Saturday, January 11, 2014


The Melvilleans, clockwise from upper left: "Captain," "Shadows," "Loomings" (photograph by the Child), and "Lamp."


A friend and fellow writer described a selfie I took at the ocean as"Melvillian." I took that as a challenge, with my preferred spelling of "Melvillean" and began another piece of my ongoing "Cutting In" project, playing with the current fascination of photographic self-portraiture.


selfie noun, informal (also selfy; plural selfies) was named "Word of the Year 2013" by Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford defines selfie as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.


So, I suppose that none of the four photographs posted above are technically selfies in the truest sense of the definition. Three of the four were taken with a camera on a tripod and a portable light, while the fourth was taken by another person.


But what is the fascination with taking photographs of our selves? Self exploration? Narcissism? Sharing of our selves with one another? Fighting against existential dread and impending negation? All of the above?

In a series in The New York Times that it is appropriately called "The Disrupters," actor and director James Franco contemplates "The Meanings of the Selfie" as "The Attention Getter."

His core observation, in my opinion, is that "Attention is power. And if you are someone people are interested in, then the selfie provides something very powerful, from the most privileged perspective possible."


But all is not power, or, at least not just power for power's sake. Hopefully, there are also rather thoughtful and provocative self-portraits such as those of Chino Otsuka. She has manipulated photographs of herself as a child to include her current self. The new photographs are intriguing and inviting, a conversation with one's self. As she describes the photos and the process: "The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine as I'm embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history."

You need to see them to experience the power that they generate from within. View pictures from Chino Otsuka's Imagine Finding Me HERE.


And we continue to explore who we are—individually and collectively.


Kimberlee Gerstmann said...

I'd seen China's Otsuka's work the other day and thought it was so interesting. I hate taking pictures of myself (or having anyone else take them), but I am trying to accept it a little more. There have been a couple of great essays about moms needing to be included in photos... not just behind the camera. And also because I've gone through my grandma's old photo albums and see how few pictures there are of her.

I love those pictures of you. :)

Ada Ludenow said...

A friend of mine avoids this by hiding behind a pseudonym but I often wonder if the mirror or digital camera sees anything. Is it the people on the other side of the mirror, of the http? I shall have to think about this some more. Very handsome pictures.