by Harry Flashman
The recurrent ‘selfie’ - a threat to photography?
We have become a nation of narcissistic voyeurs. Ever since we realized that
we could hold the smartphone up to a mirror and capture our own likeness,
there has been an earth shattering change in photography. This has been
exacerbated by the newer smartphones that can take a picture backwards, so
we don’t even need a mirror! In fact, just how often do you now see young
women applying their make-up, using the viewing screen while holding up
their phones? All the time, is the correct answer.
Of course, it can be pointed out that at my age, the last thing I need is a
selfie to remind me that I have already passed the first bloom of youth! The
occasional glance in the mirror will suffice.
There is a joke floating around the social media comparing a woman going to
the rest room and taking 47 selfies, while an astronaut went to the moon and
took seven shots. Whilst amusing, it is actually fairly close to the truth.
There are many reasons that I am against this new “photographic” trend and
one is the duplication of the shots. When we used film, which cost money,
and developing and printing (more money) then we learned that unnecessary
duplication became expensive. Not knowing what the final print was going to
be like might get the photographer to take perhaps two more shots (just in
case eyes were shut), but that was it.
Everything changed with the digital evolution. There was no more waiting at
the photo-processors to see if the subject’s eyes were indeed open, there
was film to buy and no D&P costs as well. After purchase of the camera,
photography was ‘free’.
Now go one step further, with the advent of the camera in the phone, you had
a camera (of sorts) with you at all times. Ready to take pictures of
yourself, your favorite subject!
I have always promoted the concept of taking more than one shot. People go
to the Tower Bridge in London, take one shot and move on to Buckingham
Palace for another shot. My advice has always been to take a couple of shots
in the landscape format, and then a couple in the portrait format. One or
two of these shots will be good. Now move around the subject and take four
more shots (landscape/portrait) from a different viewpoint.
Unfortunately, today’s selfie photographer blasts away, taking umpteen
frames of the same shot. If you have a bright red pimple on your nose with
shot number 1, it will still be there in shot 47.
Since there is no financial drawback, I would like the amateur to take more
shots, but not 47 of the same one. Think about your final images and what
you want them to be, then make that image happen. Great shots are designed,
not a serendipitous happenstance.
As a guide, and nothing more, take a shot from your standing position,
another from on high (standing on a wall will do) and another from lying on
the ground looking up. These different viewpoints and formats will make you
aware of what ‘works’ and what doesn’t - for future reference.
It is important, that as you develop your artistic eye, you experiment with
different viewpoints. Not all of them will be successful, but some will be,
and the new viewpoint can be the catalyst for some unique art. And surely
that is what many of us are trying to achieve.
I personally believe that by applying some different viewpoints to some
traditional Thai subjects you would produce some excellent wall art, that
could even have commercial possibilities. A trip around the local Wat,
looking up and looking down, would be an interesting project for all
photographers, from school age to old age. And you can even do that with the
simplest of cameras, or even (gasp) the camera-phone!
So, for all you selfie addicts, try to expand your photo ideas and use the
different formats and different viewpoints and ask someone else to take your
photo, rather than the repetitive selfie.
Try it this weekend - just don’t fall when standing on the wall!
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