Before the Selfie, the Self-Portrait
The selfie is a smartphone-produced version of the self-portrait, which has been a staple of art and photography history since artists first began seeing examining their own images in the mirror. The selfie series here on Hyperallergic has mostly utilized images shot mostly with smartphone cameras, a way for the one shooting the picture to see themselves the way they would like to be seen. Thus far, the selfies have concentrated mostly on twins, mirrors, and the philosophical implications of disseminating the selfie via social networks and the internet, wherein the selfie can receive validation from their social circle.
In the selfie mode of photography, there is no outside photographer with a camera shooting them the way they see them. But selfies are not necessarily self-empowering; through their social network dissemination, they appear decontextualized, awash in a sea of internet anonymity. A selfie is a selfie is a selfie. But what about a self-portrait? Here are five art historical self-portraits that are predecessors to the modern-day selfie. Put your smartphone away (or let it die, like I just did), take a look in a John Berger-esque way, and remember what life was like before those mini-interruptions that we like to call iMessages, texts and ongoing gchat-like conversations presented you with more faces that you’d care even to see IRL.
Revealing Your Inner Selfie
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.
Validating Me and Myselfie
This week’s selfie series is curated entirely from submissions that you, dear internet reader, sent to me through the selfies [at] hyperallergic [dot] com email address. I was wondering if you’d accept the challenge to write, and indeed, you did. Thank you. You are fearless.
Selfies are oddly personal, and we don’t know each other. But now I’ve looked you in the eye through a computer screen, and honestly, I do feel like I know you a bit better. It’s like we’ve crossed paths before on a crowded street in New York, at a party in Los Angeles, at a truck stop somewhere off a deserted highway en route to a Midwestern city.
Really, we’ve only seen each other through the internet, a place of virtual highways that don’t produce smog but a sort of cyborgian citizen weariness — quick looks, glances, gazes, moments of quiet connection, epic disconnection. I looked back at you a bit too long, and that’s why you’ve appeared in this post. Is that so wrong — to want to be noticed, to ask people to see us the way we see ourselves? Some believe that selfies are all just mediated versions of our own narcissism in a culture of hypernetworked late capitalism. That’s a pretty easy answer to the more complicated question of the self and the selfie. Is wanting to connect or asking for attention selfish? Or is it just one selfie to another, looking for a subtle moment of affirmation?
Our Faces, Our Selfies
Selfies are part of our voluntary self-exposure in an attempt to take back the images of ourselves, but in the process we also give ourselves away. In the world of online selfies, faces are the focus; bodies tend to appear as afterthoughts. We see a collection of eyes, lips, mouths, noses, and cheekbones, all of which makes facial recognition online that much easier. By voluntarily offering your face to the internet public space, you become a part of the identifiable masses. Isn’t it time you faced yourselfie today?
Mirrors Multiply the Selfie: The Doppelgänger Dilemma
The selfie is a mirror, an illusion of a mirror, an egotistical moment wrapped in time, and an embarrassing moment post-shave. But there is something curious about seeing your doppelgänger reflected back at you rather than running into him or her on the street.
Just the other day I was sitting at a local cafe and one of the baristas ran up to me, excitedly telling me that she knew someone who looked just like me. Pleased to hear that I had a doppelgänger somewhere in this vast city, I asked her if she knew the person’s name, who she was, or where I could find her. The barista couldn’t remember but promised me that, when she did know, she would report back. “I love having twins everywhere,” I told her. But was the person she spotted actually a doppelgänger, or was this a false memory? And what if, when I meet this person who supposedly looks like me, she doesn’t actually look like meto me, but my barista friend sees the two of us as lookalikes?
Sometimes these doppelgänger moments are best kept between oneself and one’s mirror-induced image. That’s why this week’s selection of selfies ponders the more existential aspects of the phenomenon, asking whether the mirror is your friend, foe, or false memory, and if it produces within you the notion of a doppelgänger or the possibility that such a person is in fact out there — you just haven’t met them yet.
Take a Good Look at Your Selfie
A few weeks ago, I thought that I’d had it with selfies It began with a simple Facebook post declaring: “Just say NO to SELFIES <3 <3 <3.” Less than a week later, I found myself doing exactly what I feared: Alone in a dressing room at Target, I was snapping selfies with my iPhone, selecting the perfect one or two, and uploading them to Facebook. The selfies weren’t over — in fact, they had just begun.
I write the selfie column for Hyperallergic. Here’s the first post:
I, Selfie: Saying Yes to Selfies
People online have a lot to say about selfies: love them, hate them, feel indifferent about them, think they’re part of internet culture, a place we escape to, meld with our offline lives (making for a fluid but often fraught IRL-URL existence), something we learn from. If the selfie is the ultimate mirror in our internet house of mirrors, and we can frame our photos and curate ourselves as we want others to see us, then surely the selfie is an act of taking back the gaze. We look through the reversed mirror of the iPhone, into an actual mirror (camera flash reflection optional), or gaze longingly into a computer webcam. We self-consciously perform these moments from inside our private, domestic spaces, for ourselves and for our internet friends and “friends,” who are also voyeurs. They are our voyeurs, and we willingly welcome them into our curated worlds.
Dear Tumblr, I haven’t posted on you in awhile. That’s cool—I think you’re doing just fine without me. Sincerely, Alicia
STOP freaking out about funeral selfies! xo <3 http://hyperallergic.com/91660/stop-freaking-out-about-funeral-selfies/