The Self Portrait  and the Selfie. – My Full Dissertation Paper

“Styles and trends blow like the wind, come and go.

But precision of vision is here to stay – Michael Foley”



  • Introduction 
  • Chapter 1 – The History of the Self Portrait
  • Chapter 2 – Self Portraits in the Modern Day
  • Chapter 3 – The Future of the Selfie
  • Conclusion 
  • References
  • Bibliography



With 50,873,356* photos currently uploaded to Instagram with the hash tag (#) Selfie, it seems that more and more people are taking this type of image and are growing more comfortable with uploading them to the internet for the scrutiny of others.  (Figures provided by , as of *17/10/13)  It seems that anyone and everyone is taking and posting selfies online, from celebrities such as Rihanna and Barak Obama  (see below) to friends, family and work colleagues, you don’t have to look very far to find one of these #selfie images either on the internet or in the media, such as in newspapers or magazines.  It is not so unusual though, to take images of one’s self, from the invention of photography, we have become more and more acclimatised with looking at and creating images of the self.  So, what is a selfie?

barak obama selfie

Barak Obama takes a selfie with David Cameron and Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial service.  (Image taken from newspaper report Year of the Selfie: The birth – and death – of 2013’s biggest star trend, The Independent (–and-death–of-the-years-biggest-star-trend-9024534.html)

The word “selfie” has just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (added in August 2013, ) and has been defined in the dictionary as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Selfies, in the terms of an image are a kind of self portrait image where the subject of the image also becomes the image maker/photographer.  The evolution of social networking has been a major player in the phenomenon that is the selfie, where to be part of social networking and have your own profile there is a need to add a photograph of yourself, and who better to take that image than yourself?  The saturation of the market with mobile phones that have cameras (now fitted as standard to most new phones) means we have a method available to take and create that image pretty much anywhere we want; and; with the development of internet being available and accessible from our mobile phones, the ease of uploading that image has become as easy as the press of a button.

There are generally two kinds of selfie, the one taken in a mirror (typically the bathroom or bedroom mirror), flash on or off depends on whether the subject wants to conceal part of themselves or not, and more recently the type of selfie we are becoming more used to seeing, the image where the subject has their camera at arm’s length, the lens pointing down onto the subject, the camera held slightly higher than eye level so that the subject is gazing up at the lens.

The type of camera typically used for taking selfies is that from a mobile phone.  In early selfies the mirror was used as the subject of the photograph as many phones had just one camera lens which was fixed on the opposite side to the screen.  In order to be able to view the image and compose it as was wanted the photographer/subject would capture their reflection in the mirror, using the screen on the other side to view how the image looked prior to the image being taken.  This technique gave the creator greater control over the composition and final look if the image than trying to create an image where the screen was not visible.  The invention of smart phones with a front facing camera changed how selfies were made, and we began to see the selfie change in its aesthetics and characteristics.  Elizabeth Day shares this viewpoint and wrote on 26th July 2013, in The Mail And Guardian, the article “How Selfies Became a Global Phenomenon “ – “it was the introduction of smartphones — most crucially the iPhone 4, which came along in 2010 with a user-facing camera — that made the selfie go viral” (  Having a front facing camera on a phone gave even greater control over how the selfie was taken, made it easier for people to get the composition right and meant that the selfie didn’t rely on mirrors so could then be taken anywhere without any hesitation or fumbling around taking “blind” images where you couldn’t see what was being captured at the time.

In this paper I am proposing to understand selfies, from the reasons we create selfies, to what makes a good selfie, the different photographic styles of selfies, the cultures and subcultures of the selfie, and to also examine the technological progress that has led us to where we are now in the terms of #selfie.  I will be looking at the role that the internet, and social networking, Facebook in particular, has played in the lifespan of the selfie and how the photo sharing app, Instagram, and its exclusive availability on Apple devices has aided in this phenomenon.  In Chapter 1 I shall begin by looking at the history of the selfie, which I believe is in auto-portraits – from the first photo booth images whose history can be traced back to its invention in 1888, to other methods of capturing a likeness of the “self” through photographic means.  I will trace the path from those believed origins to the present day, addressing how the selfie has become a more and more popular method of image making.

Chapter 2 will look at the present day selfie, the technology that has driven a culture of selfie makers and the applications that have made the image so popular.

Chapter 3 looks at the future of the selfie, from how selfies may change to other factors involved in the selfie culture such as inventions of the future and trends that may stem from today.



The History of the Self Portrait 

Since time began, man has been fascinated with his own image, from looking at reflections of himself to creating drawings of himself on cave walls.  Artists have used themselves as the subject for paintings, creating self portraits by taking sketches of their image that was reflected in the mirror.  The trend for painted self portraits started early on in history although there was a marked increase in the Renaissance period around the 15th Century of self portraits, and portraits in general,  being made.  These portraits and self portraits lead to a feeling of grandeur in the places they were hung as they were so expensive to procure as to have created, they were often a way of showing off how wealthy you and your family were, which in today’s terms is the equivalent of buying an expensive car or jetting off on an exotic holiday abroad.  The reasons for painted self portraits differs from the reasons behind today’s “selfies”, in that painters would use themselves as subjects because it was cheaper than hiring a model and was readily available, whether day or night, whenever the mood to paint would happen upon the painter, it is also a familiar subject and could be seen as being easier to work with as a subject matter.  However, although paintings made of one’s self are indeed self portraits, they are only an artistic impression of the self, and are open to much interpretation, or artistic licence, as the artist can change aspects of the image, for instance change the colour of the eye, make a nose smaller or lips bigger, make someone seem larger than they are or smaller (depending on their social standing and importance).  The self portrait is only an interpretation of what the artist sees and therefore, cannot be seen as a true representation of the self due to these factors.

The invention of photography has only added to this fascination with the “self” and has made it easier to capture the image of the self, in a quicker, more prompt fashion, and in a much more accurate way.   Photography, due to its very nature, creates a truer representation, albeit a fleeting moment in time, of whatever the image taker decides to cast his lens upon.

The invention of photography around 1790 happened with Thomas Wedgewood creating a way of making permanent images using chemicals and light started a new technological drive and a move to creating lifelike images in an easier fashion than painting and drawing.

“Wedgwood is the first person reliably documented to have used light-sensitive chemicals to capture silhouette images on durable media such as paper, and the first known to have attempted to photograph the image formed in a camera obscura.” (Thomas Wedgwood (photographer) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. Thomas Wedgwood (photographer) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 September 2013].

After this break-through in actual image print creation came another way to create images, one that built on the ideas and concepts discovered by Wedgewood, which was complex, lengthily and expensive, the images created directly onto a metal plate or mirrored metallic surface, called daguerreotypes.

“According to writer Robert Leggat,”Louis Daguerre made an important discovery by accident. In 1835, he put an exposed plate in his chemical cupboard, and some days later found, to his surprise, that the latent image had developed. Daguerre eventually concluded that this was due to the presence of mercury vapour from a broken thermometer. This important discovery that a latent image could be developed made it possible to reduce the exposure time from some eight hours to thirty minutes.

