Modern photo literature makes a great deal of the selfie – the craze for immortalizing any occasion by taking a picture of yourself with a cell phone in a toilet. Convention says that you must make a duck face with your lips and then send it to other people who have made duck faces at you in the past. It is not a harmful exercise, unless you count the loss of dignity. And who knows, you may go viral, or at least bacterial. Always a chance in a toilet…
A modern phenomenon? Not at all. There have always been self-portraits taken by photographers in the past, just as there have always been artists drawing and painting themselves. The difference seems to be that while artists generally tried to make themselves look better than they actually were, modern selfists attempt to do quite the opposite. With a commendable degree of success, I should say.
Our two selfists in the images were having innocent fun, and you can’t decry that. More power to ’em. One might wonder about others who take pictures of themselves engaged in bad behaviour, but at least this has the advantage of opening them up to official scrutiny and punishment when they post it to social media. You might not think that they would be so stupid…but remember that the idiot who misbehaves on camera is the sort of idiot who advertises it.
I hinted that it was not a new thing. Look at any old film camera or separately shuttered lens. Likely as not you will find a mechanical self timer mechanism that allowed the photographer to wind up a lever, set it going, then run round to the front of the camera to get in the group picture. Most of the results from these were also innocent fun – albeit as bad photography as might be taken with the crude methods of the time. All modern digital cameras I have encountered have an electronic timing circuit in them to do this same thing, with the addition of a flashing light at the front to warn you when to grimace.
What we are missing, however, is a provision that was made in the olden days ( Elvis, dinosaurs… ) for cameras to be self-sufficient in the short period while they were counting down. Even in the very olden days ( Jolson, protozoa… ) cameras had foldout legs or props that allowed them to be set upright on a table or tree stump while they were unattended. These were provided for both upright or lay-down mode and meant that a tripod could sometimes be dispensed with. No modern cameras I have seen have this provision, and you only get it by adding a metal cradle or attaching a tabletop tripod. There used to be a small attachment made by Manfrotto that allowed you to set the camera on three miniature feet, but this has disappeared from the market – a pity that, because it actually worked well with small cameras. Saved you from having to carry a tabletop tripod or ask a waitress to take the group picture.
And saved you from bopping fellow travellers with your selfie stick.*
Note: I sometimes carry a carbon fibre monopod for dance shoots that can double as an extremely sturdy selfie stick. When I bop you with it you stay bopped.