Photo Finish! Why the ‘selfie’ is sending me back to the future.

(Remember you can find my column in Cardiff Life Magazine monthly too)

Warning! This blog contains the thoughts of a grumpy woman! At the risk of being labelled a luddite after previous rants on the pitfalls of smartphones, my new mobile moan is the selfie: ‘ A strange phenomenon, in which the photographer is also the subject of the photograph, usually conducted because the subject can’t locate a suitable photographer to take the photo, like a friend. ‘

Devotees of the selfie, many of whom are celebrities with millions of devotees themselves, have ensured this fad is now a fashion.  There are selfie competitions run by big mags, celebrity video guides to taking the perfect selfie and we have the selfie to thank for the belfie or the bottom selfie. Oh yes, it’s now in vogue to snap your own rear.  Really?  Wow.

No rears, I promise.  But for the purposes of research, I did feel obliged to snap a selfie or two just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an unsurpassed sense of self-satisfaction.

'Selfie' experiment

‘Selfie’ experiment

The conclusion – I wasn’t.  Aside from anything else, I have to admit I’m just too vain to enjoy it!  By the time I’d got images I was happy with, I could have set up my own dark room.

Ah yes, those were surely the days!  Back when cameras clicked, flash bulbs burst and film actually got developed.  One famous documentary photographer Dorothea Lange once said of her art, ‘ Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion … the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.’  Well, love certainly plays it’s part in the selfie phenomenon. To be loved or ‘liked’, ‘shared’, and ‘followed’ is the aim of the game, of course.  Though I think Dorothea would be turning in her grave.

So, is the selfie ever acceptable? Perhaps, when it’s a selfie that’s not a selfie it is. In other words, if you want to capture a special moment with somebody else and there’s simply no one extra to take the picture then technically it’s not a selfie as it’s not just your self in it.  And there’s also dispensation for extreme circumstances.  For instance, if you’ve just skied solo across the Antarctic with not an insect, let alone a human, for company for hundreds of miles then indulging in a photo of yourself for the archives is permissible.  Indeed, history would not forgive you.

After all, when did photography start being more about self-adoration and less about capturing a moment, saving a memory and recording a history.  It’s time to breathe life back into the traditional album, before we click our way into a photographic narcissism.  But if, like me, your photos are destined to an eternity in your smartphone because thoughts of uploading, downloading, editing, and cropping push ‘Order prints’ to the bottom of your to-do list, then there is a compromise.  And it’s polaroid.  Yes, the new digital version of the iconic camera is a goal for the futurists and traditionalists.  It posts – and it prints instantly.  You can still always use your app to give your pic a ‘classic’ 70s hue or you can print it straight out and simply wait a few decades for it to age authentically!

 

New digital Polaroid! Back to the future....

New digital Polaroid! Back to the future….

 

For me, no selfie, belfie, or online snap can ever replace the nuances held in a photo album. They will never build the same relationships with family and friends as opening a dog-eared book and pouring over memories of a past to be remembered for the future.  So, however you decide to do it, make sure get your magical moments printed, mounted and archived to leaf through with your children and grandchildren, the way we did when we were young.  Just promise me one thing – selfies stay in the camera.