Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Self-portrait = Selfie?

Prague. Vitkov park. Self-portrait.

The ancients, the Old masters and modern artists have looked to self-portraiture to discover new aspects of their art form, and to find an answer to the question “What am I like?” Sometimes the art works reveal the artist’s true inner self, sometimes they show the self as an imaginary construct.


Many great artists painted and drawn their own portraits, from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Rembrandt to van Gogh, later to Picasso and Frida Kahlo.
Frida Kahlo explained why she painted so many self-portraits: “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.”
Photographers have been posing for their own cameras since the 19th century. Like painters they were taking self-portraits as a form of art expression and as a tool of self inquiry.

Such masters as Nadar, Man Ray, August Strindberg, Lee Friedlander, Weegee, Berenice Abbott and many others took self-portraits.

Photographers about self-portraits:
“I don’t care about my looks but I wish people will see my soul and it appears more clearly in these photographs than in others.” (August Strindberg)
“At first, my presence in my photos was fascinating and disturbing. But as time passed and I was more a part of other ideas in my photos, I was able to add a giggle to those feelings.”  (Lee Friedlander)
 “ ...I started photographing myself, and found that I could see portions of myself that I had never seen before. Since I face just my face in the mirror, I know pretty much what it’s like. When I see a side-view I’m not used to it, and find it peculiar... So, photographing myself and discovering unknown territories of my surface self causes an interesting psychological confrontation.” (Lucas Samaras) 
 “Self-discovery through a camera? I am scared to look for fear of discovering how shallow my Self is!” (Minor White)
  “It has nothing to do with me. I work with myself, that’s my material somehow, but the finished photograph has more to offer than reflections of my “personality”... My photographs are certainly not self-portraits or representations of myself, though unfortunately people always keep saying they are.” (Cindy Sherman) 

Today more and more photos are taken with a digital camera or even a smartphone or webcam. All this has led to new ways to present yourself and led to a new mass phenomena – “selfie”.

Oxford Dictionaries named “selfie” the world of the year for 2013 and gave it this official definition: “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

“But what distinguishes a selfie from an artist’s self-portrait?” – asks Jessie Wender. “ A smartphone and a Tinder account is the easy answer, but, in general, we ask more from a self-portrait than we do from a selfie: more consideration, more composition, more psychological insight and aesthetic care.” (read more here).

Politicians, celebrities, teens are snapping selfies nowadays. Modern society dictates beauty based on one’s physical appearance. Nowadays when appearance has become so important, your image represents you. Tens of millions of Instagram photos have been hashtagged #selfie and #me. Millions selfies are uploaded to special websites, Facebook pages, Google plus, Flickr, and so on.

 At first glance this phenomenon is harmless, but several problems are revealed.

  “The selfie mentality demonstrates a very aggressive behavior. It’s like going to a museum and saying: “screw the Rembrandt.”” (Lucas Samaras)
Dr David Houghton, a lecturer in marketing at Birmingham Business School said: “Our research found that those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships. This is because people, other than very close friends and relatives, don’t seem to relate well to those who constantly share photos of themselves” (read more here)

Psychologist Jill Weber, Ph.D., says there's a danger that your self-esteem may start to be tied to the comments and Likes you get when you post a selfie, and they aren't based on who you are—they're based on what you look like (read more here)

 Is a selfie stupid, cool or dangerous? Is a selfie just a self-portrait of modern period? 
Opinions vary.  Your answers to these questions will depend on your standpoint.


Thank you for reading! Stay tuned!