name. Having begun his career as a writer for The New Yorker and The Village Voice in the mid ‘90s, he has gone on to add Pulitzer Prize-winning theatre critic, author, professor and art curator to his brimming portfolio. He is also a keen social documentarian — as evidenced by his excellent Instagram account, @hilton.als. The feed serves as a visual diary of friendly encounters, chance meetings and moments of note in the life of the 58-year-old New Yorker. Subjects range from Als’ family and friends — like director Kenneth Lonergan, writer Tavi Gevinson (an @hilton.als regular) and gallerists Victoria and Warren Miro — to the food he eats and the films and TV shows he watches, all captured with candour in Polaroid format.
All of Als’ posts are catalogued with his distinct curatorial eye. Each photograph holds a message that becomes part of a wider, critical narrative; whether challenging toxic masculinity or discussing racial stereotyping in the film industry, they perform a duty beyond their aesthetic value. The captions note the date and location the image was taken, as well as names of those present within it, resulting in a highly accessible archive of memories. “Recalling, for me, is a great way of living, so not to forget,” the writer told Interview Magazine in 2013. Indeed, he often reposts an image from days, weeks or months before — with no fear of boring his audience — just for the sake of reliving a moment.
Unlike the majority of his digital counterparts, who edit their feeds with a view to projecting a certain image of themselves and their lives, Als’ lives his truth through blurry snapshots, awkward angles and a palpable lust for life. No notable styling or contrivances are at play; his instant snapshots offer his view of the world as he operates within it.
Next week, Als will join Charlie Porter at Tate Modern to discuss his latest book “White Girls”, which has finally arrived in Europe following its 2013 release in the US. In celebration of the occasion, and the uniquely spirited and personal way in which Als’ uses Instagram, we present some of our favourite images from his feed for your #FF inspiration.
This is my eldest sister Sandra—we call her Sona—embracing our mother, Miriam—friends called her Marie, her children called her Mommy, or Ma—after our mother was released from a stay in the hospital in Atlanta. Our mother was a physically shy person when it came to being embraced but none of us took no for an answer. We loved touching her and consequently love touching and are shy with the people we love.
Anna Karina, Paris. Rue de Seine. 3.15.18. No sooner had I finished lunch and was running to catch my train than I saw out of the corner of my eye then I saw her, Paris itself: Anna Katina. She was at a cafe with her American husband and once I declared my fandom all her star wattage went on and lit up the grey rushed day. She took my hands in hers and when I asked for a photo she started to arrange herself to make the image. Commes ca ou commes ca? I sat down and in my heart I smiled because life had given me this moment just as I was saying goodbye to Paris and also I was smiling because just that morning I had been thinking about Anna, a Danish girl who arrived in Paris with no French but loads of energy, and allure. She and her former husband, Jean-Luc Godard, were among my first instructors when it came to “Europe” and how youth was a story in itself. She has the softest hands imaginable.