Schwarzenegger's hand and foot-prints pre-internet selfies in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater. Image via Wikipedia.

Schwarzenegger’s hand- and footprint proto-selfies in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater (image via Wikipedia)

LOS ANGELES — What is a selfie but a momentary image of oneself captured in social-network time? The selfie can be shot anytime, anywhere, and uploaded instants later. Take Ashley Keast, a burglar in the UK who, after robbing a home, placed his SIM card inside a stolen mobile phone, took a selfie, and accidentally sent the image using WhatsApp. Much like the young Swedish girls who snapped a selfie before robbing a fast-food restaurant, this burglar wanted to capture himself in this act of breaking and entering. Photographic evidence that says ‘I was here, I exist’ is always useful to the police.

Selfies can be used to the advantage of law-abiding citizens, too. Andrew Jarvis, an architect who works in both New York and Philadelphia, realized that he could avoid New York taxes if he lived there fewer than 182 days per year. To insure that the IRS believed him, he took selfies to document his location; often times he holds up a newspaper to prove what day it is. This is an interesting idea, although it would be easy to just get a bunch of newspapers and take photos in batches per season. But Jarvis’s selfies are quite convincing and come across as honest — and it’s also worth noting that he never uses the long-arm technique or a smartphone. Instead, he uses the good old self-timer on a digital camera. All of his photographs are available on Instagram.

Guys like Jarvis are way more interesting than celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shot a bunch of selfies before and at the premiere of Sabotage. He was obviously taking a cue from Ellen and the selfie commercials that aired during the Academy Awards. Non-celebrities are more innovative with the selfie because all eyes are not (yet) on them. In Bellevue, Washington, a little-known musician named Jason Rodjana (@JasonSoSilly) ran around Bellevue Square Mall making a video of himself snapping selfies with strangers. The exercise isn’t a wholly novel concept, but it’s fascinating to see how nearly every person in the video participates and engages in the performance. I’ll add this to my #weirdselfies list, which I much prefer to the Terminator walking the red carpet. Speaking of, here are the selfie shooters for this week’s edition.

Theo Downes-Le Guin

Theo Downes-Le Guin's selfie

Theo Downes-Le Guin’s selfie

Occupation: Gallerist, owner of Upfor Gallery
Location: Portland, Oregon

“I am looking out from behind one part of a three-part sculpture by London artist Lorna Barnshaw. The artwork is a self-portrait, digitally printed from a handheld-scanned image of the artist, so in a sense this is a selfie within a selfie.

I took this on the last day of the Self(ie) Portraits show (after Alicia’s gallery talk). I was sad to part with all the wonderful work we had installed. In retrospect the white cotton art-handling gloves add the possibility of creepy Michael Jackson reference, though that was not in my mind at the time; I was just avoiding damaging the artwork.”

Lauren Wright

Lauren Wright's #artselfie

Lauren Wright’s #artselfie

Occupation: Undergrad student, Corcoran College of Art + Design
Location: Washington, DC

“Here’s my #artselfie, taken last summer while interning for the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s curatorial office. During one of the long installation days leading up to an exhibition (Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd), I took a moment to sit down in the gallery and found myself blending right in to Prager’s “Crowd #1: Stan Douglas” as it waited patiently to be hung. At the time this was nothing more than a photograph of a funny, serendipitous moment, but in light of the Corcoran’s recent/ongoing dissolution, it reminds me of the invaluable experiences I’ve had there while interacting with some pretty special art.”

Wouter van Riessen


Wouter’s self-portrait mask

Occupation: Artist
Location: Los Angeles

“The mask is often associated with the notion of hiding a true face. The self-portrait, on the contrary, has a long tradition of supposedly revealing the deepest emotions and true heart of the artist. In my photographs these two visions are confronted. Wearing my own self- portrait brings it out to the world; the light in my eyes makes it come alive. At the same time I myself become ridged, and stiff as a wooden doll.”

Claire Spencer


Claire Spencer’s selfie

Occupation: Business education/consultant for artists
Location: Los Angeles

“This selfie was to document a part of a halloween costume. One of the rules I use as a play point when I create is the ability to use as little as possible to suggest a form or idea. In addition to the tree-afro, I had a full body suit hand-painted to resemble a birch tree. Originally, the leaves were simply going to go in my hair. The ‘bark’ suit and leaves (a good 2–3 hours of labor) were not nearly as successful as a spray-painted (20 minutes) extra-tall afro with a craft-store garland loosely wrapped around it.”

Sherry di Filippo

Animation set selfie

Animation set selfie 

Occupation: Artist
Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

“This is an animation still from one of my animations. They took it because they hang out together, they’re brothers, and they can laugh at the same things. Their mother, a Frankenstein-ish creation, gave birth to them with limited options and resources. It’s your party, and she’ll cry if she wants to, but she knows they need to keep up with the Joneses.”

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

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Alicia Eler

Alicia Eler is a cultural critic and arts reporter. She is the author of the book The Selfie Generation (Skyhorse Publishing), which has been reviewed in the New York Times, WIRED...

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