Louis Daguerre introduced the daguerreotype process to the public on August 19, 1839 at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris.”  (Daguerreotype – A Form of Photography Invented By Louis Daguerre. 2014.Daguerreotype – A Form of Photography Invented By Louis Daguerre. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 7th February 2014]. )

The way in which these images were made involved the subject sitting or standing for a long period of time in order to record an accurate image.  The image that was captured was recorded was a one off print, not able to be reproduced as the plate the image was captured onto was also the negative.  The other problem with this type of image was that it was highly delicate and prone to damage.  In order to preserve the image it would need to be encased in glass, like how images are framed these days.  The glass would add the protective layer to the image so that damage was limited.  The encasing of the image provided the means for the image to be displayed, often the encasing was highly decorative as well as being functional, turning the image not just into a representation of what had been shot but into an object to hold, display and cherish, the frames often including a velvet protector for the glass adding to the opulence of the object.  Some were designed to be carried around in pockets and others with display functions in mind.  The actual daguerreotype image process was used to capture buildings and landscapes, static images being the easiest to capture due to the long exposure times required, but also people, both dead and alive, the live ones needing to be strapped into body and head braces to reduce movement and create sharper images.  Images of the dead were produced as a memento of that person and provided some comfort to the persons left behind.

“Death portraits could capture something of this state; in a sense, the death portrait was more accurate, in reflecting the essence of a subject, than a portrait of the living. The moment of death was also seen increasingly, in the nineteenth century, as one of joy and comfort, as a release from the difficulties of this world into God’s hands. A realistic daguerreotype taken just after death might show a “beatific” or even “triumphant” entrance into God’s kingdom.”  (The Social Construction of the American Daguerreotype Portrait: The Mourning Portrait. 2014. The Social Construction of the American Daguerreotype Portrait: The Mourning Portrait. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014]. )

“When the first picture became public, legendary writer Edgar Allen Poe commented on the daguerreotyped plate, putting the photograph under scrutiny: ‘in truth, the daguerreotype plate is infinitely more accurate in its representation than any painting by human hands,’ he said. “If we examine a work of ordinary art, by means of a powerful microscope, all traces and resemblance to nature will disappear – but the closest scrutiny f the photographic drawing discloses only a more accurate truth, a more perfect identity of aspect with the thing represented.” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)  T

The difference in paintings and the photograph, along with a more “real” likeness of the subject can go some way in explaining why these images of the dead were so important and seen to give comfort to the bereaved.  With the images appearing so “real”, “a more perfect identity” meant that the person who carried or viewed the image of the deceased, would feel like they still held on to part of them, as if the dead were still with the holder somehow, and this would definitely give some degree of comfort to the bereaved.

While daguerreotypes are important in the history of photography, and also in getting people used to having their image taken it is not where selfies started.   Daguerreotypes can be seen to be the start of a photographic ritual, one that sees the start of people documenting their lives and important occasions, it is one that got people used to being in front of, and behind a lens, having their image taken and learning about the processes of photography.


There is a type of image that aligns itself with the selfies of today in how it was used and that is the visiting card (which was also known as a calling card) which was a form of a portrait of the visitor, or person from which the card cane, printed on to a small card, similar to a business card that was sent to households as a sign of the senders intention to visit.  These cards had a complex set of rules with regard to whether the person could then visit the household or not.  “Visiting cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use. The essential convention was that one person would not expect to see another person in her own home (unless invited or introduced) without first leaving his visiting card for the person at her home. Upon leaving the card, he would not expect to be admitted at first, but might receive a card at his own home in response. This would serve as a signal that a personal visit and meeting at home would not be unwelcome. On the other hand, if no card were forthcoming, or if a card were sent in an envelope, a personal visit was thereby discouraged. As an adoption from French and English etiquette, visiting cards became common amongst the aristocracy of Europe, and also in the United States. The whole procedure depended upon there being servants to open the door and receive the cards and it was, therefore, confined to the social classes which employed servants. “ ( )  We have adopted the use of calling cards and its updated use can be seen in use on social media sites which require profiles of the user (for example, Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and Myspace), complete with basic information or a few words about the person, their interests, where they went to school and also a picture of that person too.

The history of the selfie can be traced back to photo booth images.  There are two main reasons for this statement; one is the way in which the image is framed when being taken, it is a head and shoulder image of yourself, the same style that is being echoed in today’s selfies, the other reason is the way that the image is made. There is only one person present at the time of the photo booth image being made and that is the subject of the photograph; however, it is a machine, working on a time release that depresses the shutter rather than the subject, which is unlike today’s selfies where the subject of the image is also the photographer and the one who controls the shutter release directly.   There are no outside influences from a photographer, the image in a photo booth was created in a controlled environment, from the way the booth was lit to the shutter speed and film speed used, these were things that the image maker could not control, these were set by the photo booth manufacturer or the persons responsible for setting up the booth.  However, the subject was able to have a greater self expression in how they posed, what was worn, what accessories were included and how they wanted the overall image to look and feel like.  The only other thing the image taker could control was when to feed in the money and press a button to control the timer switch which in turn counted down to the mechanical release of the lens shutter.  Wikipedia has the following explanation of the photo booth…

“A photo booth is a vending machine or modern kiosk that contains an automated, usually coin-operatedcamera and film processor. Today the vast majority of photo booths are digital. Traditionally photo booths contain a seat or bench designed to seat the one or two patrons being photographed. The seat is typically surrounded by a curtain of some sort to allow for some privacy and help avoid outside interference during the photo session. Once the payment is made, the photo booth will take a series of photographs (though most modern booths may only take a single photograph and print out a series of identical pictures”.  (Wikipedia, Photo booth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. Photo booth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 September 2013]. )

In early photo booths, a series of different images were taken and then printed out, the exposures generated could capture different expressions or, if you were quick enough to switch round subjects, people too!, however photo booths these days tend to work on a slightly different basis given the reasons behind visiting one has changed so drastically.  When photo booths first came into production they were situated in places such as funfairs and at sea fronts, places that were associated with fun and frivolity.  People were encouraged to visit photo booths in order to mark the occasion and have a memento of their day out away from home.  Now photo booths are situated in corners of supermarkets, or in shopping centres, not really used to “capture the moment” anymore, but used to take photos that can be used for documentation purposes.  The images produced tend to be of one exposure, produced several times on one sheet.  The images created by these machines are now predominantly being used for driving licences, passports, bus passes, college photo id, and other forms of id that need an image of yourself attaching to them.  This shift in how we started to change how we used photo booths aligns itself with the invention and introduction of the celluloid material that negatives are made of.

Eventually, celluloid became the best possible negative material.  Then, a process whereby film (the celluloid negative material) could be developed after exposure led to the advent of the popular Kodak camera, which came out in 1888.” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)

That “popular Kodak camera” was the Box Brownie, a medium format (120mm) film camera.  It was a camera that was simple enough to be mass produced which, in turn, meant that the cost for people to purchase one was cheap and accessible to the masses.  The Box Browinie was also small enough to be carried around and was much more portable than previous cameras (such as the large format predecessors).  The size and cost of the camera appealed to customers who wanted to be able to take their own images, whenever they wanted to, whether that is on holidays or at home, and not have to be guided by a photographer in a stuffy studio.  It gave everyone the chance to become a photographer and capture their own lives.  This was the turning point for photography.

“The Brownie camera was very affordable, selling for only $1 each. Plus, for only 15 cents, a Brownie camera owner could buy a six-exposure film cartridge that could be loaded in daylight. Kodak promised to develop the film for the camera’s owner, rather than the owner having to invest in materials and a darkroom.”  (Brownie Camera. 2014. Brownie Camera. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].)

