To selfie or not to selfie - The tale of trying something and being selfie shamed for it...
Updated: Jul 18
At the beginning of self isolation in America I took the above picture. My friend April had posted a selfie on her instagram page and when many of us commented how awesome it was, she challenged us to do one as well. I was intrigued.
I'm the first to admit that I have selfie confusion... that's right, I would often get perplexed while scrolling through travel images, finding the majority of images I came across were of people who posted a picture of themself in a bikini and didn't showcase much of the location they were in. If I was looking up Hawaii I expected to see some skin but I'd run across it in every location, sometimes without even a piece of the sky or land they talked about in their post. While these didn't inspire me much as a photographer, there were a few explorers that mixed humans in natural landscapes that helped me imagine what it was like to be there. The world of selfies seemed endless, but one thing was clear, they are here to stay.
My idea for life in self isolation was born.
Originally the project was unstructured. As temperatures warmed, and I decided what to do with my free time each day, I found myself on my patio time and time again experiencing my life, and coming back to old habits and projects I either had put down while I was busy, or still constantly do with gusto. I started shooting these moments as a way to capture this human experience- through me. It became a timeline and social commentary on what it is like to isolate, how my patio grows around me, and all the many things I'm experiencing while not truly leaving my self isolation bubble.
I made rules for myself- that I could put the shutter on constant and take as many images as possible, but that I only could do it for one minute. Whatever I captured, I captured, this wasn't a beauty challenge. I also had to have authentically been doing the activity on my patio to shoot it. I set about to showcase COVID as naturally for me as I could, providing a small window into what one person's experiences were separated from the world just off her deck.
When you put yourself on the internet you are bound to get some kind of reaction. Some people have notifications turned on, or constantly check in with a post to see if people have looked or how they are responding. I'm a bit of the opposite. I use platforms like this to create art and most days, unless someone is emailing me about a photo shoot, I never read comments, see likes, or look back again on the things I've created. I post to put a raw piece of myself into the world as a cathartic experience in the hope that someone out there might read it or see it and benefit from it. I follow the work and read the posts of many people that jump-start my creativity... and if one person feels that way about me, if they go off and create because of something I've said or shown, I feel like my art has served it's purpose. First and foremost though, art is for you... and I take my art seriously in this way. I create personal art for me.
Because I don't check on comments or see what people say it took me a while to get feedback on my self isolation selfie posting. I'm a big fan of criticism to help me grow, though I typically don't like to dish it out with art since art is so subjective-- unless doing so will help a person go further (in a contest or for an award) and they've asked me to do so. Most of the time I just like to sit back and truly enjoy something the way the artist put it out to the world. They are saying something, can I hear it? The answer isn't always yes, but I do try. I find the common thread among all artists is that they are trying to say something, in whatever medium they are using and if you are patient enough you may be able to peel back many of the layers they have beautifully laid out for you as the consumer of their magic.
What I never expected or experienced before was judgement, and it came in the form of one word. For the project I posted I was called .... vain.
To be fair the accuser was prolific in their descriptions of how vile I was being, how I was so into myself that I just had to have the world see me, and that I was "trying to keep up with the Jones" so to speak. In the end though it all boiled down to one thing, this person had sat with my art and decided I was vain.
I can't tell you, as someone who doesn't really like to do selfies, and has only done this project twice (one time for spotlight project I participated in, and this time because of April) how shocked I was by this reaction. In a world where we can post anything why anyone would post something that wasn't kind is beyond me. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all - is a rule I take seriously in life. It's not my job to correct the creativity of others.
We have the power to do so many things with our words and it always disheartens me when people chose to topple others instead of helping to boost them up. The saddest part is that these people who kick the sandcastle after it's built don't end up getting any further along in life that those who took the time to create it. The truth about life is that the race is only against ourselves. I don't have to be better than you, just like you should never try to be better than me... you already are and aren't. My success is not your measure of success and vice versa. You can only be better than you were yesterday. Having a friend get into college when you didn't doesn't mean you won't have just as great of a life. Winning an art competition doesn't mean you are any better than your sibling that also tries their hand at similar crafting.
I'm proud of my project. I can look back on all the images and feel the isolation, see the invisible boundaries around my patio that keep me locked away from the world in an effort to keep everyone - including myself - safe. I can experience all the things I did while the world moved on around me with no one in it.
I will not be selfie shamed because someone could not sit patiently with my art and hear what I was saying. Just like I encourage you, whoever you are, to never let someone take away the magic that you've created because they are jealous, unwilling to see it, or simply want to take down one of the blocks in your castle.
You are enough, and tomorrow you will be better.