By Ishita Singh
In this age of confession, Facebook and “duck-face”, selfies have come to occupy the imagination of young and old. Just a few days ago I was christened selfiesingh for taking just too many selfies (never posting them mind you). Passionate debates on either side of “To Selfie or Not To Selfie” have ensued, and words like narcissism and liberating have been generously used to describe this phenomenon.
What is interesting however is that selfie, short for self-portrait, has been a genre of aesthetic expression since antiquity. Artists used the medium of painting and sculpture just the way we use our mobile phones.
So let’s learn a few things from these #selfiemasters and make our selfies social media ready!!!
1.Thou shalt take loads of them.
Rembrandt, the 17th century Dutch painter, created nearly 100 self-portraits, approximately 50 paintings, 32 etchings and 7 drawings. He practically recorded his life meticulously over a span of 40 years. Taking copious number of selfies will ensure you get at least a couple of good ones.
2. Thou shall be true to one’s selfie mostly.
Lucian Freud painted brutally honest self-portraits which begin with a painting of the young artist in Self-Portrait 1949, and progresses through the decades including Self-Portrait with a black eye, 1969, Reflection (Self-Portrait), 1985 and Self-Portrait: Reflection, 1996 when the artist was in his seventies. They have all, from Kim Kardashian to Lady Gaga, pose in the nude, make-up wise. There are days when you want throw in the mantle and just take a selfie of groggy tired after a day’s work you.
3. Thou shalt engage yourself in a cool activity while taking a selfie.
These self-portraits are by 17th century Spanish court painter Velasquez. In the courtly culture one had to promote oneself in the eyes of Royalty and Velasquez very interestingly painted himself painting and playing the cello. We all know the lure of pets and guitars when it comes to selfies.
4. Thou shalt love social media and filters.
Throughout his life, Warhol played up his unusual looks and pale complexion to startling effect. His last self-portraits, made in the year before his death, draw particular attention to his exaggerated wig. Warhol understood the importance of image in contemporary life, and established himself in the public eye as the most famous Pop artist. Let’s instagram away!
5. Thou shalt use props and costumes for greater entertainment.
Nikhil Chopra is a performance artist who dons characters from India’s colonial past. This allows him fashion an alternative post-colonial identity for himself. Self-fashioning and alternative identities are possibilities to be explored with the selfie as it allows the individual to experiment or innovate or simply entertain. So next time you want to pose in your Halloween or Bharathnatyam costume, remember to don a new hat for a new selfie.
6. Thou shalt not pout.
A bitchy rest face makes for a better selfie don’t you think. It can anywhere fall in the category of cynical, sarcastic, ironical or simply give you the cheekbones that the gym fails at. Frida Kahlo, a 20th century Mexican artist, is popular for her unsmiling self-portraits. Suffering from illness, handicap and pain most of her life, she painted a new self surrounded by objects culturally relevant to her.
7. Thous shalt at times pretend at a natural pose.
Ever taken a selfie with you looking away from the camera, so that it doesn’t look like a selfie? Well it still is a selfie. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh and Amrita Sher-Gil posed for their self-portraits in an attempt to look more natural, looking away from the viewer.
8. Remember the bathroom mirror. Thou shalt pose.
Be it in the mirror in the bathroom of a friend’s house party, or after a new haircut, we’ve all been there; clicking oneself away from spying eyes. Artist Abir Karmakar painted these self-portraits in the bathroom to capture exactly that intimacy that one feels with one’s self-image/identity and sexuality in a private space like the bathroom.
9. Thou shalt not fear but honour the front camera.
Ever clicked on the front camera to be scared of what you saw? The bulging eyes and mysterious double chin all make themselves visible at that very moment. Most often I detest that face and shy away from taking selfies but there are times when you just want to be grotesque by taking the ugliest pictures of yourself. Artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt does something similar. In the latter years of his life he was suffering from a digestive complaint. He would pinch himself in the right lower rib, observe his facial expression of pain and suffering and sculpt. And you thought I was grotesque?
10. Thou shalt use apps to distort faces to create comic effect.
You know those photo apps that distort your face at most unbelievably disgusting angles? Flatten out the nose and puff up the forehead; the tricks played by concave and convex mirrors are childish but they’re brutally comical. Picasso’s cubist self-portraits remind me of those facial distortions. There is something liberating to see oneself at ones weirdest best.
Hope you learnt some great tricks. Selfie is an art form and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. So here’s to more selfies!
abir karmakarAmrita Sher-gillmasterNikhil choprapicassoRembrandtself portraitsself representationselfi