The 21st Century Family Portrait

This Christmas my dad’s girlfriend won the award for the best present award hands down. The present provided conversation starters, jokes and countless bonding moments that lasted well into the New Year.

My brother – the lucky present recipient – took the present to Woodford Folk Festival, where he used it to shoot a video for the girl he was keen on back home. The present seriously confused my Nan, who couldn’t understand how the present didn’t need batteries or something else to work. The present also made my dad laugh, a lot. It was infectious – he had the whole table at Christmas lunch in hysterics.

And finally, the present gave me – the family photographer – my first video of Christmas lunch.

Want to know what the present was?

A selfie stick.

Selfies have revolutionised family photography. My Christmas holiday album below is testament to this.

There are even blogs now about how to take the best family selfies. Blogger It Started in LA writes:

“Don’t mess about trying to line up the shot, take it quickly and nail it the first time. It’s a selfie not an artistic shot.”

Although we don’t think about it, selfies have changed the way we interact with others, our sense of humour and how we behave in public places (Saltz 2014). We now have the ability to take a new kind of family portrait, during which everyone is usually having a giggle at how silly they all look on the phone screen. Compare the family selfie to your average I’ve-been-smiling-for-five-minutes-straight-and-my-mouth-hurts photo and you’ve probably got yourself a half decent family snap.

My Dad and I recently went through a trunk of old photos of the earlier generations of our family who lived at Kiandra during the gold rush. In the future it’s reasonable to predict that our great grandchildren will piece together their family history by looking through a hard drive of selfies.

Selfies have also become an art form. Jerry Saltz tells us that they are ‘a new visual genre—a type of self-portraiture formally distinct from all others in history’ (2014). And the selfies that we take with a selfie stick, like the selfies we take in mirrors, are a distinct sub-genre of this new visual genre.

The beauty of selfie sticks is that they allow large families to take a photo with every family member in it – without having to ask an outsider to take the photo.

If selfies have become an art form then maybe selfie sticks are the new paintbrush. Imagine what Picasso could have done if he had a selfie stick.

2014-12-21 14.56.57 2014-12-21 14.57.25 2014-12-21 14.59.56 2014-12-21 15.01.23 2014-12-21 18.21.02-1 2014-12-22 11.34.53

Saltz, J 2014, ‘Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie,’ Vulture, 27 January, viewed 12 May, http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html

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3 comments

  1. Hey there:)
    I really like this post I think you’ve done a really good job in writing it and I love the introduction. It keeps us in suspense about what on earth this present is. Good job:)
    The selfie stick shows just how popular the selfie has actually become. Im not a big fan of selfies myself, I’d still prefer to ask a stranger walking past to take a photo, however in a situation like yours its a good contraption to be able to take a shot of the whole family having a Christmas dinner. I think the selfie phenomenon has changed the way we take photos, not only the style, but also the purpose. People used to take photos of special occasions, what they would like to remember as fun and happy times. Not to say that they don’t still do this anymore, however the selfie has made a large impact on people now just taking photos for the sake of it. They kind of have a narcissistic quality to them as people play around with filters to post them online in the most flattering pose: ‘Look how good I look’ and see how many ‘likes’ they can acquire. I think it will be interesting, as mentioned in your post, for future generations to look back on our lives, with our every moment being documented by the selfie. How the world has changed!

  2. I found your post engaging and it offered a perspective on the selfie that we haven’t seen. It shows that the selfie isn’t just a vain mirror shot from the latest celebutant on Instagram. It can be used as a binary agent for a family event. By showing the audience your photos it has opened minds to realise that there are so many different ways to view the selfie. It changes the purpose of the idea behind the selfie and asks us the question ‘is there more to the selfie than we all think?’

  3. I loved your post, your a very good writer!
    It really opened my wind to how the selfie can be seen in a positive light instead of such a vain one.
    My opinion of the selfie varies, i think tis vain yet useful.
    I often take a lot of selfless, however i take them in the situation of none else is there to take the photo for me and i want to also be in the image, this may be a cute snap with my boyfriend on holidays at the top of a mountain we have climbed, or a family outting where i want every member in the photo.

    I saw a bunch or oldies around 70 taking a selfie with a selfie stick at a cafe the other day and it was great, it made me smile that all generations are documenting events, maybe selfless rant such a bad thing after all.

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