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robertogreco : marianhooperadams   1

SELFIE — Matter — Medium
"Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd. I look upon hundreds of faces every day and I feel refreshed. I feel refreshed by watching other people look upon those same faces, and so on. This second-order looking, this swelling communal river, is the aspect of selfies we need to fight to protect by not shaming those who take them. If you are afraid of wading into this river, if you feel there is nothing to see there, then selfies might not be meant for you.

And just to put it on the record, to make things clear, here are some of the other people who selfies are not for:

• Men who want to police what women can do with their bodies, when they are allowed to love themselves, all under the guise of “being concerned.” About what, exactly? Exploitation? Identity theft? The ogling of other men? This isn’t necessary! Concern is little more than a smokescreen for policing women’s behavior. Concern is both oppressive and nefarious.

• Women who claim to be feminists but then use their feminism as a weapon against selfies, writing blog posts about how duckfaces undermine efforts for equality. The women writing these posts are trying to separate themselves from the kind of women who would kiss the camera, not realizing that the binary they enforce — the good feminists, the bad feminists — is one that has been handed down to them by the powerful in order to keep women at each other’s throats for so long that they forget to overtake the patriarchy.

• Members of the media establishment who view a thick network of people who don’t need them (because selfie communities are making the beauty-industrial complex set up by magazines and Hollywood look wobbly and exclusionary) to be a tremendous threat. See also: members of the press who are afraid of citizens who don’t need the media’s cameras to be seen, their microphones to be heard, or their publications to have a voice.

• Anyone who says “All Lives Matter,” who doesn’t see that certain faces that have been long absent from the dominant visual history now need to be celebrated, that these faces self-reproducing en masse is now completely vital to their survival, that selfies can become protective shields against violence and hatred.

• Those who fear youth rather than struggling to understand it, who forget that they were once young, insecure, and lonesome, and who have maybe grown up to be old, insecure, and lonesome, resenting the ever-strengthening community that selfies are building.

• Those who censor selfies, who flag women’s nudes from Instagram for removal (for more on this, read Petra Collins odd story of having her selfie removed without her consent), whose puritanical way of seeing doesn’t allow for bodies to invade their world unless they can be in charge of them, who see naked bodies as anarchy.

• Those who harbor the creeping dystopian fear that when the robots take over they will recognize us by our selfies. These sci-fi concerns do not outweigh the current benefits of a life lived unafraid, of how powerful it feels to stare down a camera lens and press send. The known dangers of remaining unseen are far worse than those that might come out of risking it, of being brave now.

• Those who have never shared a selfie but are adamant that it “isn’t for them” that they don’t see why anyone would ever do this. These people are willfully walking away from discovering a place where identities are distinct from that of the oppressors. They are making a choice. It is not a crime to not take selfies; there are many ways to live and be happy. I repeat: you do not have to take them! But it is detrimental to speak of them in the language of stigma. This only bolsters the sense of dishonor around the act of taking a selfie, discourages people from ever entering into a practice, and into a community, that may very well save their life.

***

But there are millions of people who selfies are for. There are millions who use them, love them, and are loyal to them — these are the people talked to, emailed with, gazed at, and become a fan of while scrolling through my feeds, the people I have watched being watched. These are the people who find comfort and life force in their selfies, and who give the most to the community in return. These are the bodies that you tear down when you are afraid of them, these are the lives at stake.

• The geeky middle-schooler who is bullied in class, but has finally found his people online, who flashes peace signs into his camera while riding home on the bus.

• The girl who has just been heartbroken, who has been left, getting to wave a middle finger at the camera and at her anger, and find 100 people who will rush to her side. Every double-tap heals her heart, toughens the muscle.

• The survivor of domestic abuse, who was verbally assaulted and made to feel like nothing, and who is crawling back from that hurt by allowing other people to tell her that she is more than just her pain, that she looks radiant, glowing, free.

• The cancer patient who takes selfies in chemotherapy, documenting the tufts of hair as they fall out, who wants the world to know that they were brave, that they faced death with a wink, that they did not want to be forgotten.

