Thursday, December 11, 2014

Keep selfies to a minimum...

A selfie, defined by Google is " a photograph that one has taken of oneself." Then in quotes adds, " occasionally selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn't necessary."

I've found it funny before cell phones, seeing Japanese tourists in America busy standing in front of their camera (maybe even on a tripod they had brought) getting a "selfie." It didn't make sense to me. One knew what you looked like, why not take pictures of where you are, what's interesting, different, etc. Not pictures of yourself, you can look in a mirror. You think people doubt you are where they think you are.

It's easier that writing, but it can come back and hurt you.

Today with cell phones and social media flourishing, it is becoming a problem. The freelance info website Talent Zoo recently posted a blog by career coach, Hallie Crawford, warning job seekers to "limit selfies...keep ones that show you travelling or show unique interest and help you stand out from the crowd."

But it is human nature, seeing the street photography of Vivian Maier who took thousands of photos on her day-off from being a nanny for families in Chicago. She kept hundreds of boxes, filling client families basements. But not sharing the photos. Never published! Why take photos and never show them to anyone?

Maier is critiqued for taking too many photos of herself. Critics site other street photographers as more important. Photos taken by professionals. Better composition, better lighting, maybe showing something very eye-catching like Gary Winograd's photo of a pet monkey riding in a car on Fifth Avenue in NYC, or graphic shot of  clouds contrasting building's patterns.

The problem for the photographer has always been that they aren't in the picture. They're behind the lens. Cell phones seem to solve this problem. It's great to have family photos taken on Christmas day or at family picnics, but often there is a person missing in the picture.

Some like this problem, saying they don't like getting their own picture taken. So being the photographer gives them an excuse for not being photographed?

President Reagan's White House photographer Michael Evans refused to take photos of his own family, telling me how he felt it took him out of the event. He wanted to be a participant, enjoy the moment. He felt taking photos distanced him from his family. True, to solve this problem devices like the Narrative Clip camera system will automatically takes photos every few minutes, letting the family be a family.

Capturing the event, but not great photography.

S.F. Examiner's Jim Wood, with Jimmy Breslin promoting World Without End, Amen., leads to a selfie
Looking at a box of old prints I discovered a selfie of me, not just me. But people I was with, at work as a staff photographer (guess we were taking a break) with: the San Francisco Examiner reporter, Jim Wood, who had finished interviewing Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Jimmy Breslin in 1973. The interview wasn't in a bookstore, but rather happened the Palace Hotel so being newspapermen, we decided to go to the hotel's bar after the interview.

Where journalists like going to get the facts. Every newspaper usually had bars to hang after a deadline and before the next one.

It's a selfie of me with Jimmy Breslin reflected in the mirror behind the bar. I treasure the photo, brings back a lot of memories. Thankfully it's not just a picture of me looking into the camera, showing nobody else.

One picture, which I made for me to keep, not for publication. (The paper simply published a tight portrait of Breslin to go along with the story.)

This selfie tells a lot, records how we all wore ties, to look professional. Do you need to see my face? It captures a moment. And I'm in it, shows how I held the camera, manual focus! No motor-drive.

It's a selfie.

Preserves the moment and brings back memories. Selfies are good, especially for special moments.


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