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The Selfie Diaries – documenting ourselves

For the past 3 months I’ve undertaken a project to explore the medium of selfies.

Through Facebook I’ve sourced over 40 selfies.

Each selfie is accompanied by two quotes from the subject of the selfie, responses to the following questions;

  1. What does your selfie say about you?
  2. What does your selfie fail to say about you?

These selfies were then curated publicly on Instagram, and tagged appropriately.

The only specifications given regarding the selfie was that it had to be a photo of you, taken by you.

This led to some interesting interpretations.

The majority of selfies sourced were taken by women. This reflects similar, global-scale studies on the selfie.

Most selfies submitted showed the selfie-taker at their most photogenic. There were a few notable examples though which seem to be trying to appeal through humour.

Taking a selfie with an animal was not uncommon, a trend which appears to be global. Several ‘animal selfie’ trends have circulated online in recent months such as quokka selfies.

Taking selfies with animals, domesticated or exotic, ties in with how people also appeared to like taking selfies when they were doing something out of the ordinary.

In regards to the question What does your selfie say about you?, responses were fairly descriptive of the content of the selfie. Respondents described their image, sometimes with explanation as to why they look that way.

More interesting however were the responses to the question What does your selfie fail to say about you? Often this revealed that the person in the selfie was not as confident or content in their life as the image may make them appear.

People, especially young people, genuinely enjoy taking selfies. The medium is used as a way to document their life, from the places they visit, to the people they meet and the experiences they have.

Most of the time people want a selfie that shows them at their best, though for some this may mean taking a humorous shot. Selfies capture a moment in a person’s life that can be read as documenting them as they were at a particular place and time.

But it is important to remember what selfies cannot document. Selfies–documenting us at our best–fail to communicate the inevitable troubles faced by everyone.Therefore selfies can be seen as a tool of photojournalism by the self, a way of creating and controlling your image in an increasingly online world

Who’s that girl? – What are we trying to communicate with the humble selfie?

Who’s that girl? – What are we trying to communicate with the humble selfie?

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The selfie. Love them or loathe them, they’re an almost unavoidable aspect of modern life. Different from the traditional portrait photograph (where we’re posing for someone, or possibly being posed by them), the selfie is an image controlled entirely by the image’s subject. What message then is the photographer, the selfie-taker, trying to communicate?

imageHope all the Facebook likes justified this…

Let’s first compare the selfie to another, first-person medium – the first-person documentary. Both mediums feature the creator as a primary subject. Both mediums are edited and controlled by the creator. Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that the selfie is (in some cases at least) merely a static form of first-person documentary. It has been proposed that first-person documentary is undertaken so that the audience may witness the world the filmmaker belongs to, and integrate this reality into their own. Which leads to the question; are selfies also an attempt to integrate audiences into the creator’s reality?

GRRIQND9P2T6D1M0-rszw640A soon to be painful reality

Possibly. The fact that 55% of 18-34 year olds have posted a selfie online would suggest that they are indeed using their image to communicate something to an audience. Whether they’re taken after finishing a marathon or before going out, the situation the selfie is taken communicates (and indirectly documents) the selfie-taker’s reality.

There’s also the possibility that selfies are used to create a sense of control. Selfies can be used to create and present an ideal self-image, therefore providing a sensation of control the selfie-taker may lack. The selfie-taker can control the image, control their identity, and then share their newly tailored identity through social media. This ‘shareability’ of selfies is also integral to the medium as it allows for friends, family and sometimes strangers, to express approval or disapproval about your likeness. The public nature of being online means that many people are unlikely to publish a selfie which they have not carefully created.

Photoshop-Retouched-Portrait-of-Women-Before-and-After-670x504All my selfies are natural. I totally just woke up with high colour saturation and back-lighting this morning

It’s arguable then to say that perhaps selfies should not be viewed as documenting an individual’s reality, but rather documenting how they would ideally like their reality to be. Take for example these photoshopped selfies posted by celebrities (or by your average citizen). They take the already tightly-controlled medium to another level, suggesting they are unhappy with the way the camera documents their life.

This explanation for selfies is but one however. When we consider the millions of diverse selfies accessible online, it is just as likely that there are many reasons for their creation.