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Revealing the Group Selfie

CHICAGO — Selfies are no more a singular activity than any other type of digital vernacular photograph.

Still from Taylor Swift's music video "22," which is not a group selfie (screengrab via YouTube)
Still from Taylor Swift’s music video “22.” This is not a group selfie BTW (screengrab via YouTube)

CHICAGO — Selfies are no more a singular activity than any other type of digital vernacular photograph. The couple selfie and the group selfie are integral to selfie satisfaction for today’s socially networked individual. They may also include incarnations of multiples such as the coincidental twin selfie, the fake couple selfie, the sorority selfie, and the self-multiplied group selfie (of one). What the group selfie is not, however, is group shots from Taylor Swift’s video 22; that’s a manufactured celebratory group portrait moment of post-adolescence.

But no matter the pop-infused post-adolescence moment of Swift’s lyrics, you’ve got to admit that group selfies of all kinds make you feel a bit like 22 even if you’re not. Following the lyrics of this wonderful pop song (potential Taylor haters, check out @feministtaylorswift), the group selfie makes one feel “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.” I don’t know about you …

Liam O’Donnell & Russell Weiss

Alicia Eler, "Coincidental twin portrait of Russell Weiss and Liam O'Donnell" (2013)
Alicia Eler, “Coincidental twin portrait of Russell Weiss and Liam O’Donnell” (2013)
Liam O'Donnell, "Twin Selfie, Duh," (2013)
Liam O’Donnell, “Twin Selfie with Russell Weiss, Duh,” (2013)

These two gentlemen would never be mistaken for brothers let alone twins, but there is something uncanny about this coupling of coincidental twin portrait and selfie. Russell and Liam have been best friends since high school, or so they told me. A few months ago, we all met for coffee on a Sunday afternoon. Liam and Russell unknowingly wore the exact same outfit. I took a twinny photograph of the two of them; a few months later, a purposeful “twin selfie” appeared on Facebook, and I was tagged. “We put the phone on a timer and balanced it precariously between an old-fashioned pencil sharpener and a piece of wood,” Russell told me. When I asked Liam for permission to use it, since he is the photographer of this pair, he said yes of course. Could it be that two men who have known each other since adolescence and accidentally dress alike are, in fact, long-lost twins?

Talk to the Hand that Feeds You

"Fake Girlfriend Selfie" via DangerousMinds
“Fake Girlfriend Selfie” via DangerousMinds

Selfie type: Fake girlfriend couple selfies

Thankfully this guy isn’t pulling a Lars and the Real Doll with these fake couple selfies, but he does get pretty close — it’s just that the body is missing. This dude painted his nails and placed a hairband on his right hand, and then took selfies of himself acting as if that hand belonged to a lady. If seen on a fast-moving Instagram stream, these images would certainly appear to be a guy taking a couple selfie with his girlfriend. In reality, this is more about talking to the hand — probably the same one that’s used later for UNSPEAKABLE ACTS! That’s cool — we’re mature enough to talk about masturbation, right? LOL! xo

Tamara Tornado

Double-headed selfie by Tamara Tornado
Double-headed selfie by Tamara Tornado

Selfie type: The self-multiplied group selfie of one

Maybe you’re 22, or maybe you’re 42, but regardless of what your biological age is, you should still always take selflies as a way to document your life from arm’s length. Here’s a submission we received from one Tamara Tornado, who told us about why she really takes selfies. “I am a middle-aged woman, not the pretty girl I used to me,” Tornado tells Hyperallergic. “It’s hard for me to be happy with photos of myself. It helps me to be playful, and not try to be pretty.”

Generic Sorority Group Selfie

Sorority selfie; image via TK
Sorority selfie; image via totalfratmove.com

Selfie type: Duh, see above

I don’t know about you, but I went to a liberal arts college and we didn’t have sororities. We had vegan co-ops that served only fair trade vegetables and gluten-free options, and living co-ops where many socialists — trustfund and otherwise — both resided, thrived and smoked a lot of weed. The sorority experience seems conducive to group selfies in the same way that team sports are — a bunch of young girls hanging out together before some sort of group sporting event, or just at the sorority house, taking photos of their time together. One girl in this photo mimics cat behavior, her hand closed into a cat-like claw. Mreow! Everyone here is feeling 22, or at the very least, very underage.

Couple Selfies at 118 Subway Stations in Manhattan

Selfies at every train stop (image via Gothamist)
Selfies at every train stop (image via Gothamist)

Selfie type: Compulsive couple selfies

Summer in the city is long, arduous, hot, and often times quite boring. But that is not why college students James Doernberg and Kai Jordan decided to take a quest across Manhattan, shooting couple selfies at all 118 subway stations. Doernberg told Gothamist that the idea came to him when he “was probably thinking about ways to make commuting fun/useful, or different records/accomplishments that I could do while in NYC.” When he told his girlfriend Kai about the selfies at every subway station idea, she “thought it sounded really fun,” and so the two set off on what ended up being a nine-hour adventure. I dunno about you, but I think these photos are adorable and very 22.

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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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