CULTURE: The Art History Of “The Selfie”

vashtie elle selfie calvins

Selfies certainly have tons of history behind the concept but we’re here to explore the art history behind them.

Though classically referred to as photographic self portraiture, the “selfie” has been around for over a century. In fact it is pretty well documented that photographers have been taking self portraits for as long as cameras existed. The motivation behind the self portraiture was unclear at first and some believed they were just useful to assist with lighting adjustments. But it is documented that photographers were using self portraiture as a creative outlet as early as 1929.

Walker Evans is photographed by an automated photo booth decades before Andy Warhol’s photo booth images were created.

Art History - Selfie

Walker Evans (1903-1975) Self Portrait In Automated Booth 1929

In the video below, you will get a brief history on photographers who are inspired by data and surrealism and who have embraced the self portrait as an avenue for experimentation. With this evidence, we believe it is safe to say that selfies have been and can be art.

Self-portraits are important because they not only show us what life is like at a certain time but you can also firmly attach the image to an individual– Which is distinctly special because you experience the art from that persons point of view.

Andy Warhol self portait photo booth

Andy Warhol (1929 – 1987)
Self Portrait In Sunglasses

Just like other forms of photography, portrait photography has different dimensions. Some photographers are performative, enjoy obscuring their prescence, document intimate moments, document the maluability of their self identity, gender and class identity and blends of fiction and stereotypes.

Vashtie selfie

As the quality of average technology gets better, lines begin to blur between art and just plain old useless selfies. What makes “selfie art” is the mystery and how they put the control in the hands of the subject. That is what a good image should do– it should be up to us to interpret.

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