The concept of the Box Brownie was as simple as the slogan inferred, “You push the button; we do the rest.”.  All the camera user needed to do was take the images they wanted with the camera and Kodak would worry about the film processing and printing procedure, returning the images to the customer post processing.

“The Brownie camera, simple enough for even children to use, was designed, priced, and marketed to have wide appeal. It made photography accessible to the masses.” (Brownie Camera. 2014. Brownie Camera. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].)

The camera had been designed to be easy to use, from loading the film into its body in daylight to capturing an image and through to replacing the film, the market for cameras began to boom and people everywhere wanted one of their own so they could capture images of their choice.

Since the advent of film cameras being available to the mass market there have been so many improvements in the cameras and film industry, to the extent that artists have used the medium to create bodies of work themselves.  Ori Gersht and Tracey Ferguson worked on a project called “Day by Day” which saw the artists take self-portrait style photographs of themselves every day for nearly three years.  This project started out as a way of documenting the self and, over time and the course of the couples break-up became a way of

“documenting the last years of their emotional journey together. Day by Day presents the reality of the highly emotive and personal struggle to keep the relationship alive. Each image captures something different: each pair of eyes conveying something too powerful to write. A flicker of doubt; an erupting fear; a stare of resolve, all bound together by a sheer determination to love.” (Pocko Editions | Day By Day. 2013. Pocko Editions | Day By Day. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 2 December 2013])  The project images are selfies, but not in the way we know selfies now as the technology and process of creating the image was different.  This project is interesting as it has visual similarity to both photo booth images and today’s typical selfies, however the background is pretty bare and as standalone images, where the images are viewed as singular rather than alongside the other images, they do not speak to us of much, it is hard to get an idea of what the image means without seeing it in context as without the other images the singular photo does not make sense.

The way in which the images Ori Gersht and Tracey Ferguson produced differs from how selfies are made today in that the image taker is sat in front of the lens and controls the shutter of the camera themselves, choosing when to press the release, this would either be done using a timer on the camera or a cable release that screws into the camera and allows the user to trigger the shutter from afar using a trigger on the other end of the cable.  The images were taken on a film camera, the film needing to be chemically processed and the images printed before they could be viewed which was lengthy, both in the time taken to create the image and the length of time between the image being taken to when the image became viewable to the creator.  Today we are lucky in that we can now take an image on a device and see it instantly, decide if we like it, what to change about it and whether we want to share it to anyone else.


Chapter 2

Self Portraits in the Modern Day

The most popular way to capture and share images today is by using a digital camera.

“There are three main types of digital cameras: cell phone cameras, point and shoot models, and dSLRmodels.  Each has its place in the world of photography.  Chances are you’re familiar with a cell-phone camera – you probably have one.  The camera is part of a series of features that go well beyond phone capabilities, but that are commonplace on today’s cell phones.” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)

The cell phone camera (hereby known as the mobile phone camera) is the most popular choice amongst the masses as, the text above outlines; mobile phones now come equipped with more features than just being a phone.

Today, most cell phones have cameras and Internet access and are referred to as smartphones.  Most are recognised by the operating system they use, which includes Android (Google’s OS), Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry, and Microsoft Windows Mobile.  People subscribe to these operating systems.  Why has a mobile computer operating system become so important in photography?  The answer is one word that conjures up image manipulation possibilities of limitless bounds: apps.  Apps (short for applications) are software programs downloaded from the internet that can transform your image into works of art.”  (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)

Further along in the book it states that

“Having a camera, access to the Internet, and a phone all in one device enabled the instant broadcast of life’s most revealing moments” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)    The mobile is a data centre and hive for all of our social needs, from phone calls, texts, emails and photographs, to the apps which make it possible to share the images we take.

Perhaps the above goes some way to explain the popularity of such apps as Instagram which boasts 150 million active monthly users (as of 14/12/2013), with 75 million of them logging in and using the service on a day to day basis and uploading, between them, on average 55 million images per day (14/12/13), which means about 16 billion images have been uploaded (22/10/13).  Of this, 16 billion uploaded images, 35 million (as of 17/10/13) of them have been categorised as selfies.  (Statistics provide from: 51 Amazing Instagram Statistics (January 2014)DMR . 2014. 51 Amazing Instagram Statistics (January 2014)DMR . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 February 2014].)

Instagram, due to its very nature as a mobile application, which exists on your mobile and can go anywhere with you, means that it is constantly accessible by the click of a button, making it easy to take and upload an image wherever you are.  The appeal of Instagram does not just lie in the ease with which images can be uploaded and shared from the mobile device but in the ease of being able to change the image through a set of pre-loaded filters that can be applied to the image to change different aspects of it.

In the 21st century, we are nostalgic for things from the 20th century.  Some current and future products define themselves by their ability to create nostalgia among people who buy them.  From iPhone apps to Actions in Photoshop, many things are based on making photos look nostalgic.  You can tweak an image using an iPhone app or using Photoshop Actions to make it look as if the image is from another time and place.”  (“Photography has come a long way since the days of placing prints into photo albums by hand.  Automation is the name of the game today, as photographers handle volumes of images using complex photo-management programs.  The programs act as giant filing systems that come with a complete laboratory of processing options that range from grouping and tagging photos to using a wide variety of tools to manipulate the images themselves”. (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)  And it is this appeal of filters, and aging of images that has appeal for many Instagram users.  These filters add effects that can make the image appear old, sun bleached, over exposed, change the image to black and white or add a tone to the image often found on old Polaroid’s.  The effects can be interesting, artistic and add an extra dimension to the images.  What is also interesting, in terms of nostalgia, is that while lots of the images shared to Instagram never get printed, there are places such as Polargram, (a printing service which will print images from your Instagram feed) will print these uploaded images in the same format as the original Polaroid, with the image in a square format and a wide bar of white below it.

“So-called “selfies”, where the photographer takes photos of themselves by holding their camera at arm’s length, have become the most popular image captured by young people.

They now account for 30 per cent of pictures taken by those aged 18-24, with men taking more photos of themselves than women, according to the poll.” (Family albums fade as the young put only themselves in picture – Telegraph. 2014. Family albums fade as the young put only themselves in picture – Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 26 February 2014].)

As stated in the previous paragraph, selfies are one of the most popular types of photograph taken and these are then shared to sites such as Instagram with the label “selfie”.  The word “Selfie” has been used so prolifically that in August of this year (2013) the word selfie had been recognised and added to the Oxford English Dictionary.  The definition of the word is given below…

Selfie definition from Oxford english dictionary

(Definition taken from the Oxford Dictionaries website found at

Since being added to the dictionary, the word selfie has also been granted the word of the year (November 2013) by Oxford Dictionaries.

“It is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”  ( , Richard Lister, 19/11/13) (BBC News – ‘Selfie’ named as word of 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. BBC News – ‘Selfie’ named as word of 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries. [ONLINE] Available at  [Accessed 20 November 2013].)

It is hardly surprising that the word selfie has been recognised in this way and also being  named word of the year as currently there are 61552232 images uploaded to the internet that have been labelled with the hash tag #selfie (HOT TAGS & INSTAGRAMMERS | Webstagram. 2013. HOT TAGS & INSTAGRAMMERS | Webstagram. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 10 December 2013].).  What is surprising is that the term selfie has taken so long to be recognised and added to the dictionary as the

“first dated use of ‘selfie’ is back in 2005, when Jim Krause is said to have referred to and popularized it in his book Photo Idea Index.” (Glimpse: Selfie-expalnatory | The LaSallian. 2013. Glimpse: Selfie-expalnatory | The LaSallian. [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 23 October 2013.])., and it has taken until 2013 to become a recognised word and added to the dictionary given that it is widely used and recognised in day to day terms and has been for quite some time.

