I am on the back end of my thirties. That means my first picture-taking device was a very basic 110 camera called the Kodak Pazzazz. It was pink. My mother still has it.
The camera took 27 shots, then you sent your film away to be processed and waited a week for your 3″x5″ prints. Which cost money.
OH THE HUMANITY.
The resulting images were mostly terrible – either your shot was dark enough to be pulled from Season 1 of the X-Files, or the flash had fired and everything was bright white.
My photographs from this era reflect both the simplicity of the camera and the immaturity of the operator. There are photos of my neighbor’s dog, the first boxed-mix cake I made by myself, and a field trip to the Kennedy Space Center (no actual rockets pictured).
Reviewing my early work this afternoon, I did find one selfie. It is, predictably, not good.
Looking back, my shots seem careless, but at the time they captured the most important aspects of my little universe. I thought I was rationing my precious frames, only snapping photos of what was noteworthy to me.
I got a better point-and-shoot camera when I got older, and a film SLR camera when I graduated college. My first digital camera was purchased in 2006.
Two thousand six. That’s right. It had five whole megapixels. I was Annie Flipping Leibovitz.
My first shot was, of course, a mirror selfie of me and Tyler.
By contrast, our older kids’ first photo-taking device was not a camera, but an iPod touch. It had more megapixels, and more photo storage, than the camera I bought when I was 26 years old.
Never having had to ration photos, the kids (and all kids, really) are terrible photographers. They can out-crop and out-filter their own lax photography. They take pictures when they’re bored, and delete them almost immediately. There are no prints.
While self-portrait photographs have been around since 1839, “selfie” has become shorthand for a certain type of self-portrait. On the highbrow end, they are striking artistic compositions. On the lowbrow end, they reek of desperation. Taking selfies has become a Sunday afternoon boredom-killer for middle schoolers, a means of communicating with friends, and a plea for attention.
That said, I get it. I get why young people who grew up with unlimited frames and zero wait times take so many pictures of themselves. It’s an accessible subject, and for most children, they themselves ARE the most interesting thing in their little universe.
But I cannot understand how people my age can cast their eyes upon the vast majesty of the world, in all its shades and textures, and still find themselves the most compelling thing to photograph, over and over. Instagram tells me have posted exactly two pictures of just myself, taken by myself, in the last year.
I’m still not good at it.
Last weekend I cut my hair pretty short, and one of my first thoughts as I left the salon was how best to present this news, in selfie form, on social media.
I’m not going to give up selfies, because they are the currency of the social media realm, but I do want to be more mindful of how often I choose to focus the lens on myself.
The world, even my little corner of it, is fascinating. Maybe I should put down my iPhone selfie camera and pick up my fancy DSLR. And, you know, learn to operate it properly.