CHICAGO — The race for selfie king is on. James Franco’s piece in the New York Times now rivals Benny Winfield Jr.’s interview in VICE. “Selfies are something new to me, but as I have become increasingly addicted to Instagram, I have been accused of posting too many of them. I was called out on the Today show, and have even been called the selfie king,” writes Franco. Meanwhile, months ago, Benny Winfield Jr., a seemingly “normal 37-year-old who works as a customer service rep, lives in the suburbs of Houston,” and works as a tutor in his spare time, declared himself “King of the Selfie Movement.” A regular dude, Winfield rose to Instagram fame by posting countless selfies, making sure he made pretty much the same expression every time.
Winfield’s selfies are an attempt at being seen, whereas Franco’s celebrity selfies offer staged intimate moments, revealed to the public as privileged ones. Franco notes that the celebrity selfie says to viewers, “Here is a bit of my private life,” which recalls what I wrote about in my theory of the selfie. Winfield’s selfies, on the other hand, say, “Look at me.” There are multiple selfie kings, not just one.
Location: New York City
“I had this vague memory of a painting of a woman looking in a mirror, and the mirrored image is her back rather than her front. It was lodged in my mind, and I only recently found the image again after I made my mirrored selfies. I wanted to give the impression of a world in a world, which was a theme I was reminded of when I went back to Indiana recently to visit my brother and while there looked at an old painting called “at the gallery” I had done back in art school. As for what this means to me — we are all the same. People have largely the same needs and to a lesser degree (and with some variations) desires. The world isn’t endless so WE create worlds within worlds to keep us occupied, or whatever. The artist Lisa Beck also found this Magritte image as a comparison to my back-to-back selfie, which I may have known of and held unconsciously in my mind.”
“The selfie is a way I image the beginning of a mediative moment. I have days when looking in the mirror makes me want to turn away and days when I want to keep staring. The interesting thing is that there is nothing radically different about the way I look from day to day. There isn’t anything visual one can pinpoint to these two very different feelings. For me, the selfie is not a representation of what I look like physically; it’s an expression of a shift in consciousness. It represents a moment of clearing when all the negative internal and external messages have stopped. It’s a moment where I don’t feel the need to change.”
“Selfies are not new to artists, but they used to be called self-portraits. I’ve been exploring this subject (myself) on and off again for over 25 years. I have recently come back to self portraiture using my iPhone. My selfies are used as source material — I draw and paint from them, use them directly in the work as collage elements, and make image transfers from them. Here’s a selfie and a detail of a large piece I am working on now.”
“I’ve been living with depression for over twenty years, and at times the selfie would get lost among the endless cocktails of feel-good prescriptions. I shot this image as a means to understand my alter egos while under the influence of these drugs. Am I the self when I’m artificially involved and every action seems mechanical, or am I the other who is imbalanced, numb, and ultimately all natural?”
“I took this selfie before my performance at the Brooklyn Museum’s BEAT Festival. It was a part of a bigger project, but my role was to take visitors on a bizarre walk that would end with me reciting a poem that I had written about them before our meeting. I wanted to enhance my look so I added the mouse ears and Nicki Minaj MAC lipstick. I think this selfie is important to me cause I like how I look and I like what I was doing. It seems it represents the me I want to be. Also, my dad used to call me Minnie Mouse growing up, and I guess I sort of want to still look like that little rodent.”
* * *
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.