I have identified 3 main types of selfie from comparing many images uploaded to Instagram using the hashtag Selfie (#Selfie) as a search term.

  • The Full Body Selfie Shot – this is most often taken in a full length mirror to get as much of the body in as possible. This type of selfie usually showcases a new outfit or how good the taker looks in certain clothing.  It can also be taken and uploaded to get friends opinions on clothes pre-purchasing.

The Full Body Selfie Shot


Image taken from  (Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. 2013. Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. [ONLINE] Available at . [Accessed 29 December 2013]

  • The Headshot Selfie– This type of selfie can be taken with a forward facing or rear facing camera, using a mirror or the camera’s screen to view how the image will look. This image can show off a person’s make-up, expression, be used to show where they are location wise and for many other reasons.

The Headshot Selfie


Image taken from  (Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. 2013. Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. [ONLINE] Available at . [Accessed 29 December 2013]

  • The Product/Tech Selfie – This type falls into the category of selfie as technically the taker of the image is still in the shot but the main focus is on a certain product or piece of technology such as a mobile phone.

The Product/Tech Selfie


Image taken from  (Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. 2013. Instagram photos for tag #selfie | Statigram. [ONLINE] Available at . [Accessed 29 December 2013]

These photographs are more often than not taken with a mobile phone, the camera facing back towards the subject from arm’s length.  In most cases the arm that holds the device can be seen in the image also, this can be seen in the examples below.

Selfie 1b selfie 1a


The Use of the Hashtag #

Many of the images are tagged #selfie so that they can be easily searched and “liked” via the Instagram search platform as well as other external search engines, for example through Google’s image searching facility. (#selfie – Google Search. 2014. #selfie – Google Search. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 2 February 2014].)

Adding hash tagged words to uploaded images can also add another dimension to the image,

“We might refer here to Diderot’s demonstration in his Lettre sus les sourds-muets: alter the meaning of a word in the lines Homer gives the dying Ajax and the distress of a man who asked only to die in the sight of the gods becomes the defiance of a rebel who faces up to them when dying.  The engravings added to the text supply the evidence to the readers, who can see the alteration not only in the expression on Ajax’s face, but also in the way he holds his arms and the very posture of his body.  Change one word and you have a different emotion, whose alteration can and must be exactly transcribed by the designer.”  (Jacques Ranciere, 2009.  The Future of the Image.  Reprint Edition. Verso)

This idea can be applied to the hash tagged words that accompany images on the internet, especially those uploaded and found on Instagram.  These hash tags not only become a searchable database of similar images but can add information to the image and add to the context and subtext of the image, helping the viewer to understand and read the image in a certain way.   But there are further uses for the hashtag apart from adding a narration to the image it accompanies.

This extract, lifted from website, explains the hash tag perfectly…

A hashtag is a label for content. It helps others who are interested in a certain topic, quickly find content on that same topic.

A hashtag looks something like this:  #MarathonBombings or #SmallBizQuote.

Hashtags are used mostly on social media sites.  They rocketed to fame on Twitter.  But now you can use hashtags on other social platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.

Anyone sharing content on a relevant topic can add the hashtag label to their message.  Others searching for that topic, can search for that label to find other messages on that same social media platform.

For example, during the horrific Boston Marathon bombings in the spring of 2013, several hashtags were used. They proved invaluable for providing and following up-to-the-minute news about the bombings.  In fact, several big news stories in recent years have been amplified and added to with citizen reports and amateur video and photographs.

Hashtags for such situations also provide a way for the public to express their sentiment  – something many of us feel compelled to do in the case of a disaster.  When it comes to natural disasters, a hashtag is like an information lifeline. We cling to it, to learn more about the event and provide an emotional outlet.

Hashtags, however, are not limited to big news stories.  Small business marketers have also cracked the code and figured out inventive ways to use hashtags.”  (What is a Hashtag? And What Do You Do With Hashtags?. 2014. What is a Hashtag? And What Do You Do With Hashtags?. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 January 2014].  )(Anita Campbell 11/8/13)

It is interesting to see how the use of the hash tag has moved from micro-blogging, social networking site Twitter to being used for Facebook and Instagram.  Twitter is a site that is used mainly for uploading “tweets”, 140 character messages to other users of the site.  The hash tag was, as the text states, used originally with Twitter, as a way for the user to find other people commenting on the same topic, or to find out about breaking news stories.  This trend then moved into other realms of social media with it now being a popular way to label images on Instagram.  Facebook also uses the hash tag system that Twitter and Instagram does but it doesn’t seem to be as successful as with other social networks, this could be down to privacy settings on Facebook that allow the user to set who gets to see what, whether things get shared publicly, to friends or even just putting something on your own Facebook for yourself to be able to view only.  Instagram and Twitter, while having privacy settings, dont seem to have these issues as the privacy is either on or off, and not as complex.  There is also an understanding when using Instagram and Twitter, for example, that it is more fun and interactive, and meant to be that anything you say, or image shared, gets shared for the majority of users to see, like and comment on if they so wished, it’s the way the networks were set up, and the way they should be used.  Where is the fun in sharing something and tagging it with different labels if you are only going to share it to yourself, or a select few friends?

It is useful to look at how selfies are taken and the technology that they are taken with, however there are other factors involved with selfies that need careful consideration.  The biggest and most important of these factors is why we take selfies.  Without us taking selfies we would not be considering how selfies are taken or have seen the word selfie become world recognised through use.  As I said in Chapter One of this paper man is fascinated with the idea of self, how he looks and appears to others.  There are many reasons selfies are taken, for example to create a sense of belonging, whether it is belonging to a social group through items you photograph yourself with or wearing, or to create a sense of belonging by being part of a contemporary phenomenon, the idea that you are leaving a mark by creating and posting images for people to view.  Then there are reasons to post that link with the availability of certain functions of the “upload” software, for example both Instagram and Facebook, along with other image sharing applications,  allow viewers of the image to “Like” the image, Instagram does this with a little Heart shaped button to the bottom left of the uploaded image, Facebook has a “Like” button found under the uploaded images, this can lead to the image taker continuing to upload selfies “for the likes” and perceived popularity.  It is interesting to note that many image sharing applications only have a like function button, and this function was probably borrowed from Mark Zuckerberg’s  Facemash.

Facemash, the Facebook’s predecessor, opened on October 28, 2003. Initially, the website was invented by a Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg, and three of his classmates – Andrew McCollumChris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz. Zuckerberg wrote the software for the Facemash website when he was in his second year of college. The website was set up as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. The website allowed visitors to compare two student pictures side-by-side and let them choose who was “hot” and who was “not”.” (History of Facebook – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  2003. History of Facebook – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] available at : [Accessed 29 December 2013].)

Gaining likes on images and the feeling of being popular feeds another reason that people take and upload selfies and that is to “become famous” and gain prestige and recognition through the images the taker uploads, which in turn attracts further likes and “followers” to the up loaders image upload stream.  From these last reasons comes a need then to keep making and uploading images so that the image maker can “stay in the limelight” as social media creates the pressure of the more posts that are made by a person, the more visibility that person gets.  With celebrities such as Rihanna and Miley Cyrus continually taking and uploading images there is also a celebrity culture that people want to become part of, if the image maker’s favourite celebrity is creating selfies then surely they should be doing the same?  It’s about aspiring to become someone, or be as cool as someone through mimicking actions.  Sometimes the reason behind taking and uploading selfies is quite simple and easy to understand and that reason is power.

