Articles

All the Pretty Selfies Are Here to Stay

by Alicia Eler on December 23, 2013

Selfie in the eye of a horse (by Pandora's Perspective on Flickr)

Selfie in the eye of a horse (by Pandora’s Perspective on Flickr)

CHICAGO — Just because “selfies” was named Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year and Barack Obama shot that funeral selfie doesn’t mean these internet self-portraits are a passing fad. No, my friends, selfies are here to stay, both in a public discourse and art vernacular kinda way. Visual communication rules our technocentric lifestyles, and the selfie is a natural outgrowth of how we communicate and connect in a hyper-social-networked world. Where are selfies going next? Here are five selections to set the tone for 2014.

Karan Kapoor

Karan Kapoor's selfie

Occupation: Creative at JOINTHESTUDIO
Location: Austin

“I have been battling with the Selfie since the dawn of Myspace. I’ve always felt awkward and uncomfortable in front of a camera. It wasn’t that I felt unphotogenic, but that my vision of myself did not fit what the shutter captured. There was always something missing. I had to mold myself into a human that was comfortable in their own skin, someone that did not second guess if they were authentic enough to be in front of the camera. Being authentic or true is essential in a selfie. It shows parts of who you are, your point of view and situation in life.

“The previous selfie I took before this occurred a few days after I had been robbed earlier this year. They took a number of projects, my school portfolio, Kickstarter rewards, a library of unreleased JOINTHESTUDIO work as well as a documentary. That selfie was to dog-ear where I was at that point, how low I felt I had fallen.

“The picture now was taken 10 months after. Same style with a reflection, but from a much higher point in terms of location and position in life. It’s me letting people know that I am OK. On a more personal level, it’s showing myself progress from what felt like the bottom. This selfie captured a moment where I realized my point of view and situation were OK. It’s was taken to remind myself that it is possible to pick yourself up and continue.”

Victoria Casal-Data

Victoria Casal-Data's selfie

Occupation: Freelance writer for Hi-Fructose magazine blog and Beautiful/Decay, bilingual copywriter
Location: Tampa, FL

“I had to share this one on here because I think its makes a compelling point about today’s selfie phenomenon; not just this, but it also makes profound observations about what one, as a consequence of social networks and mainstream media’s fixation on perfection, might feel as they look in the mirror (or take a picture of themselves). ‘My insecurities become me’ is a powerful statement that might in fact be reinforced as we take pictures of ourselves to validate who we are to others through the virtual world.

“It was clever on the part of the artist to place these sayings on a mirror knowing that many, if not all, the viewers would in fact be ‘forced’ to take a ‘selfie’ with the work in order to showcase its ‘wisdom.’

“I think it’s very true of anyone that takes selfies. I, for the most part, feel better about myself when I take a good picture of myself. I feel better when I take control of the camera and render myself in ways I like to be portrayed. The juxtaposition between the text and the selfie make a very truthful point. I took this shot at Pulse Miami 2013.”

Jonathan Yegge

Jonathan Yegge poses in a photograph by his friend Chris Cobb, who acts as a mirror in this self-portraiture performative act

Jonathan Yegge poses in a photograph by his friend Chris Cobb, who acts as a mirror in this self-portraiture performance act.

Former occupation: Performance artist, PhD student
Location: New York City

Chris Cobb submitted both the photograph above and text below about this friend Jonathan Yegge, who died just a few weeks ago.

“I am submitting this for a friend of mine who died a few weeks ago. He said he wanted a picture of himself at this moment and posed. It was at 3:30 am in McCaren Park when he was extremely drunk and had just offered to perform oral sex on me, which I refused. He started to cry, and that’s when he said ‘at least take my picture.’ So I did.

“Jon was a performance artist in San Francisco who got kicked out of school for a piece he did. He had tied someone up and pooped on them and had sex with them. After he was thrown out he moved to Greenpoint and enrolled in a PhD program, but ended up drinking himself to death before he finished. He was 37. He struggled with his sexuality and with making art. In the end the world got the better of him.”

Rachel McPadden

Rachel McPadden's Facebook profile photo/selfie

Occupation: Writer
Location: Chicago

“I was doing a lot of writing for a women’s site and although the feedback I personally received was overwhelmingly positive, I found myself very sensitive to negative comments directed towards my fellow contributors and hyperaware of the toll they take on the psyche of writers who are open about their lives online. Just as we tend to remember the bad things in real life a little larger and longer than the good things (some of us), 100 validating compliments don’t seem to cancel out that one slight that matches the evil voice in your head. Don’t read the comments.”

Ben Valentine

Ben Valentine selfie with Gerhard Richter

Ben Valentine’s selfie with Gerhard Richter

Occupation: Writer
Location: San Francisco

“Selfies are one means of many of placing yourself into the world. In a culture perhaps most defined by our advertisements, controlling how you want to be seen, or if you’re seen at all, can feel very empowering. Selfies can be fun, creative, but also bold; I love them most when they are bold. :) Social media is awash in imagery often looking nearly identical, latte art, skyscrapers, concerts, and more are all over my feed. Adding your face into the scenery is an easy way to say, ‘I was here, this is me.’

“I most often do this by adding my sense of humor into the landscape. Sure, I may write a serious article about Gerhard Richter — I love his work — but I also don’t take ‘Art’ exceptionally seriously. The art market is ridiculously weird and surreal; why not express that feeling too? Why not enjoy yourself in that weirdness? Why not add to it?

What excites me most are the selfies that I — as a white male — am not involved with. I am seeing selfies of people largely ignored, or maybe worse, misrepresented in mass media. People culturally understood as ugly, queers, people of color, indigenous peoples, and so on are all participating in selfies as a form of self-love and empowerment. Discovering that marginalized groups are carving out ever larger spaces for themselves online to be who they choose, flaunt it, love it, be proud of it, and share it, I still think it’s exceptionally beautiful. Although that empowerment may be just an accidental by-product of citizen media, I think it’s real, and I only hope to see those spaces grow bigger. I am sure selfies will be a part of that process.”

*   *   *

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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