Articles

Revealing Your Inner Selfie

by Alicia Eler on July 29, 2013

My Daguerreotype Boyfriend Selfie via MyDaguerroeotypeBoyfriend.Tumblr.com

My Daguerroeotype Boyfriend Selfie via MyDaguerroeotypeBoyfriend.Tumblr.com

CHICAGO — Selfies are private moments made available for public consumption. When the shutter snaps, the subject realizes that they’re ready to admit something about themselves that would otherwise remain hidden.

Every image in this selection offers up clues about the subject’s identity and sense of self. This isn’t Australia’s Next Top Selfie, a contest for the next top model through the selfie medium, nor do the subjects taking selfies think they’re superheros. Every selfie is a paradoxical blend of the mundane and the magnificent—a public offering and a peek into an otherwise private moment.

Selfies invite voyeurs and onlookers alike to look without feeling as if they are trespassing. These selfies reveal humorous self-deprecation, Snapchat-induced nostalgia, reflections on the beginning of chemotherapy, complicated solutions to technology-induced problems, and a pure lust for sugar. Save for one individual in this series, I’ll admit that I’ve never met any of these people—but I feel like I know them now in a superficial kind of way. Through an offering of complicit voyeurism, each person gives me, you and everyone on the internet an opportunity to look them in the eyes, allowing us to seem them the way they would like to be seen.

Sara Frye

Selfie by Sara

Laugh at Me Selfie by Sara

Occupation: Student in Montevallo, Alabama

Selfie type: Poking Fun at Oneselfie

“Like most of my peers, my Instagram feed is littered with mirror shots of myself in new outfits and selfies taken in the car leaning against my friends on the way to or from social events. Occasionally, however, I like to snap selfies of myself that show that I can laugh at myself. Selfies are a way to present ourselves to the internet on our own terms. Sometimes my terms are ‘I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m a care-free and funny girl.’ These shots are just as much about validation as the ‘I look good today’ shots. Instead of validating my looks, I am hoping to get validation for my sense of humor. Rather than meaning ‘I don’t care how I look’ they actual mean ‘I’m not pretty enough so please laugh with me.’ While hoping to imply that I am not narcissistic enough to actual care how I look on the internet, they’re just as self-indulging as the rest of them.”

Martha Hipley

Selfie

Ego-Trippin’ Selfie by M

Occupation: Painter & Performer, Artist at EveryoneIsUgly.com

Selfie Type: Nostalgia Wrapped in Irony

“Here is a recent selfie. This began as a response to an artist friend’s snapchat of a Meowth doll, and changed from a private dialogue to a public ego trip via Facebook.

“I have a longing and a sympathy for gaming and otaku culture even though I no longer participate except as a distant observer (all of my relics are 10+ years old). Pokémon in particular was a formative obsession for me, but since I can’t bring myself to buy a 3DS and preorder X&Y, I resign myself to capitalizing on these images for my social media self, more of a boy wonder than I will ever be. If my love for Pokémon was more true, maybe I would just play the damn games, but (the Photoshop doc for this is titled “panderpanderpander.psd”) I am too old, too self-conscious, too desirous of cool points. I want to make work that people enjoy, and people still love Pokémon, and humor, and sincerity so long as it is wrapped in a veil of ‘irony.’ (BARF).”

Eileen Doyle

Selfie

Eileen Doyle’s New Body Image-Controlled Selfie

Occupation: Philadelpia-based Performance Art Curator

Selfie type: New Body Image-Controlled Selfie

“I’m Eileen Lillian Doyle, performance artist, performance art curator. I’m not a very private person, and I’m very open about what I’ve been going through. I think a selfie is opening a self to the world. I took this photo April 22, 2013 when I was beginning chemotherapy. I haven’t been able to leave the house much and my schedule is dominated by chemo infusions, blood tests, radioactive scans, various injections to keep blood levels optimal, and all the sick feelings that come with cancer treatment. My body in this state feels out of control and something other—not at all mine. I would joke after I had surgery in March that I had a whole new body. However, this ‘new body’ has no perks or cybernetic additions. This ‘new body’ marks physical and emotional losses. I had no choice in accepting this ‘new body’ if I wanted to live. I put together this outfit one day to toy with one thing I can control—my appearance. I would rather have my new body look like this. I feel more like this image than the image of a sick woman. I posted the image on Facebook for indulgent reasons. I’d rather be seen like this than a woman without hair or eyelashes. If I could go out like this all the time, I would, but summer is too hot for this look.”