“It allows you to control your image online.”I am painfully self-conscious about photos of myself,” admits Samantha, nineteen, from Missouri. “I like having the power to choose how I look, even if I’m making a funny face.”  (The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected Consequences of Selfie Obsession | 2013. The Good, the Bad, and the Unexpected Consequences of Selfie Obsession |[ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 23 October 2013].).  Most of these reasons to take and upload selfies fall under the umbrella term of narcissism,

a term that originated with Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Currently it is used to describe the pursuit of gratification from vanity, or egotistic admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, that derive from arrogant pride.”  (Narcissism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. Narcissism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2013. [ONLINE] available at [Accessed 29 December 2013]).

The idea that selfies are linked to narcissism and narcissistic tendencies is well documented and written about.  In June of 2013, website philstar ( posted an article written by Carlo Rivera entitled The Perks of Being #Selfie which said the following about selfies and narcissism.

“Selfies are commonly associated not with personal risk but with narcissism and vanity.”  (The perks of being # Selfie | Cebu Lifestyle, The Freeman Sections, The Freeman | 2013. The perks of being # Selfie | Cebu Lifestyle, The Freeman Sections, The Freeman | [ONLINE] Available at [Accessed 19 September 2013].)


Instagram, iphones and artists

The photographer Nick Knight has recently used the internet to publish a body of work called Pussycat, Pussycat (2012).  Although this work is not related directly to the selfie movement it is related due to the nature of sharing the images.   Nick Knight is a fashion photographer, whose images are more likely to be seen in glossy magazines, on advertising boards across world and in gallery spaces, however, the platform he chose to both create and debut this latest work is in line with how we create and view selfies.  Using the ever popular iphone app, Instagram, Nick Knight has taken these photoshoot images to another viewing level.  Nick’s website, SHOWstudio, explains the shoot in the extract below.

SHOWstudio’s commitment to live fashion takes a new twist: this Friday 20 April 2012, SHOWstudio turns to the latest web tools – Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr – to offer up Nick Knight’s first ever Instagram photo shoot. This is a ‘live shoot’ in its most literal sense, with images of model Cara Delevingne posted online straight from Knight’s camera alongside tweets of pithy analytical fashion commentary from fashion director Alexander Fury. ( Pussycat, Pussycat – SHOWstudio – The Home of Fashion Film . 2014.Pussycat, Pussycat – SHOWstudio – The Home of Fashion Film . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 December 2013]. )

Herein lies the beauty of such an app as Instagram, its appeal lies in the “live” element, where the user can upload the images straight from the image capture device for all to see on the internet.

“Nick Knight on… the appeal of Instagram
“Having a phone and an Instagram account means that I can create images on my own. When I first started using it a couple of years ago, it reminded me of the 70s, when I first started out in photography. It felt very direct – it was about me taking the image. It felt really authentic. I don’t have a Twitter account because it’s essentially about writing and my focus has always been visual. Instagram felt like the most appropriate way for me to communicate. I also really enjoy the instantaneous nature of it – you can publish images straight away – and get feedback from people across the globe. “(Nick Knight on the Changing Face of Fashion Photography – Culture Talks | AnOther. 2014. Nick Knight on the Changing Face of Fashion Photography – Culture Talks | AnOther. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 2 February 2014]. )

The appeal of the “live” element of Instagram is wide-spread, we can upload images quickly of ourselves “here and now” in real time and show the world what we are up to in the present moment.  This is something that is important in life; we are more interested in the present than the past or the future.  The present is very much where it is all happening and is the most important place to be.  So what of the future of the selfie and indeed apps such as Instagram?



The Future of the Selfie

The future of the selfie depends on two main factors, technology and the human need to continue to generate these images.  When talking about technology, reference needs to be made to the image capture device, the way the image is projected (such as screens) and the upload platform for the image to be shared to.

All factors rely on each other to succeed in the terms of the selfie image.  If one starts to fail then the other one will start slipping away, for example if the technology does not shift an develop as quickly as the user would like, or it becomes peppered with software issues then the user is less likely to want to make selfie images to share.  This also works in the other direction too, for example if people were to start to slow down with generating the selfie image to the extent that new applications for sharing these images are not getting as much interest as previously they would, the application creator will stop creating so many ways of taking and making selfies, there would be less choice on the market for the selfie creator to choose from and the interest in taking selfies would drop.


Technological Changes

The way in which we “view” images and other media is set to change.

The book, “Defining the Future of Photography”, (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.) addresses this change in the following extract

Once the digital age began, photography underwent a metamorphosis in the way pictures were developed and printed.  Sensors replaced film as the material upon which an image was formed, and an LCD screen became the primary way people viewed images.”


This extract goes some way to explain the technological changes that have affected the nature of our image viewing. Where we once viewed images and videos on a static screen in our living room has already seen a move to being viewed on the pc screen, laptop screen and mobile phone device.  We are used to seeing images on the television, from young children this is how we were conditioned to view news stories, documentaries about faraway places and other content that was deemed suitable to be broadcast to us, the audience.  That viewing platform has moved to computer screens, in our lifetime, across very few years, and now that content can be streamed to our mobile device.  And it’s not just broadcasting companies that have a choice in what is available to us, with content being added to the internet by the general public, on a second by second rate, we can view pretty much whatever we want to, whether that is a make-up tutorial from a blogger on you-tube or the latest football game that is happening RIGHT NOW, we can watch it all.  This same shift is happening with how images are viewed, once they were static objects, printed in specialist shops from tiny rolls of film, printed onto light sensitive paper and stored in boxes and albums in houses across the land, but since we became more electronics led, we became a nation of photo takers, the process of taking a photograph becoming increasingly cheap due to the developments in technology allowing for a shift from analogue photography to digital, those images that are created comprising of millions of fragments of digital data, many never printed into actual objects to share with family and friends, but to sit forgotten on hard drives, archived away and never looked at, or we would email them to friends who would just glance at them then delete.  This is something that the book “DEFINING THE FUTURE OF PHOTOGRAPHY” addresses (p13)

“The digital age meant that for the first time, the masses could take photographs and transfer them to the computer.  Images became bits of data that could be manipulated with the click of a mouse.  As the technology progressed, hundreds of images could be stored in a camera and transferred to a computer.  Recreational photographers no longer had to develop their film inside a machine that filled a spartan room in a corner store.  The act of looking at a photograph changed.  No longer did you handle and “look” at images; now you “viewed” them on a screen, able to move them around first with a cursor and a mouse and later with a finger.” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)

Now, in present day terms, we have the opportunity to take a snapshot wherever we are, and using the same piece of technology, upload that image onto the internet for anyone to view, either through a web browser or various applications designed specifically for image viewing and uploading.  That piece of technology that we use for this purpose, has evolved over time, from a static piece of equipment we could only use in our homes or from pay phone boxes, to an added extra in a car, and then to the first “mobile” telephones which you could only make calls on.  The advent of SMS technology really pushed the mobile phone into the limelight, making it one of the “must have” items of the nineties.  From there we have seen the rate of technological advancement sky rocket within the terms of the mobile phone.  Cameras were soon introduced, mobile phone internet (WAP) was created and was easily accessible from your device, and around the same time it became possible to send photos to other recipients via Picture Messaging, a form of SMS with an attached image, which seems almost prehistoric given what mobiles can do today – email, internet, music, video, media streaming of all varieties, calls, texts and other variations of messaging, the creation of mobile phone applications such as Instagram and

“In 2010, iPhone aficionados got what they wanted – two cameras on the iPhone 4.  One of the cameras isn’t for photography, but instead makes the device capable of letting one caller physically view the other” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)  The front and rear facing cameras were to be used for different purposes on the iPhone 4, the rear camera, with its better megapixel camera (5 megapixel) was designed to be used to capture images for photographic purposes, and the front camera of much lower spec (0.3 megapixel) was to be used for video calling purposes.  However, the design of the phone, and the camera positioning made it easier for users to take the typical selfie shot (with the arm out, holding the camera and facing it towards you).  All of this has impacted on the “selfie”, from taking the shot, to sharing it.  So, what does this mean in terms of technology and the selfie in the future?

