Selfie or Self-Portrait & Being In The Moment

Title: Assignment Of The Month 016

Description: Make A Self Portrait

<a data-flickr-embed=”true”  href=”” title=”810_8391″><img src=”” width=”1600″ height=”1066″ alt=”810_8391″></a><script async src=”//” charset=”utf-8″></script>

The “Selfie” has become a common site in our culture and with New York City being a magnet to tourists, if you’re not careful you might bet poked with a selfie stick at any moment.

But it wasn’t always this way. In photographic parlance the “Self-Portrait” has been a genre of photography for a very long time.

The less dignified-sounding “selfie” usually describes a distorted, sometimes in-focus image made by a person holding a phone-camera, with someone or something else also in the frame. They are often shot at odd or bad angles and quickly shared over a person’s social network.

They aren’t selfies but we see people all the time, holding up their phone at the concert or speech and viewing it through a small screen instead of experiencing the moment, something we “real” photographers know something about.

In Ben Stiller’s re-make The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, there’s a scene that address just this idea of putting the camera down and experiencing the moment.

Ben Stiller’s character asks pro photographer Sean Penn…who looks like he had been waiting hours to capture the snow leopard which finally wanders into the frame… “When are you gonna…take it? …to which Sean replies…. “Sometimes I don’t…if I like a moment…I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera…so I stay in it (the moment).”

<a data-flickr-embed=”true”  href=”” title=”Mitty”><img src=”” width=”1600″ height=”859″ alt=”Mitty”></a><script async src=”//” charset=“utf-8″></script>

See the scene here:

It’s a great sentiment but it’s not realistic in the least and took me right out of the movie….really?

No photographer I know would ever not take the shot…but maybe that’s  just cynical me. (By the way, I don’t remember when in time the film is supposed to be, but that’s a Nikon F3 Titanium -nice- and what looks to be a more modern AF super-telephoto lens)

Back To ME And My Selfie

Whether to satisfy our narcissistic tendencies or just have proof of our experiences to share—the selfie can be very dangerous, even deadly.

<a data-flickr-embed=”true”  href=”” title=”SelfieGuardianArticle”><img src=”” width=”1600″ height=”1460″ alt=”SelfieGuardianArticle”></a><script async src=”//” charset=”utf-8″></script>


The self-portrait is usually not dangerous and can be conceptual or just found, as when Lee Friedlander or Vivian Meier came across their shadow or reflection while doing their street work. Both published full books with dozens of their self-portraits.

<a data-flickr-embed=”true”  href=”” title=”810_8922″><img src=”” width=”1600″ height=”1067″ alt=”810_8922″></a><script async src=”//” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Liked my reflection in a passing car inTimes Square so I captured it.

Some say that in a hundred years, the millions of selfies we are shooting will make up an amazing historical record of everyday life, and maybe they will. But those of us passionate about photography are having a hard enough time preserving our own archives for future generations as floppy discs turn into zip discs, CD’s, hard drives and whatever the image holding tanks of the future will be. I think most selfies shot today likely won’t be around when the Nikon D29 is available for pre-order.

I have eluded to the notion that selfie shooters are not real photographers.  That’s  because, like the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, the photographers I know generally don’t like having their picture taken. They are much more comfortable behind the camera then in front of one.

That said, it’s likely we caught ourselves on film or sensor over the years. It’s often hard to avoid in the reflections and shadows cast when shooting.

Taking your own picture. For some it’s  a form of therapy; a visual diary capturing how you feel and look the moment the camera triggers. It’ s maybe less about flattery and more about honesty. You only have to satisfy yourself– your own worst critic. And you have access to the delete button.

Have you ever done a selfie or self-portrait? If not, give it a try and post it here; and/or gives us your views on the subject. But be careful.

More from Steve Simon
Yamhill, Oregon (population 790) City Council, April 9, 2003. ©Paul Shambroom When...
Read More

Leave a reply!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.