James T. Green

James T. Green

Technology-induced Selfie by James T. Green

Occupation: Associate Digital Designer at Tribune Interactive, New Media Artist

Selfie type: Hi-Tech Selfie

“This photograph was taken with VSCOCam and posted to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I was about to Skype a client but realized I didn’t have a webcam available, since my laptop was closed and hooked up to my external monitor. Realizing my studio was the only place with good lighting, I attached my iPad to the external monitor and secured it using the magnets on the iPad’s Smart Cover. I then used the iPad’s front camera and the Skype app for the meeting.

Reveling in my love for making easy problems into difficult solutions, I went to take a photo of my handy work to share with my friends. Forgetting the front camera was still running on my iPad, I noticing how cool it looked to have multiple screens running as a digital mirror, and I was having a good hair day. I figured why not shoot a selfie as well!”

Shikha Kaiwar

Selfie 2

Lust for Sugar Selfie

Occupation: Employee at a San Francisco-based start-up

Selfie type: The Selfie of San Francisco, or Dessert-Questing Selfie

“I’m Shikha, a dessert-obsessed, startup-employed twenty-something living in San Francisco. I present to you: The Selfie of San Francisco.

As the unofficial pastry lurk of San Francisco, I spend my days, nights, weekends, pretty much any time I have, hunting for my next sugar rush.  Clad in sunglasses (not that we get a ton of sun here) and an appetite for the sweet and unique, I am on an ongoing adventure to discover this town as well as myself.

This photo represents the essence of San Francisco and my place in it—subtle yet whacky patterns of style, a foggy sunshine of momentary clarity, and a tangy yogurt panna cotta with apricots and almonds.  People leave their heart in this city; I leave an empty plate that I’ve licked clean.”

*  *  * 

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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  • johnwallis42

    Is there an actual point to any of this self obsessed bullshit? People’s selfies are not anymore interesting than the logos on their Tshirts and they are not art; not even under the mindbogglingly vague conceptions of what art is these days.

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Hi John,
      I don’t think anyone has explicitly claimed that selfies are art, although I think you could easily make the case for individual ones, depending on the shot. But Hyperallergic examines all of visual culture, not just “art”—and photography is obviously a huge part of that. Selfies are a big and noticeable trend within photography, and as such, they merit exploration. I can admit that I was originally skeptical of the idea, but I’ve been finding the photos and explanations that people send in pretty damn interesting.

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      Why John, you will be interested to read next week’s post, which puts the selfie medium into a great art historical context. Would anyone say that artists’ self-portraits were “self-obsessed bullshit”? Come on, think outside the comment box man! xo

    • http://www.aliciaeler.com Alicia Eler

      I also feel like this is part of a greater conversation about how technologies and social media change the way we think about images of the self. As the URL-IRL continues to become less fraught and more fluid, the selfie and the self will merge into one physical/virtual being. As Ms. Steinhauer has noted as well, this is about bigger trends in visual culture, particularly how it exists online. Enjoy the series! Perhaps you should send me your selfie. selfie [at] hyperallergic [dot] com
      You will be surprised with how you see yourself…

      • johnwallis42

        Oddly enough I once lived in a house that Oscar Wilde had lived in. I didn’t see his fabulously attired ghost in the mirror or anything; but I think it’s worth bearing in mind that he famously said;

        “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

        I don’t believe he meant to imply that would be art.

        Ms. Steinhauer has stated “I don’t think anyone has explicitly claimed that selfies are art, although I think you could easily make the case for individual ones, depending on the shot.”

        The process for determining who makes that cut and the hierarchy and mechanism for validating it are interesting questions.

        In the meantime I would merely point out the taglines for this site and perhaps a touch of identity drift. Not that drifting is a bad thing but there are some places that are more interesting to look at than others.

        BTW that is my selfie, I look like that IRL, I’m just a grey blob who’s head is disconnected. Life imitates art?

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