The drive in new technology seems never-ending and the speed at which new technology is developed and then available for consumers appears quick in its turnaround from an idea or concept to a “living” thing.  We currently have 3D televisions and movies filmed in HD, 3D printers, and internet capable watches which are all really exciting developments for the 21st Century.

We can apply the steps we have seen in past technological drives to current “new” technologies and look at how they may be applied to the selfies of the future.  For example, in terms of cameras, we have seen the analogue, film camera, starting with the large format camera being replaced with the smaller, cheaper, medium format camera (Box Brownie by Kodak being one of the most popular forms), this then went to 35mm film which represented value for money in that there were more exposures available for image capturing,  all this without even mentioning black and white film and the creation of colour capture film!,  Polaroid made a brief appearance with the lure of point, shoot and view your image in seconds, to digital SLR’s and point and shoot digital cameras.

Chase Jarvis published a book of iphone photographs with the title, The Best Camera Is the One That’s With You.  The title of that book has become somewhat of catchphrase for the state of photography as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.  It describes the rise of the cell phone as the primary way people take photographs.  This kind of attitude can’t be good for the future of the point-and-shoot camera.  Although today the point-and-shoot does a better job of taking pictures than a cell-phone camera does, it isn’t the camera that you’re likely to have with you all the time.  That honour goes to the cell-phone camera, which is catching up technologically with the point-and-shoots. Each iphone camera model has a higher megapixel count, and more recent models have a flash, which elevates its effectiveness to that of the point-and-shoot camera of five years ago.” (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)  Considering this was written only a few year ago we can see how far mobile phone cameras have come in a short space in time, and how close they are in comparison to other digital cameras and now, in today’s terms, some are even being overtaken by more and more powerful mobile phone cameras, for example, the Nokia Lumia boasts that it is

“The only smartphone with a 41 megapixel camera sensor, Full HD Video and Nokia Rich Recording for incredible audio capture”,  “Capture high resolution photos, zoom into details and save them as new images, adjust focus, white balance and exposure with easy, intuitive controls.” (Nokia Lumia 1020 – Windows Phone with 41 Megapixel Camera – Nokia. 2014. Nokia Lumia 1020 – Windows Phone with 41 Megapixel Camera – Nokia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2014]. )

Compare that to the Hasselblad H4D-50 which boasts a 50 mega pixel camera as being 

“the first model to ship in this new series, features a 50 Megapixel medium format sensor and True Focus with APL (Absolute Position Lock), making auto-focus substantially easier and more accurate for photography professionals. Like the rest of the H system cameras, the H4D has been specially designed to meet the most exacting demands of high-end commercial photographers who require the ultimate in both image quality and performance. Simply put, the H4D is the natural evolution of our H System and of our photographic strategy in general.”  (H4D launch. 2014. H4D launch. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2014]. ))

The Nokia Lumia is only 9 megapixels behind the Hasselblad, however it is being marketed more towards the everyday person, costing around £550( Nokia Lumia 1020 sim only deals & offers | The Carphone Warehouse. 2014.Nokia Lumia 1020 sim only deals & offers | The Carphone Warehouse. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2014].)whereas the Hasselblad, costing around £17989 (just for the camera body, not including lenses (Hasselblad H4D-50 Camera Body. 2014. Hasselblad H4D-50 Camera Body. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 February 2014].))  is aiming to capture an audience that has more specific knowledge of photography, and given the price just for the camera body, puts this camera out of reach of the general public.  This is the first major appeal of smartphones with cameras, they are appealing to the general public and can offer almost as much data capture image wise as a camera meant for the serious photographer.

New technologies can be advanced in the same way, for example, the 3D Television technology, could in the future be applied to a smartphone which would enable the user to take 3D selfies and send them to friends on-line or to other 3D ready phones, allowing the image to be viewed in 3D. This would in turn encourage people to take more and more selfies, upload and send them in vast amounts and for them to be viewed in a whole new way.  The same concept can be applied to 3D printing.  While 3D printing is already an available technology, it is in its early stages and not readily available to the public, however, once the technology becomes more and more sought after and cheaper in production it will become more mainstream and readily available.  This would mean that we could, in effect take 3D images of ourselves and “print” them out, creating mini maquettes of ourselves to give to friends and family, or be able to upload or send the 3D pattern details for people to print themselves.

It’s not just about developing new technologies, but adapting technology that we already own, at present there are a range of products aimed at adapting what we already have.  For example,  (3 in 1 Quick Connect Fish Eye Wide Angel Micro Camera Lens Kit For iPhone 4 4S | eBay . 2014. 3 in 1 Quick Connect Fish Eye Wide Angel Micro Camera Lens Kit For iPhone 4 4S | eBay . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 10 February 2014].)





(Images from

These lenses have been developed to work with current IPhones in order to push the limits of the existing internal cameras.  They clip on to the phone using either a built on clip device or using a specially adapted phone case that you place over the handset when setting up.  This type of lens will usually offer the chance of taking wide angle shots, telescopic lenses for better zoom capabilities or fish eye lenses which are super wide angle lenses which can create distortions in the image, curving up the edges but can create some nice effects when used correctly.

Combining the idea of turning images back into physical objects whilst also having the option to share them to the internet is an idea that has been taken on and from a concept is coming a product which will allow that very function to happen… Socialmatic’s camera that combines the instant-ness of a Polaroid image, enabling the user to create a photograph quickly and have it printed and available to pass round quickly, with the appeal of Instagram, namely being able to add filters to the image to change its style and colours and also the ease of uploading as it will have internet capability as long as it is connected to wifi.  Socialmatic said of their product

“We were strongly motivated to reach an agreement to create a small revolution in digital photography,” said Antonio De Rosa, chief executive of Socialmatic. “This mix of Hardware and Software, together with our brand new photo social network will fill the gap between virtuality and reality.”

(Socialmatic: Polaroid Instagram camera coming in 2014 – Telegraph. 2014.Socialmatic: Polaroid Instagram camera coming in 2014 – Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].)

In order to survive, selfies need technology, and advancements in technology that focus on image capture, whether it remains as it is today or it evolves into another way of creating self-images, or indeed, in viewing these images, need to appeal to the image maker, both in ease of making the image and in sharing the taken image.  New developments in software will keep people interested in taking images and sharing them, for instance, in the last year alone, while people have been leaving Facebook, the “active users” per day/week/month have been dropping with the Guardian running an article about it in their paper on Sunday 10th November 2013.

