In defence of the selfie
Short, random post for you all. The selfie (word of the year for 2013) has been getting some schtick lately, not least because Barrack Obama decided to take one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. There’s a whole other blog post right there, but I’ve been thinking a lot about selfies, what they represent, and whether they’re a good or a bad thing.
I hate having my photo taken, have never really been a fan. As a small child I was very shy (up until I went to secondary school, I know, I know, hard to imagine), but I was and I hated making eye contact and when I shook off my shyness I never really got past the hating having my photo taken thing. I’m fairly average in this regard I’m sure, I obviously have some highly elevated self concept of what I look like because my most frequent response to a photo, any photo is one of surprise. My internal monologue usually goes something like this:
Thought 1: Oh, oh okay, well it’s not *the* best but I suppose it could be worse
Thought 2: Ohhhh dear god, look at the chins, hair, belly rolls, bingo wings, rugby thighs* etc etc etc (*delete as appropriate depending on season, clothing, bodily state)
Thought 3: Delete, delete, delete….oh hang on X looks really nice, guess it’s not all about me.
These three thoughts usually occur in the space of a few seconds, we’re not talking deep reflection here. Occasionally there are pleasant surprises, where the light, or the photographer, or the scenery, or the healthy eating plan have all gone as they should and collided in a magic pot of brilliance. That’s rare though.
So what has this got to do with the selfie then. Well the selfie allows us take a photo, edit the light slightly, project something that we’re somewhat happier with, or at least delete the twenty images that aren’t so great and save the one that is. It is all the things that people complain about, egotistical, a projection, to some extent inaccurate, self indulgent. Yes, yes, yes. However it creates a record and it also creates somewhat more comfort in front of the lens.
I’ve become a much bigger user, and fan, of photography (and yes I sully the genre by including selfies within it) in recent years. Decent camera on my mobile has made a great difference to the number of photos I take, that and the purchase of my first proper adult camera. What I’ve realised in the last few months is that most of my selfies or pic never see the light of day, but that doesn’t stop me having them as a record, and loving them for that.
This record becomes unbelievably important when you’ve lost someone close to you. I am so grateful for the photos that I have of my Dad. He was never shy in front of a camera, we’ve hundreds of him, few serious, mostly fooling around and I love them. I’ve not got half as many of me and him as I would like, and that’s the reflection really. For all people criticise the selfie, if it allows you to capture a moment then it’s a very precious thing. One of my favourite photos that I do have of my Dad and I was taken a few months before he died, at the start of our roadtrip to Wales to visit granddaughter number two when she was a few days old. The photo is a generic, man and woman in car photo to anyone else. It’s not a perfect image of either of us, I don’t particularly like many of the elements I flag above within it, but, and it’s a big but, it captures something for me. Dad just discharged from hospital, topped up with blood following a transfusion, full of anticipation and adventure. It was a role reversal of the many, many times Dad dropped me to Wales and the last trip we took anywhere, and the reward so special.
So I implore you this Christmas, take photos, take selfies, hell take photos in the car!!! You may feel a bit self conscious, you may not like the results, you may detest what you look like in photos, but trust me it’s a great thing to be able to look back and remember, and all the flaws fade into insignificance when you can’t take any photos any more. Happy snapping.