In 2020 over 100 phone masts were set on fire across Europe, motivated by people believing that 5G – the newest generation of mobile networks – was the cause of Covid-19. These real world acts were fuelled by online conspiracies consumed virtually across the world.
Known to thrive in times of uncertainty, conspiracy theories have been linked to witch hunts, extremism and genocide throughout history, and have, in some places, contributed to the rejection of mainstream medicine and scientific consensuses. Today conspiracy theories have entered the mainstream; they represent changes in how we communicate and are emblematic of our so-called ‘post-truth’ society. Misinformation around 5G is not only a symbol of this landscape, but also our fear and confusion with the technology that underpins it.
“The Fifth Generation” explores our online information and misinformation landscape through the 5G conspiracy theory. Mirroring the rehash culture of conspiracy theories and the internet more broadly, it combines appropriated online images, social media exchanges, official reports, and my own photography, to weave together various voices – some true and some not – to explore the disorienting world of abundant online information and the ambiguous line between fact and fiction. Responding to the image saturated environment in which photographs exist today and considering the future of photographic image making, the work employs appropriation, montage and a combination of image and text in order to push the boundaries of documentary storytelling.
Esther Gabrielle Kersley is a research-led documentary photographer whose work seeks to tell less visible stories relating to politics, the environment and technology. Through more abstract and poetic approaches to these subjects, often employing montage and appropriation, her practice is concerned with the boundaries between truth and fiction in documentary storytelling.
Esther holds an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography with Distinction from the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. During her final year she was awarded the Metro Imaging and Made in Arts London mentorship and was nominated for the Aesthetica Next Generation award. Her work has been shortlisted for the BarTur Student Photo Award 2021, longlisted for the Jerwood/Photoworks Award 2021 and received a special mention at the Urbanautica Institute Awards 2020. Esther has worked for a number of NGOs and think tanks in the area of politics, misinformation and emerging technologies and holds an MSc in Conflict Studies and a BA in Politics which informs her practice. She lives and works in London.