Facebook made a startling admission in its earnings announcement this month: it was seeing a “decrease in daily users, specifically among teens”.” (Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . 2014. Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 November 2013].)

The article states that

Their gradual exodus to messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk boils down to Facebook becoming a victim of its own success. The road to gaining nearly 1.2 billion monthly active users has seen the mums, dads, aunts and uncles of the generation who pioneered Facebook join it too, spamming their walls with inspirational quotes and images of cute animals, and (shock, horror) commenting on their kids’ photos. No surprise, then, that Facebook is no longer a place for uninhibited status updates about pub antics, but an obligatory communication tool that younger people maintain because everyone else does.” (Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . 2014. Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 November 2013]. )  Meaning that the likes of Facebook are no longer seen as being cool because of the range of users it is attracting, namely parents and other older relatives, who many of the younger users do not wish to share their lives with in such a way.  This has given way to newer apps to take over and capture the flocks that are seeking other methods of social networking away from Facebook.  The article in the Guardian goes on to back this up

“Part of the reason is that gradual encroachment of the grey-haired ones on Facebook. Another is what messaging apps have to offer: private chatting with people you are friends with in real life.” (Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . 2014. Teenagers say goodbye to Facebook and hello to messenger apps | Technology | The Observer . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 12 November 2013].)

This kind of “private chatting” facility, and private image sharing is utilised in the app, Snapchat,an ever growing, popular app that has image sharing at its core.  This app lets its users send images to one another with a time limit on how long the image is viewed for before it disappears and is unable to be viewed again.  Then there is the availability of software such as BBM (Blackberry Messenger) which was only available to use, exclusively, between owners of Blackberry handsets, this software has now become available to iphone users, which has in turn seen a increase in users of the software.  These apps are more private than Instagram and Facebook and are therefore harder to control in terms of what kind of images get sent and viewed, because of the very nature of the applications it is possible to use these image sharing apps for darker purposes, such as sexting, where images of a sexual content are taken and sent for purposes of titillation and flirting.  (See  (Cheryl Cole launches divorce action against cheat Ashley. 2014. Cheryl Cole launches divorce action against cheat Ashley. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 04 February 2014].) for one celebrity who liked to send girls snaps of himself in pants as part of sexting….)  Even pop star Kesha, teaming up with Taio Cruz, has sung about the images involved in sexting and the pressures of it, in the song “Dirty Picture” (, (Taio Cruz – Dirty Picture ft. Ke$ha – YouTube. 2014. Taio Cruz – Dirty Picture ft. Ke$ha – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 04 February 2014]. ).  The repetition of the lyrics “take a dirty picture for me, take a dirty picture” conveys the pressure that some people feel they are under to go ahead with what is being asked of them.

“ I could dream of ways to see you
I could close my eyes to dream
I could fantasize about you
Tell the world what I believe
But whenever I’m not with you
It’s so hard for me to see
I need to see a picture of you
A special picture just for me, yeah

So take a dirty picture for me
Take a dirty picture
Just take a dirty picture for me
Take a dirty picture
Just send the dirty picture to me
Send the dirty picture
Just send the dirty picture to me
Send the dirty picture


Whenever you are gone, I just wanna be wit ya
Please don’t get me wrong, I just wanna see a picture
(Kesha – Dirty Picture Lyrics | MetroLyrics. 2014. Kesha – Dirty Picture Lyrics | MetroLyrics. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 04 February 2014]. )

In itself, so long as the people sending and receiving images are of consensual age there should not be a problem with these kinds of apps, but given that a number of its users are 13 or younger (the minimum age for using apps such as these is 13, however there is no real way of finding out a users age when during sign up they can so easily give a false date of birth to obtain the app) there is more of a risk to them to either emulate what they see celebrities doing or be pressured into sending images of a sexual nature.

But, it is not just about how technology evolves that will keep us taking selfies, the trends in popular culture play a part in this and will have us snapping selfies for a long time to come.  Beauty giant Max Factor have recently been running a campaign launching their new “Excess Volume Extreme Impact Mascara” and has been encouraging its users to take “selfeye’s” which The Sun explains is

“The idea is to get people to snap a picture of one of their own eyes, in all its made-up glory – a selfie for just that one facial feature in other words.” (The Sun, Sunday January 12, 2014)

The #selfeye was also featured in Look Magazine (27th Jan 2014) and said of the trend

“It’s set to go mainstream as make-up artists, bloggers and lash lovers post pics to Instagram and Pinterest showcasing their elaborate cosmetic handiwork.”  Max Factor is using the hashtagging craze to promote and advertise its products.  This in turn encourages users to make #selfeye images and post them to become part of a campaign and gain new followers and meet fellow users of the same product, as well as be able to follow the latest trends in eye make-up and check out other users work.  And in using the #selfeye it is promoting their own handiwork, the images then getting more views and likes and followers from others who may be viewing the images tagged with the same phrases.

What started off as quite an innocent trend has now moved into darker territory with trends such as the #belfie, a selfie shot where the backside is the main feature of the image, and #bikinibridge, a shot of the hips and legs, when lying down that show the gap between the hips and clothing of the person taking the shot, gaining momentum.


An example of a #bikinibridge image taken from

The #bikinibridge ‘trend’ came out a few days ago when online forum 4chan decided to create a viral hoax about it. All it took was a fakeTumblr, screen shots of false tweets from celebrities like Harry Styles and Justin Bieber endorsing the bikini bridge, and lo and behold, it was an internet trend. “  (‘Bikini Bridge’ hoax: how the internet ate itself – Telegraph. 2014. ‘Bikini Bridge’ hoax: how the internet ate itself – Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 February 2014]. )

While #bikinibridge may have started out as an internet hoax a quick search using either term on Instagram show that it is mostly girls using these hash tags.  There is cause for concern as these images are about flaunting your body, sexualisation and objectification of the female body.  This cannot be a healthy trend to follow or even start to join in with.

The #bikinibridge hoax goes beyond an internet prank – it shows how easy it is to objectify women and how willing society is to accept it without question. But the serious worry is that vulnerable women and girls will see the pictures, and even if they know it’s a joke, will start to think they too should have bikini bridges.” (‘Bikini Bridge’ hoax: how the internet ate itself – Telegraph. 2014. ‘Bikini Bridge’ hoax: how the internet ate itself – Telegraph. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 02 February 2014].)

The trend for the term #belfie was probably started, and in any case fuelled, by celebrity Kim Kardashian, who “took what has become perhaps the most iconic selfie of all time. It’s her, looking into a mirror, taking a photo of her own bum”. ( Selfies: the dos and don’ts of the word of the year | Technology | The Guardian . 2014. Selfies: the dos and don’ts of the word of the year | Technology | The Guardian . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 06 February 2014]. )


Taken from newspaper report in the Daily Mail titled “ And another one strikes a pose! Cheryl Cole joins Kelly Brook and Kim Kardashian by sharing a rose-tinted ‘belfie’”

Read more: Chery Cole joins Kelly Brook and Kim Kardashian by sharing a rose-tinted ‘belfie’ | Mail Online. 2014. Chery Cole joins Kelly Brook and Kim Kardashian by sharing a rose-tinted ‘belfie’ | Mail Online. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook (

Kim Kardashian is already famous for her curves and rear end and by making this the subject of her selfies only reinforces this and continues to make her curves the thing she is most noted for.  It starts a trend though, with younger girls wanting to emulate the famous pose, which could be seen as being damaging for them as there is never any real idea, once these images have been uploaded, of knowing who has viewed them.  An older woman can judge what she is uploading and decide whether she wants to upload the image and if anything untoward was to happen to that image, or she get contacted by someone with unwanted messages then she can deal with them in a better way than a child.  The main concern behind these images is that they are posted for one reason only and that is attention.  The images seek “likers” to make the poster feel good about themselves but they can attract the wrong kind of attention and also reinforce negative body images.

