The popularity of the “Selfie” a photograph that one takes of oneself, has become a social phenomenon and not just with the millennial generation. They have become our own personal form of self-expression, a visual capturing of our identity. Some of us even feel the urge to camouflage our faces with the help of Snapchat, Instagram or even Animoji characters. There are lots of other ways that we can dehumanize our features by using the latest smartphone technology and software. Our phones are a reflection of the human impulse to control and categorize ourselves, our emotions, that we can share with our friends and the world of social media. But when did it all begin?
Hippolyte Bayard invented the first photographic process and in 1840, he portrayed himself as a suicide victim in a photograph entitled Self Portrait as a Drowned Man. He is accredited as being the first photographer to take a self-portrait and the pioneer of that now obsessive self-dramatization art form referred to as conceptual photography – the art of creating photographs with the purpose of illustrating an idea, where the idea or concept, an abstract thought in the mind, is the most important aspect of the work. Some conceptual photography is perhaps influenced or draws inspiration from Surrealist painters such as Salvador Dalí et al. Hippolyte Bayard, has more or less proved the point that the urge to turn the camera on ourselves, is as strong as it was in his day.
You might think the “selfie” is a rather modern phenomenon. Not so. Robert Cornelius is considered to be the first photographer to have taken one all the way back in 1839. He did this by removing his lens cap and then running into a frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. Inscribed on the back of the image was “The first light picture ever taken. 1839.”
“Selfie” as an art form? Perhaps not an actual art form all by itself yet, but its a form a digital self-expression, an extension of the art of self-portraiture – but the “Selfie” may just end up pushing the artistic boundaries of this particular medium and what it is. Trying to decide what is or isn’t an art form these days, raises more questions than they answer. Maybe we should just refer to it as “Selfie-expression”? The desire to turn our phone cameras on ourselves, in an almost obsessive and narcissistic way, is just going to grow in popularity, as technology continues to dictate how we use our smartphones. Of course, there is no denying that smartphone technology has essentially caught up with the camera. But for now, Ladies and Gentlemen take “Selfies”.