• The Syrian migrants who have found comfort in selfies on their treacherous route through the Balkans, and who are challenging the world to see them as humans running from violence, even as countries and states continue to close their borders to them. Selfies are extremely effective tools for displaced people or people living in perilous conditions to reconfirm their humanity; it is easy to ignore a sea of faces, but difficult to turn away from just one, staring with hope and sorrow into the camera, searching for sanctuary.

• The world-famous pop star who is sick of being ripped apart by magazine profiles and talk show interviews and who knows that the candid portraits she takes of herself backstage get beamed directly to her fans, who are increasingly learning to check their idols’ feeds rather than gossip columns for the real dish. Beyoncé hasn’t given an interview in years, and she may never need to do so again.

• The teen recovering from anorexia who takes pictures of herself finishing burgers, bacon, green tea ice cream; who finds a community of others in recovery who encourage each other to eat, to get well, to aspire to fullness.

• The middle-aged dad who starts Snapchatting to commune with his kids instead of remain mystified by them, and finds out that he has never really looked at himself with fondness, not until now.

• The off-duty fashion model who just wants to be seen as a real girl for once, who crams fries into her mouth, a slovenly, gangly imp in a dirty sweatshirt.

• The teen with vibrant pastel hair who has found a place where they fit in, where they get encouragement as their body changes, where they get to be present and excited and to come out as transgender, where they get to begin living more fully as their authentic self.

• The woman who decides to photograph herself naked, to leak her own nudes, who decides to revel in her curves before anyone can take that joy away from her.

• The teens who are finding each other on Instagram and Tumblr, creating “image collectives,” like the Art Hoe movement, where “nonconforming gender teens are positioning themselves in front of famous art pieces from old masters to abstractionists to ‘raise questions about the historical representation of people of color in art.’” Teen stars like Willow Smith and Amandla Stenberg have joined in, causing #arthoe to explode and continue to challenge the we study and view art history. Because of movements like these, young people may now grow up in a world where they set the visual agenda, where they know how to challenge the art that is shown to them as important, and offer up a new iconography of beauty that both undermines the exclusive canon and rewrites the academic syllabus.

• The autistic child who starts taking selfies on his iPad, who finds a way to unlock his inner chambers by capturing his outer self, who finds a place in the vibrant Tumblr autism selfie community, where thousands of people post new pictures every week, trying to reach out and connect where words may fail them.
The old widow who has found an entire community full of people who will call her beautiful now that her husband cannot.

• The millions of people who do not fit the mold for what capitalism defines as physical perfection, whose skin or height or gender or personal aesthetic might have kept them out of the hallowed halls of Those Who Get To Be Seen before selfies existed, those who would not have seen themselves in photo albums a decade ago because no one ever wanted to take their picture, those who go their own way. I have seen people of every color and shape and pronoun beloved in their own online lands, the heroes of their own stories. I have watched, off to the side, scrolling through this kaleidoscope of faces, as they rack up likes and admirers and accolades, as they become icons to the exact people they hope to reach. I have seen them find each other and stick together. I have learned entirely new vocabularies for how to look, for where to look. And there is always, always more to learn.

***

This is the radical potential to selfies. This is what I think about most when I take them, when I channel women of the past, when I think about Julia and Clover and Frida and Francesca, when I think about all the people who wanted so badly to be seen but were born too soon to ever have an @ handle of their own.

I wish, all the time, my great-grandmothers (women I never knew; a gentle seamstress, a boisterous lawyer’s wife) could have taken a million selfies. I feel like I owe it to them and to those who feel unseen now, to keep posting, to keep sharing, to keep liking, to keep seeking out new faces to like. I feel that I am, that we all are, writing our own history with every… [more]
selfies  rachelsyme  2015  photography  history  ussies  juliamargaretcameron  marianhooperadams  francescawoodman  shaming  portraiture  socialmedia  mockery  power  gender  essenao'neill  social  bodies  sexism  teens  youth  hate  mobile  phones  society  culture  technology  applications  instagram  tumblr  depression  identity  capitalism  self-image  art  snapchat  oppression  judgement  media  feminism  behavior  multiliteracies  body 
november 2015 by robertogreco

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