Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Selfie Generation and when will it end?

This subject has been on my mind since the first "selfie" was taken, probably when Facebook was founded, maybe earlier, not sure. Taking a silly photo of yourself with your smartphone alone or with your partner, friend, child, etc. is fine and I know it's been done for years even with point and shoot film cameras but it's another for the act of taking selfies to have become such an automatic thing that it has left people complete mindless to why they are doing it at all.

Today I became inspired to post about it, in anger, because of a fellow photographer that shared images on Facebook from his trip in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There is a statue of Jesus draped in his robe with his arms extended in the crucifixion pose. Tourists were taking photos of themselves in silly ways with the statue, including in the crucifixion pose. All ages of people, including children were doing this. My photographer friend pointed out exactly my point - 

"Interesting, how photography and social media have changed perception of reality and human behaviours."

Over the last few years, I have also observed this act and have been truly speechless. Just the other day, I went to the Louvre with my husband to see a special exhibit of Vermeer, Valentin de Boulogne and their contemporaries. (Side note - if you are in Paris before May 22, make it a point to get to this exhibit. It's WONDERFUL! )

After seeing the exhibit, I said to my husband that while we were there, we should go see the Mona Lisa. I knew it was mid-afternoon and would be very crowded, but I never saw it in person (it's a copy, by the way, in case anyone thinks it's the original.) When we arrived in the salle, I stopped short of what I saw. Hundreds of people pushing their way up to the very small painting NOT to admire it, but to turn around with their selfie sticks and be sure to get a photo of themselves WITH the painting behind them. After a few snaps. they would happily move on, never once looking at the painting itself! I wondered why. How did the Mona Lisa become such a pop icon, first of all, and taking a picture in front of it does nothing more but prove they saw it...but they didn't see it. Not really. And did they know who DaVinci was?

This happens in every tourist spot all over the world and then there is something even more serious and worse than the autonomous selfie maneuver. People have died taking selfies. A woman posed sexily on train tracks was killed by a train. Two young girls fell into the ocean and drowned going over a cliff with their selfie sticks. Another was decapitated when he wanted to take a selfie with his head out of a car window. For what??

And lastly, there are curators and photography critics that have begun to organize exhibits and give more attention than deserved based around selfies, placing them on a fine art level. So studying art, composition, and form, not to mention those of us that have spent years conveying their art using the self-portrait have become meaningless while a trend becomes more important. 

While I try to search meaning to why people are trying to connect to each other when, in essence, they are doing the opposite, this further explains that the spirit inside of many is disappearing and what will be left will be digital photos of people doing stupid things in the name of social media.