And more on selfiesJust as the affordability of mirrors drove the rise of self-portraits in Renaissance Art, cameras have made every smartphone owner into a Nan Goldin.
And more on selfies and art. Excerpt.
"Just as the affordability of mirrors drove the rise of self-portraits in Renaissance Art, reversible cameras have made every smartphone owner into a Cindy Sherman or Nan Goldin. On how we’re no longer self-conscious, but self-constructive.
We cherish the possibility that someone, anyone, might see us. If photographs possess reality in their pixels, then selfies allow us to possess ourselves: to stage identities and personas. There is the sense that getting the self-portrait just right will right our own identity: if I appear happy, then I must be happy; if I appear intellectual, then I must be an intellectual; if I appear beautiful, then I must be beautiful. Staging the right image becomes the mechanism for achieving that desired identity. The right self-portrait directs others to see us the way we desire to be seen.This has always been the power of self-portraiture. Rarely a documentary genre, self-portraits have always allowed us to craft an argument about who we are, convincing not only others, but also ourselves. While so often selfies are denounced as exercises in narcissism, I’ve always experienced them as experiments in solipsism. A selfie suggests that no one else in the world sees you as you truly are, that no one can be trusted with the camera but you.
IT’S NO SURPRISE THAT self-portraiture is a genre in which women have long excelled. For so long the male gaze fixed women on the canvas, page, and screen as subjects, but self-portraiture allowed women to challenge this gaze with the ways in which they saw themselves. From Frida Kahlo’s plaintive, surrealistic self-portraits in oil to Cindy Sherman’s conceptual, performative portraits of herself as actresses, gods, and models, female artists have embraced the genre as a way of reclaiming their own image. No longer only objects, women became artists and volunteered as their own subjects.
It took a while for memoirs and autobiographies to become honest: shedding their armor of artifice and objectivity. Perhaps self-portraits will do the same. Soon our photographs may be as honest and unadorned as our words—the pictures we take of ourselves as authentic as the pictures we take of others. However “uncharted, / Desolate, [and] reluctant” the present is, it’s worth documenting, not only for others, but for ourselves."