?Portrait photography has a long history and with that history, its uses have changed and grown.
Self-portraits became very popular over the years. It was a way for artists to capture their own self by showing something about who they were as well as what they looked like. Now in the 21stCentury, there is such a thing as the famous “Selfie”, which everyone with a front facing camera has taken at one point or another. Some argue that it is the new self-portrait and claim these Selfies as art. ?Before talking about the famous Selfie, it is important to start from the beginning, which is the invention of photography. Louis Daguerre is the man that is credited for the invention of photography in 1839. However, within that same year, Robert Cornelius was the first photographer to produce the self-portrait (Butler). Over the course of that year, new photography studios sprung up throughout the country.
These early studios were not all that popular because much of the public was unsure about the new process. Trying to make the public more comfortable and open to the idea, many photographers sought to photographfamous figures. They would also photograph themselves with their work to show what they could do. Soon, the medium became a way for people to have and share pictures of their loved ones. They were able to have access to famous figures without having to commission an artist to paint the time consuming portrait (Butler).
?To name one of many uses, portrait photography was used not only to document loved ones in life, but it was also used to document them in death. Some families had photographs taken of their loves ones that had passed away, so that they could have something to remember them by before they were buried. As morbid as that sounds it was actually quiet popular because of the high mortality rate in the Victorian age due to the widespread diseases (Butler).Since the exposures were long, most of the family members in the photo would be slightly blurry except for the individual that had passed on. This is because as we breathe we move slightly and even the slightest movement will cause a blur. The deceased individual was always in sharp focus because they did not move at all during the photo. Normally when children were photographed, they would be posed as if they were sleeping because it looked more natural. Adults would be photographed using metal rods to hold them upwards.
?It was also used to change the laws, for example, child labor laws. Thanks to Lewis Hine, who documented the conditions of child laborers that worked in factories, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was put in place. This act banned oppressive child labor and kept kids out of factories until the legal working age. Even then the hours that they were allowed to work was limited. Hine was hired in 1906 to document these conditions in different factories all over the U.S (Butler).
This carried on for many huge events throughout history. The stock market crash of 1929 was another big event for documentary photographers. In 1935,the government hired photographers to document what was going on in the farmlands of America. They wanted to see how the farmers were living. The famous photo by Dorothea Lange called Migrant Mother was taken during this time period of the depression (Butler). ?Stepping back in time, in 1888, Kodak launched the “Camera for Everyone” which was known as the Kodak No. 1 camera.
This is when photography became more common because of the quality and service of this camera.Kodak made photography simple for everyone because they developed the film, made prints, reloaded the camera and sent it back to the customer. The customer did not have to load film, process the film or anything; Kodak did it all.
Everyone loved this camera because they did not have to be an artist to take photos. They could just snap a quick shot of a family outing or at a dinner. They did not have to go to a studio anymore just to have a photo taken. When the turn of the century came, it brought with it the Kodak Brownie Box, which was the first mass market camera, and also the recognition of photography as a form of art (Butler). ?This access to photography has grown more and more accessible over time and now, basically everyone has a camera on them at all times because of their cell phones. Everyone carries a cell phone in the 21st century for many reasons.
One of those reasons for the younger generationsis to stay connected to their social media accounts. Selfies have become very popular over the last few years, more than they ever have been and this is because of the easy access to the camera. So popular in fact that in 2013, the word “Selfie” was made the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. The definition that is listed is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared on social media” (“Selfie vs. Self-Portrait”).
?Selfies are not the first time we have seen photos that people have taken of themselves. Self-portraits have been around for hundreds of years. They have been painted and drawn as well as taken with a camera. Many people pose the question of whether selfies and self-portraits are the same. Many say that they are completely different. By definition, the two are very similar.
A self-portrait is a photograph that is taken by ones self. To see the differences, the technique and the meaning is where to look. ?McGrory states in her article, “Self-portraits are notselfies.
They are beautiful and revealing. The good ones are extremely difficult to make…I didn’t need to see someone’s face to learn about their essence” (McGrory). This is true, the Selfie is more about taking a photo to post on social media to see how many likes it will get.