The trend for the #lelfie is slightly different because, apart from it being a leg selfie, it can be posted for several reasons, and is not intended solely for the purpose of seeking attention, it can be posted (#ootd) or to show where the poster is, for example if they are on holiday, it doesn’t have to be so sexualised as an image.  Browsing through the #lelfie on  (Instagram photos for tag #lelfie | Statigram. 2014. Instagram photos for tag #lelfie | Statigram. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 6 February 2014].)  will show the image to be more of a point of view image from the image takers perspective than something untoward, for example


Image taken from a search for the term #lelfie ( )

The image above is a typical #lelfie shot, taken from the perspective of the image creator, it shows the legs and feet, the flooring and, in this particular image, the self as a shadow.  There are many images that are visually similar to the above image that are tagged as #lelfie’s and can be seen to add to a discourse that is documenting everyday life, of storytelling and travelling.

Instagram has a set of guidelines and rules over the types of images shared, for instance

You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.” (Terms of Use • Instagram. 2014. Terms of Use • Instagram. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].)  However some images that fall into these categories outlined are still being uploaded on a day to day basis simply because Instagram and other such sites rely heavily on the users of the site to report any images that infringe their usage rules.  If images are being seen as being ok, and users are accustomed to viewing these images, celebrities and other famous people are uploading these types of images then the images are not going to get reported to the software providers and will become the norm.

The #felfie is another image term taking the internet by storm.  This term refers to selfies of farmers and is a way of showing people where their food comes from and also becomes a way of other farmers to meet and network with other farmers across the globe.

 “, a blog set up by Essex farmer @willwilson100, collects the latest felfies from around the world – showcasing rural working lives everywhere from Finland to Argentina.” (The felfie: how farmers are embracing social media | Environment | The Guardian . 2014. The felfie: how farmers are embracing social media | Environment | The Guardian . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 January 2014]. )

The hash tag term felfie not only becomes a category of image it has opened up a way for farmers to network with each other and has opened up the chanels of social media once again, instead of the image just being about gaining likes and follows it has sparked up some interesting conversations surrounding the farming lifestyle.

“As ag blogger Ryan Goodman said about the felfie on his blog:

It’s actually a pretty great way for farmers to mesh with a pop-culture movement and make a few connections that lead to a little advocacy. Adding a bit of personality to our messages helps build those relationships.

The felfie isn’t just a product of having smart phones, it’s also a product of having an all consuming job where you are mostly working alone. Snapping a photo of yourself doing something interesting to share with the world creates a fun and helpful circle for farmers to share what they love doing with others who are passionate about food and the environment.” (Felfies help people understand where their food comes from | Carrie Mess | Comment is free | . 2014. Felfies help people understand where their food comes from | Carrie Mess | Comment is free | . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 January 2014].)

With the rise of the #felfie as a way of connecting with others in that job there could be a wave of other job description based hash tags appearing over the internet… Offelfie?*  Anyone?   (Office selfie term perhaps?)




“Photography has come a long way since the days of placing prints into photo albums by hand.  Automation is the name of the game today, as photographers handle volumes of images using complex photo-management programs.  The programs act as giant filing systems that come with a complete laboratory of processing options that range from grouping and tagging photos to using a wide variety of tools to manipulate the images themselves”. (Matthew Bamberg, 2011. New Image Frontiers: Defining the Future of Photography. 1 Edition. Cengage Learning PTR.)    This is a problem caused by digital photography, we can take more and more photos because we are not so restricted by exposure amounts like we were with film (where we could only take a certain, finite amount of images before changing the roll of film versus the memory card which provides us with a way of taking an almost infinite number of images), and the expense or cheapness, once purchased a digital capture device will take image, after image, after image, being restricted only by memory card size.  It means we can take more and more images than ever before.  The storage problem of these images can be solved by uploading these images to the web, adding hash tagged words to categorise and find them again more easily, and photo sharing however it means that we will be exposed to even more images than before.  And with people liking to capture themselves in photos as selfie images, we are going to be seeing even more of these images.

But will people ever tire of making selfies?  Or even looking at selfies?  With regard to the latter question, the answer must be a yes as our newsfeeds on most social media site are getting clogged up with the latest friends selfie snap, and while it can be fun to check out a new image occasionally it can be pretty boring seeing so many each day.

Annebella Pollen wrote about cultural status in “When is a cliché not a cliché? Reconsidering Mass-Produced Sunsets”, about images that have low cultural status, such as sunsets being

“Equivalent, perhaps, to images of kittens or thatched cottages, sunset photographs have a low cultural status: they are characterised as sentimental visual confectionary indicative of limited aesthetic vision and an undeveloped practice; as childlike pleasures. Sontag’s statements in particular imply that more experienced and aspirational photographers grow out of the sugary-sweet excesses of their early days and come to prefer the more restrained pleasures and acquired tastes of legitimate art. This attitude is echoed in Robert Castell and Dominique Schnapper’s sociological study of camera club activity in the 1960s. They quote a camera club member who dismisses what he calls “photography which is too ‘pretty'”. He states: “You come across clichés particularly among the beginners: hackneyed subjects. As soon as you have a little photographic education you can’t look at them anymore”. ( )

Where Annebella considers sunsets and images of kittens to be of a low cultural status, so the selfie can be seen as having the same cultural standing, not because they are no longer important but because the value of the image itself has dropped as there are so many shared on a day to day basis, that we, as viewers no longer really see the image and are more likely to switch off to it than spend time really looking at it and assessing what the image really is about.

In the terms of whether we will ever tire of making selfie images, the answer in short is no.

While manufacturers keep producing better cameras for us to take images with, whether they are attached to our mobile devices or not, there will always be a means for us to pose, and pout at the lens and capture an image for us to send to our friends to check out.  But, it’s not just about the technology, as was discussed in Chapter 3, where we can find new ways to capture the “self” and means to define and categorise these images there will always be a need to identify with these new movements in some way.  Humans are programmed to react to changes around them, identify them and move with them, there is an element of inclusion to the human race, people want to be included and participate, even in a small way, just so they don’t feel left out.

The #felfie trend brings us back to why applications, such as Instagram and Facebook began to exist in the first place, and that reason was to be social, share with others what you do, your ideas and thoughts and connect with others in a way that wasn’t just spoken or written, but visual too.  As a whole we are talking about social media, and the reason for it being such a successful concept that so many platforms offer social networking, blogging, micro blogging etc, is because we are sociable creatures, we need to seek out the advice and opinions of others as well as their approval and on occasion disproval, we have a need to start conversations, join conversations and be part of communities.



Read more:Chery Cole joins Kelly Brook and Kim Kardashian by sharing a rose-tinted ‘belfie’ | Mail Online. 2014. Chery Cole joins Kelly Brook and Kim Kardashian by sharing a rose-tinted ‘belfie’ | Mail Online. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].
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