Selfish

Our next project focuses on Self Portraits. Are modern day selfies the same as artistic self-portraits? We know art critics like Jerry Saltz have hailed the likes of Kim Kardashian as a millennial genius for her latest selfie project. It is arguable that her photographs represent a generation or can claim legitimacy in the art world, but it’s quite clear that she has made an impact and continues to shape a particular type of imagery that fetishizes the body and begs larger questions about body politics.

Charlotte Cotton once said, “The internet does not adhere to the inherent, necessary asymmetry of high-versus-low-art categorizations that we use in the cultural sector: in a banal sense, all photographs on the Web are orphans ready to be claimed.” In this way, what are we saying with the images we make…and how will they be claimed by the public?

Kim's selfie on the cover of her Photographic Oeuvre,
Kim’s selfie on the cover of her Photographic Oeuvre, “Selfish”

19 thoughts on “Selfish

  1. I think in order to answer this question we have to ask the question of “How do we deem something art” and I think we must also look at the intent of the artist. Was Kim Kardashian taking selfies with an intent to create an art piece discussing body politics or was she in it for the likes?

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  2. To me, a selfie is just simply a picture that you take of yourself when you are trying to update your internet friends on what you currently look like. A self portrait is more than that, it really embodies who the person is and it doesn’t necessarily have to be of the person. It can also be of the things that the person enjoys or cherishes.

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  3. I think the main difference between a selfie and a self portrait is that a selfie must include the person taking the photo of themselves…a self portrait can be of a still life or objects that describe the person or are somehow relating to the person taking the photographs. Self portraits have much more freedom in that they don’t need to include the persons actual face where a selfie pretty much does. Selfies also tend to be a much faster read than self portraits.

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    1. That “fast read” is an important distinction! As Cady pointed out, the intentionality in an artwork is not always apparent in a selfie. The selfie is a trace (?), is disposable and often perceived to be less rare.

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  4. Selfies are pictures that the general public takes of themselves to show where they’ve been, what they are doing, a special moment. They can be fun and artistic in some cases. Selfies are much like the modern day instant camera of the 70’s. Billions of selfies are taken everyday by people on cell phones. Self portraits are an artistic, self study, and sometimes a conceptual image of oneself. They expose a piece or a whole story about that person. They can be straight forward or the can be subliminal. They can also be fun and silly much like the selfies. The difference for me is that self portraits are thought about and selfies are in the moment.

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  5. Selfies are pictures that the general public takes of themselves to show where they’ve been, what they are doing, a special moment. They can be fun and artistic in some cases. Selfies are much like the modern day instant camera of the 70’s. Billions of selfies are taken everyday by people on cell phones. Self portraits are an artistic, self study, and sometimes a conceptual image of oneself. They expose a piece or a whole story about that person. They can be straight forward or the can be subliminal. They can also be fun and silly much like the selfies. The difference for me is that self portraits are thought about and selfies are in the moment.

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  6. Hey guys! Steve, Victoria, and I were discussing this article and the differences between a selfie and a self-portrait. Here is a link that I found resourceful explaining the differences:

    “The self-portrait and the selfie are two separate, though at times overlapping, efforts at establishing and embellishing a definition of one’s self.

    Qualities like medium specificity, deeply rooted histories, and traditions (or lack thereof) that define these efforts only superficially differentiate the two. What has greater weight is the selfie’s inherently replaceable and even disposable quality. If after taking a picture of oneself the results are unsatisfactory, it is easily forgotten and replaced by a new picture.

    The self-portrait, whether it is a carefully composed study or created in haste, often contains more decisions than could be easily erased. Calling a self-portrait by Rembrandt a selfie is not only anachronistic, it also negates the carefully calculated set of decisions that created the rendering.”

    http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/whats-the-difference-between-a-selfie-and-a-self-portrait/

    We began questioning if a selfie must be produced using photography as it’s main medium. What are your guys’ thoughts? At first I thought it could only be considered a selfie if taken with a camera, but then thought that one could be just as narcissistic while painting a self-portrait OR take a selfie and then paint it.

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    1. That’s a GREAT article Manny! 🙂 I absolutely agree with you—in that the qualities that we generally associate with a selfie (narcissism, reflection, emphasizing status) can be equally attributed to self-portrait paintings/fine art as well.

      I think maybe a big distinction could lie in access. Who has access to the image? Self-portrait art is in galleries/museums but, selfies have been democratized across the internet. The personal becomes public in ways historical art has not…In fact, most aspects of our private life seem to be mediated by images that are often consumed by the public. That phenomenon transcends the intention of the artist in ways it hasn’t before this technology.

      I think what makes a “selfie” is maybe our moment in history.

      This moment in time where we mediate everything in our lives with images and our only way of coming to know ourselves is through the reflexive qualities of the digital camera.

      A selfie then, is not an artwork made for display like its predecessor but, (like the article begins to point out) an utterance in a global conversation that changes as we change… We need photographs to certify experience, moment by moment.

      “I selfie, therefore, I am.”

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  7. Maybe what makes Kim Kardashian so popular with art critics is the sheer amount of images she is taking and her own self-awareness of her celebrity while taking them…It doesn’t mark a mastery of formal craft as an artist but, it marks a historical shift in the perception of self.

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  8. Of course a Selfie is a new movement in photography. I put selfie with social media especially instagram. When I take a selfie its to show off or document, mostly only simply interesting things that get likes. To take a self portrait is more of a thought behind it, some more emotion, the good, bad and the ugly.

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  9. For me a selfie is a picture that describes what you are doing now or something that is not really important. For selfie what i mainly see is that people mainly post about the things they did that day or what they are eating or where they are hanging out with their friends.

    To me a self portrait is something that has more meaning to it. It has more of an importance to the person taking it. A self portrait to me is a picture that the artist has put all of his or her emotions in it. Also a self portrait is more intimate because you are basically seeing what kind of person they truly are.

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  10. To me the difference between a self portrait and a selfie is that a selfie is more like a social communication, a shared moment. A self-portrait is a recognition of self, a representation of an artist. a selfie is taken typically with a camera phone, while a self-portrait is either painted,drawn, sculpted, or photographed.

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  11. The difference between a selfie and self-portrait is that a selfie is done mainly with a cellphone and the self-portrait is done with a camera. The selfie is something that the person is doing to show what they are doing in there every day life, weather its with family and friends or out having fun in a new place, there is not a lot of deep thought put into what they are taking, just the spur of the moment. The self-portrait is meant to portray that person with deeper meaning to it, by showing similarity’s to them and a family member or through an action that shows how they are feeling during a particular time in there life or the hardships they might be going through. It can also show what kind of person they are or show what it is that they enjoy doing in life.

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  12. The difference between a selfie and a portrait is that a self portrait isn’t just a photo of a person a self- portrait can be a photograph that documents a persons change with time or a concept of who the person really is. A self portrait takes more effort than a selfie and can be more meaningful than a selfie.

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  13. A selfie is a plain photo. It is a moment. It connects to a specific time and place. When you look back at it you may remember the situation and the emotion you were feeling during that time as well as what was going on during that time. A self portrait is to plan and prepare a mood. It can project your inner self.

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