Will 2020’s Occulture Visual Trend Spill Onto Photography?

It will be interesting to see how the growing curiosity and visual experimentation involving the occult, esotericism, and spirituality translate into photography projects this year.

Among the visual trends Shutterstock included in their fearless forecast for 2020 is Occulture, which they described as imagery involving spiritual elements like magic, astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, and palmistry, with motifs that range from cosmic to creepy. We’re definitely seeing a lot of these in illustrations, packaging design, and branding. We’re sure some of you may be wondering whether this trend will crossover to photography? How can photographers use and interpret this growing interest in the occult?

First, a little background about this visual trend. Shutterstock backed up this obsession for the mystic and the mysterious with some data from their own platform. Apart from a 525% rise in searches for “magic” and 289% increase for “spiritual,” they also found that this trend is particularly seen among Millennials and Gen Z individuals. They attributed this renewed interest in the occult to “a desire to express greater individuality” and “reconnect with and respect nature in an environmentally fragile world.” Supernatural and occult-themed TV shows like American Horror Story, Stranger Things, The Witcher, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina also reinforce the trend among the younger audience.

The way we see it, Occulture may be predominantly for illustration and design, but it will eventually bleed into photography, whether as a theme for conceptual photography, or in the form of product photos, fashion editorial themes, and branding imagery. Designers and creators selling their occult-themed products will eventually need the expertise of photographers in highlighting the best details of their masterpieces. While the strange and the mysterious have long been popular photography themes (especially fantasy and surrealism), some of us may become encouraged to experiment with visual stories and concepts that depict many different manifestations of the spiritual and the magical.

According to Shutterstock, Occulture can be both playful and powerful, and creatives are free to lighten or darken the mood. Therefore, images depicting mystic energies, rituals, spirituality, meditation, tarot readings, witchcraft, and magic tricks would be great for photographers who want to incorporate this trend into their projects. Shutterstock is also expecting the appeal of the occult to go beyond 2020, existing as a dominant trend fueled by a wider social movement focused on individualism and connection. It looks like it’s going to be around for a while, so we might as well see how it can add a darker, mysterious flavor to our photography.

Interested in exploring Occulture for your photography? We suggest checking out some fine examples from Magdalena Franczuk, Ezo Renier, Paul Calderwood, Charlotte Grimm, Renae Nicole Rodriguez, and Ian Beoulve to give you some ideas.

Cover photo by Renae Nicole Rodriguez. Used with Creative Commons permission.