Articles

Our Faces, Our Selfies

by Alicia Eler on July 15, 2013

Detail of the painted ceiling in Waltham Abbey parish church, depicting the two-faced god Janus (photo by Steve Day, via Flickr)

Detail of the painted ceiling in Waltham Abbey parish church, depicting the two-faced god Janus (photo by Steve Day, via Flickr)

CHICAGO — Selfies are part of our voluntary self-exposure in an attempt to take back the images of ourselves, but in the process we also give ourselves away. In the world of online selfies, faces are the focus; bodies tend to appear as afterthoughts. We see a collection of eyes, lips, mouths, noses, and cheekbones, all of which makes facial recognition online that much easier. By voluntarily offering your face to the internet public space, you become a part of the identifiable masses. Isn’t it time you faced yourselfie today?

Amber Watson

Amber Watson, The Facebook Selfie (2013)

Amber Watson, “The Facebook Selfie” (2013)

Occupation: Production assistant
Selfie type: The Defiant Teen-Girl Throwback

The selfie as a medium has roots in adolescence, but it’s about far more than occupying a fluid age space. Sometimes, it’s just about talking to that teen-girl you once were.

“I wish I had something that was profound or funny to say about why I took the selfie, but it was pretty simple,” says Amber about hers. “I took the photo because I was feeling pretty when I took it. Well, actually more than pretty. I felt gorgeous. I’ve always struggled with truly feeling beautiful because I was teased and called ugly for my looks when I was younger. Even though I embrace how I look today, at times I can still feel like that 14-year-old girl who feels awkward and ugly. Now when I look at this particular selfie, its about telling my 14-year-old self, ‘Look at yourself. You’re more than beautiful. You’re fierce, unique, and striking.'”

Dana Martin Davis

Dana Davis, A Parisian Lobster in Kansas City Selfie (2013)

Dana Davis, “A Parisian Lobster in Kansas City Selfie” (2013)

Occupation: CCO, Davis Steel
Selfie type: The Long-Arm Lean-In, or a Parisian Lobster in Kansas City

“A selfie means a smile just for me, by me, and a document of a specific item I am wearing or am proposing to wear,” says Davis. “On a recent trip I lost an important dress at a hotel, and the front and back selfies I shot are my only remaining mementos. A slice in time. Party of one.”

When I asked Davis why she chose to take a selfie with lobster in tow, she offered me a clear and simple explanation: “I was on my way to an event at the Mint Museum that was a farm-to-food dinner with the F.O.O.D. exhibit going on: ‘Food, Objects, Objectives, Design.’ It was a slam dunk. Hold the butter.”

Sophia Wallace

Sophia Wallace, The Artsy Half-Smile Selfie (2013)

Sophia Wallace, “The Artsy Half-Smile Selfie” (2013)

Occupation: Artist
Selfie type: The Artsy Half-Face Selfie

Sophia Wallace shot this selfie while at a residency in Wassaic, New York. In our Facebook message convo, Sophia tells me that she takes selfies as a way of staying in touch with friends and colleagues through virtual means. This selfie serves as an introduction between her assistant, who was not with her at the residency, and his highness Pantyhose the goat.

“It’s impossible not to ham it up when a goat named Pantyhose is following you,” she says. In order to capture the goat as well, Sophia cropped out her face, making this an artsy half-face selfie of teen-girl and goat.

Timothy Garrison

Timothy Garrison, Beardless Selfie (2013)

Timothy Garrison, “Beardless Selfie” (2013)

Occupation: Library technician
Selfie type: The Just-Shaven

Timothy tells me that this selfie is the product of a year of thinking about hair. He writes the following to me in a Facebook message: “I have had a beard for almost a year, which I let grow without shaping or trimming, but with the understanding that I would shave it all off, if and when it got too hot. That day has come. Last night, after spending an entire warm and humid day thinking about it and telling my friends I might, I shaved it completely off and posted this selfie as a way of letting everyone know. Most of my selfies function as a way of keeping my friends in touch with me, even the friends who rarely see me because they live far away. In this way, I use selfies to remain honest and to demonstrate where I am. I do not see them as self-centered but as a way to stay connected and intimate and current with people I love.”

Carolyn Hopkins 

Carolyn Hopkins, Foggy Selfie (2013)

Carolyn Hopkins, “Foggy Selfie” (2013)

Occupation: Artist, admissions counselor at Pacific Northwest College of Art
Selfie type: The Foggy

Portland-based artist Carolyn Hopkins considers the medium of the selfie and what it is. Her foggy selfie distorts the usual focus on the face.

“That selfie was from a series that I have been doing in foggy windows and mirrors, where the reflection is distorted. I think it’s a nice counterpoint to what selfies usually look like (including mine) — which are hyper-aware and all about you portraying yourself the way you want to be perceived.” By making the selfie foggy and in effect not prominently featuring her face, Hopkins subverts the category. “It just makes the whole point of a selfie sort of mute,” she says.

*   *   *

I, Selfie is a series of ongoing conversations around people working in the medium of the selfie. The selfie imagemakers are accepting themselves as objects and reflecting their images back through the smartphone camera lens. They control the images of themselves that float around these murky virtual waters, but they cannot anticipate how these images will be received or perceived by others who exist in the internet void, a space that we pleasurably and both selfishly and selflessly indulge in. 

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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