I'm currently typing this up at my new local library. It has been three weeks since I've moved house and this is my first time checking out the tiny portable building which houses a mere fifteen thousand books. But I'm not here for reading. Oh no, I'm here to abuse their free WiFi to write a blog post about selfies - of course!
When I say to people that I don't take selfies regularly, they generally don't believe me. Apparently snapping a pic of yourself in the mirror or before you go somewhere and uploading it online is somewhat of a norm now.
Recently, I’ve been trying to work up the courage to get in front of my studio lights to take a new self-portrait to update all of my social sites. As you can probably guess, I’ve been procrastinating that task like it’s a five thousand-word essay. Surprisingly, I haven’t always been like this. In fact, when I first started photography I would take self-portraits quite often to practice new techniques or play around with lighting when no one else was available to model for me.
I can pinpoint the decline in selfies on my hard drive exactly to when my photography seriously started taking off and I was being paid to take photos of other people. I got so caught up taking photographs and capturing memories at friend’s parties and school events that I forgot to put myself in them. During my final year of high school, I photographed every sporting day, every performance, every major event including my own muck up day, and there is not a single photo of myself with my friends to be found. If I didn’t take the photos myself, one would have thought that I didn’t even exist.
However, there’s another factor that also contributed to the decline of images in my selfie folder: my self-esteem. It’s not that I think I take bad self-portraits or that I’m not photogenic, although I like to tell myself both of those things regularly. It’s the fact that every day I was seeing photo after photo of all of these attractive girls (and boys) with nice hair, enviable clothes and amazing make-up and I just felt so inferior. On one hand I wanted to say, ‘Good on you. You look good today, you should commemorate that with an image of yourself that reminds you of that,’ and on the other I was thinking, ‘Why oh why was I not born with luscious hair and a bank account to fuel my make-up and wardrobe desires?’
So I stopped taking selfies with my DSLR and my iPhone except for the rare occasions where I felt mildly okay with my appearance to judged by the harsh lens of a camera - which was pretty much never. The only selfies I took were the ones I would upload occasionally to Instagram. I didn’t take any selfies just for myself. In fact, there are probably more photographs on my hard drive of food taken with my phone than there are photographs of myself.
Now don’t get me wrong, selfies can be incredibly egotistical and vain, but they can also be a tool for empowerment rather than one for self-promotion. The fact was that I essentially erased myself from any sort of social occasion and special memory all because I was too shy or too busy to take a photo of myself with my friends.
So at the beginning of this year, I promised to take more selfies. Posed selfies on my DSLR, selfies with Paul who is also a serial photo avoider, selfies in front of landmarks, selfies at parties, crappy iPhone selfies in crappy lighting just to commemorate the fact that I was out drinking with my best friend and having fun. Just more selfies. As crazy as it sounds, it has made me happier. I now have all of these amazing photos with the people I care about in them AND myself to look back on. I’m not even posting the majority of these on any sort of social media websites, they’re just sitting there on my iPhone for me to look at when I’m feeling sad or bored or wanting to remind myself of the great time I had in Perth a couple of weeks ago. And I like that, I really like that.