She also makes the point that “Selfies are a way to show off a new haircut or your favorite outfit. They are a way for a group of people to take a photo without having to talk to a stranger” (McGrory). Which is what a lot of this society does, everything is about posting in on Facebook or Instagram to show their friends or family. ?Many young adults are infatuated with how many likes they can get on a Selfie when they post it. They are obsessed, checking it every ten minutes to see what the count is up to. Kim Kardashian is one of the most well known for doing this.
She actually posted so many Selfies;she ended up publishing a book to sell to her fans. The book is called Selfish and it has 445 photos of her own chronological selfies. This book sold over 100,000 copies (Selfie vs. Self-portrait).
That is huge for being just a book of selfies. One has to wonder whether it is because of herlooks more than the quality of the photographs.?Moving into the meaning and the technique to differentiate these two types of photographs is important.This is really where the argument lies and when looking at the facts, there is not much of an argument left. “What has greater weight is the Selfie’s inherently replaceable and even disposable quality…the self-portrait, whether is it a carefully composed study or created in haste, often contains more decisions than could be easily erased (What’s the Difference). There is something to what is said here.
When someone takes a Selfie and they decide that they do not like it, the photograph can simply be deleted and forgotten about. How much time does it really take to take a Selfie? Maybe 30 seconds at the least, and most of that time is taken up by trying to find the angle that makes that person look the best. ?It is getting harder now to say that they really are the same thing. “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”(What’s the difference).
This article goes on to say that “Self-portraits are created to be read as art, are displayed in museums or galleries, and we are granted permission to view them as texts, function from the intent of the artist” (What’s the difference). This is true, when an artist does a self-portrait; they are really trying to show something about who they are and what they are about. There is a deeper meaning to a self-portrait than there is with a Selfie. ?Selfies are all about the surface things, the outfit, the hair, the makeup, what someone is doing, where they are, whom they are with. A self-portrait takes more time and effort and skill. The artist specifically picks what he or she wants in the photograph. They choose the time of day that best represents them, the best place that represents them. The composition has a lot to say about the photograph too.
Is the camera angle low making them look more confident, stronger? Are they in the center or off to the side? Is the artist the biggest thing in the frame or small in scale to the whole photo? Everything plays a role in a self-portrait. Not everything does when it comes to a Selfie, because normally, they are just taken anywhere any time. It does not matter what is in the background like it would matter in a self-portrait. ?There are also distinct compositional differences between the two genres. Most selfies are taken at arms length, or they are shot standing in front of the mirror. A photographer that wants to make a self portrait would shoot it by putting the camera on a tripod with a self timer set, or use a remote to take the picture once everything is set up.
Others would make a self-portrait by using a picture to paint or draw off of, or a reflection as a guide. It does not have to be a photograph to be a self-portrait; many artists will paint or draw their self-portraits. Frida Kahlo painted over 50 portraits of herself that expressed her pain rather than her moments in glory. She had a very tragic life due to a car accident, two unsuccessful pregnancies, a cheating husband, and the list goes on.? There are also distinct angles that are very recognizable and rarely ever show up in a self-portrait (Are Self Portraits). Self-portraits take a higher level of skill to take because of all that factors into them. Selfies take very little of not any skill to take.
?Especially when it comes to all the filters that are out there. Snapchat is famous for their filters because they clear the skin, making it look flawless. There are filters that brighten the eyes, bring more color to the lips and cheeks. These filters can make anyone look good.
With self-portraits the artist can add a filter but it is not instantaneous like it is with a Selfie. It takes more time to clear the skin and brighten the eyes. It takes more time to make that person look their best. Again, that is another reason why the two are different. The time it takes to make the photograph. ?There are many that will still argue that selfies are now a form of art but the side that says they are different is tilting the scale. “Although the two genres may have more in common than what first meets the eye, the underlying differences is that self-portraits are made with more time,money and skill whilst selfies are created by much wider range of people” (Selfie vs. Self Portrait).
Another source says “It would actually be a disservice to think that selfies are the exact same as self portraits. Selfies are their own genre and their own medium. They have their own techniques, visual language and meanings” (How To Talk).?In the end, it is easy to say that the Selfie, and the self-portrait are a world apart. Different techniques, different meanings, and even compositional aspects separate these two genres. It would not be fair to compare a self –portrait, which takes time and effort, to a Selfie, which takes barley any time or effort at all. It is almost an insult to self-portraiture.