SELFIES: A NOT-SO-NEW CONCEPT
I once daringly drove alone all the way from southeast of Pittsburgh to the distant New England town of Presque Isle, Maine. Being 1996 it was before cell phones took pictures which could instantaneously placed on the Internet.
Fast forward to Munich, Germany, in November, 2000. My husband Monte and I were visiting my son Nolan, who was in Germany doing post-doctorate work at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. While there Monte and Nolan traveled to Prague. I opted to remain in Munich so I could investigate the city deeper than I could while railing through Europe.
In both cases, I was by myself. Being a paraprofessional photographer I always carried my camera with me and I always exercised my trigger finger, documenting sites and experiences wherever I was.
Because I wanted to document that I was present in the New England and Munich sites and experiences I became creative. I not only watched for persons (having a camera equal to or better than mine) to shoot photographs in which I was a subject, I discovered how to take pictures of myself by me.
The pictures I took of myself would, today, be referred to as selfies.
On December 12, 2013, I read an opinion piece on selfies by Nafari Vanaski: Obama not alone in our love of selfies — even at funerals:
- U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron pose for a picture with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt next to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama during the memorial service of South African former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City) in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.
Leaving the issue of taking selfies at funerals to another post I want to address the opinions of both Bowling Green State University pop culture lecturer Matthew Donahue’s and the author, as expressed in the op-ed, on selfies.
- Donohue: It (selfies) speaks to the 21st-century, technological-dominated society we live in…It’s another way for people to document their lives.
- Vanaski: Photographs have been used to record historic events for a long time…Why do we have to insert ourselves into every event?…how is it not self-absorbed to take a picture of yourself by yourself?… (Selfies prove that) we’re incredibly self-absorbed
I have an incredibly large extended family with relatives across the country. I am in contact with my Swedish ancestors, and my husband and I have been host families for numerous international students, which provides me with a global community. I have lived in eight completely different communities during my life, and I have friends who have moved all over the country. I maintain relationships by sharing experiences and photographs through emails, this blog, and an old-fashioned communication means, a landline telephone. Putting myself into photographs is a grandstand way of sharing my life with others (as they do with me). Sometimes these photos are self photos, or selfies.
I agree with Donahue. Selfies are a means to document our involvement with an event or a place. It is also a form of journaling. This documentation/journaling can be important.
If we have no pictures of ourselves in different places we cannot have a photo album documenting our journal. Should we need assistance after a stroke or other mental inability, say Alzheimer’s disease, it would be nonexistent.
Documentation also enables us to explain our lives to our children and grandchildren, helping them to understand who we are (were) and setting positive examples for them.
Documentation is also important for future genealogists—how many times do we not have photographs of the person behind the camera? In my genealogy work photographs of ALL the persons I’m studying are important. If the camera person isn’t pictured, then the story isn’t complete.
I had two means of documenting my travel experiences. I could find someone with a camera like mine…
or I known today as a selfie. I took the following photographs that turned out less than perfect because of the limits of my camera (or my ability).
I even took a picture of my foot in the ocean with a wave splashing over it, to prove I was at the ocean:
What is the difference between having someone take my picture and my taking it myself? Either both indicate incredible self-absorption or both are a means of sharing and documentation.
And what is the difference between my photographic methods in 1996 and 2000, and today, except for the sophistication of the photography equipment?
If Facebook had been available in 1996 or 2000, would I have used it to splash repetitive pictures to the world? Probably not. I don’t have a Facebook account even in today’s world. Furthermore, I dislike the idea that Facebook as an entity can claim ownership of any pictures I post, thus able to use them in any manner they deem desirable.
However, had the skill to attach photos to emails been possible (perhaps it was, but I didn’t know about it), I would have sent photos to persons that way.
So my opinion is similar to Donohue’s. Selfies can serve us positively. They anre not incredibly selfish, indicating we love ourselves. Perhaps how selfies are used can represent selfishness, but their concept is incredibly useful.
Guess it’s time to take a winter wonderland picture to share, with me in it. No one else is here. Guess I will have to take it myself!