Articles

Selfies Reflected in Your Eyes

by Alicia Eler on February 3, 2014

Sunglasses #selfie with fellow Hyperallergic Writer Ben Valentine in Los Angeles. Photo by Alicia Eler.

Sunglasses selfie with fellow Hyperallergic writer Ben Valentine (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — Your selfies are a visual wonderland. This week’s images touch on boredom, mother-daughter relationships, photo booth self-portraits as predecessors of the selfie, webcam-induced mirror reflections, and plain old internet “weirdness” that borders on creepy. But first, this week’s busy selfie news beat.

Anonymous, a project 21-year-old Lindsay Bottos, considers the types of hateful anonymous messages that the artist has received via her Tumblr, specifically in response to selfies that she posts. Sadly, this is par for the course for young women and feminine-gendered people who are active on Tumblr. Bottos has paired the comments with the photographs to create a responsive feminist art project. As she told Buzzfeed: “The act of women taking selfies is inherently feminist, especially in a society that tries so hard to tell women that our bodies are projects to be worked on and a society that profits off of the insecurities that it perpetuates.” Bottos says she has also received many affirming messages, not just reactionary hate mail. The project is still in progress, but once complete, it will provide a snapshot of the type of anonymous internet trolling that young women growing up online experience today, often times alone behind their computers.

A new campaign from Dove, the same company that used plus-sized models in their advertising, talks to mothers and daughters about whether or not selfies are creating new standards of beauty. Of course, selfies are partly about receiving external validation for how you look, and to truly build self-esteem, people must be OK with themselves regardless of others. Yet selfies are a way that young people visually communicate with their friends, especially about sensitive questions such as “how do I look today?” In the ABC News video on the story, Jennifer Wider, co-author of Got Teens? The Doctor Moms’ Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities, says about adolescents and the selfie, “It’s a very powerful moment for them that we can’t really understand.” But she adds that not all selfies should be public: “intimate moments should still be intimate moments — they are not for everyone.”

The Hyperallergic crew had a blast at this week’s meetup in Los Angeles. I did some mirroring in these two sunglasses selfies with Hrag Vartanian and Ben Valentine, and then there was a hall of mirrors at Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown, where Ben, An, and I posed before the Chinese New Year Parade trotted down the street. We even took some photo booth photos, which seemed like selfies the moment that Hrag uploaded them to Twitter. But enough about us. Here’s to you, selfie friends.

Melody Chang Snyder

Melody Chang Snyder's selfie

Melody Chang Snyder’s selfie

Occupation: Student/artist
Location: Chicago

“This is gold mirror board (‘Premium Crafts Papers with Impact!’), a reflective card stock intended for scrapbooking and birthday cards to your grandma. I like the material’s awkward position between cheapness and quality, preciousness and disposability. I was using this material for a book I was making at the time. So I’m testing the reflectivity of this paper using my webcam, and there’s my laptop, all warpy, the site of so many things: art making, consuming, producing, meditation, research, brain dead black holes, personal interactions, and in this case, a mirror presenting a mirror, with the potential of infinite reflection. And there I am, acknowledging myself in this moment, whatever moment — neither of those clocks work — outputting a public image of myself considering my process.”

Ellen Greene

Ellen Greene sticker selfie with daughter Ruby

Ellen Greene’s sticker selfie with daughter, Ruby

Occupation: Artist
Location: Winnetka, Illinois

“I call this one sticker selfie — the little hand is my daughter, Ruby. It’s a little mini performance where I asked her to cover me in stickers, and she gladly decorated me. This act of ‘stickering’ (adding shining, smiley details to an object) is something my girls do a lot. So I was interested in being the subject of stickering, of understanding what it was like to fully be covered in smiley faces. I am not someone who mugs easily for the camera or smiles for selfies. But so much of girl culture and media is all about smiley, shiny, cute, princess-y images. I grew up in a much more unisex toy and product culture, where there were no mini princess costumes or glitter shoes. It was the ’70s, and the post-’60s hippie culture really was still an influence, with primary colored toys and a kind of wholesome innocence. I joke I grew up BDP, before Disney princess. I mean, there were princesses in fairy tales, but it was not marketed as this hypersexual feminine princess culture. Anyway, as a mother I find it difficult to navigate the girl culture onslaught of all things happy and pink and glittery. This sticker-face selfie was a way to capture that feeling of being consumed by girl culture’s shiny happy artifice and my discomfort with it.”

Shareef Elfiki

Shareef Elfiki's "bored" selfie

Shareef Elfiki’s “bored” selfie

Occupation: Musician
Location: San Francisco

“I took this here selfie on my birthday this year (August 27). My partner, Claire, was at work all day, and there was nobody for me to hang out with until the evening, and I was feeling sort of depressed. I figured taking a shower and putting on some clothes might be good idea. Honestly taking this might have been the high point of my day.

“I was at home alone because 1) I was unemployed 2) Claire was teaching all day and going to school in the evening. By the time she actually got to my birthday dinner, at like 10pm, she was totally exhausted. The selfie was the high point of my day, I guess, because I was feeling depressed and anxious and lonely and bored, about a bunch of different things, but I got to feel cute and get some nice virtual attention to boost my spirits for a little while.”

William Hirr

William Hirr's selfie

William Hirr’s selfie

Occupation: 67 YeaRs oLd, Retired, 40 YeaRs WorKeD aS a LaB ScientisT iN CLiniCaL PaThoLoGy aT The UniVerSiTy of CaLifornia at San Diego…
Location: SoCal yo

“OBDADA =  iF LooKs couLd KiLL= i’D bE DeaD — jusT HangiN’ oN bY a ThreaD …

“iT’s jusT a  SimpLe Selfie==takeN wiTh Apple PhoToBooth aPP oN mY compuTeR … ”

Eva Lake

Eva Lake, 1979

Eva Lake, 1979

Occupation: Artist
Location: Portland, Oregon

“I must have started going into the photo booth at age 3, when I sat with my mother in LA. And I just kept going. The pinnacle is right before and during the punk era, the late ’70s. Every time I saw a photo booth, if I had the money, I went in. I wasn’t the only one — I hung out with a small group of crazies who hauled in all kinds of objects and backdrops to create a ‘set’ in the booth. While I had no camera, I was very conscious of the fast and fleeting times, that nothing was stagnant. I needed to record it all as best I could. Another thing I did was collage with the photo booth pictures — I made many during that same era, plus some are glued into my diaries. I have 156 notebooks of those, a sort of companion to the photos.”

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Email Hyperallergic your selfie at selfies [at] hyperallergic.com, along with a brief explanation of why you shot it and what it means to you.

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