The rise and fall of the selfie stick is an interesting commentary on our contemporary culture. It burst on the scene, seemingly from nowhere, was suddenly everywhere and now, almost before it could claim to have become established, it’s experiencing a backlash that may eventually consign it to oblivion. Banned from many events and venues, it’s probably only a matter of time before the selfie stick becomes a less than desirable accessory, something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but will ultimately be consigned to the back of the wardrobe of history.
The popularity of the modern selfie has always perplexed and irritated me in equal measure. The self-portrait as an artform has a long and venerable history, even before the invention of photography, artists and sculptors were creating their own likenesses, to be preserved for posterity. The camera just made the process more accessible, but it’s the combination of smartphone and Internet that created the monstrous incarnation that we know as the selfie. There had always been an element of the artistic before the selfie became the norm: Self-portraiture was an exercise in timing, precision, technical ability and charisma, it was rarely a rushed or off-the-cuff affair and the emphasis was on the subject, not the situation. The selfie changed all that. Now the ease and speed with which images can be captured and published to a wide audience at any time, and in pretty much any situation, has subtly – if you’ll excuse the pun – changed the focus.
It’s all ‘Me, Me, Me!‘ – ‘Me wiv my besties at the parrrtay!; ‘Me without my make-up for a worthy cause’; ‘Me
Pdaraltix inebasriatsd p*ssed on Satudfdy nite’; ‘Me at the game’; ‘Me having a bad hair day’; ‘Me pullin’ a stoopid face :D’; ‘Me flashing my boobs at the gig’…
Selfies have become the visual equivalent of tweets: Abbreviated snippets of inconsequential, autobiographical, carelessly tossed into the ether, boorishness. Personal over-exposure in the non-photographic sense; unfocussed, misaligned, blurry snatches of moments that have no business being recorded in perpetuity. Harsh? Maybe… but, in the main, much deserved. I speak from the frustration of one driven to distraction, unable to secure a single photograph of Ghiberti’s sublime baptistry doors at the duomo in Florence, thanks to having to contend with dozens of kids grabbing selfies of themselves, all flashing the ubiquitous salute of the church of selfie, the V for victory (understood, the world over, to mean ‘I’m a complete twat’), and every one of them utterly oblivious to the beauty behind them. ‘Me… desecrating the Gates of Paradise’ – says it all, really.
I’m guessing that, by now, you’ll have figured out that you won’t find any selfies of Yours Truly knocking around the interweb, or for that matter many photo’s of me at all – when it comes to portraiture, I know exactly which end of the lens I prefer to be, and it’s not the pointy end.
However, the same does not hold true for SL, in fact the vast majority of images filling my hard drives taken inworld rather prominently feature myself, often in frame-filling close-up. But – unlike the real world selfie – this is rarely to place the focus on me, an assumption which you’d be forgiven for making. Simply put, I’m fascinated by SL – even after several years, during which you’d think I’d have grown used to the virtual world, I still find myself surprised and enchanted by seeing a virtual representation, that I consider to be me, on the screen. I find myself captivated, watching my avatar move and behave like a living being, interacting with her environment and having all the attributes of being ‘real’, whilst being completely the opposite. Similarly, the virtual world that provides the context for Seren’s presence is equally compelling in its complexity, depth and fecundity – from a visual, and emotional, perspective it draws me in… and I have a compulsion to capture and keep that special, esoteric moment.
It’s not a case of ‘Here’s a nice picture of my favorite sim’, or, ‘This is Seren stood next to a classic building’, or even, ‘This is a lush close-up of me in my favourite frock’. What it is – at least to my mind – is me saying ‘Wow! – Just look at this awesome place!’
Can you have a selfie of a pixel person – of course not – but if the SL we surround ourselves with and immerse ourselves in is what gives ‘life’ to the virtual expression of who we are, then every picture we take in SL captures some essence of self, and if that’s the case, I’m guilty as charged… I just hope I’m not obscuring the view!
I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real
I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel
The Cure – Pictures Of You