All Millennials are Artists, Selfies are Our Stage


All Millennials are Artists, Selfies are Our Stage

Illustration: Akshita Monga

There is a small but significant conversation taking place around selfies; it’s tonally different from the judgment zone that the self-portrait has so spectacularly occupied ever since it photo-bombed our lives.

Recently, a friend, who is committed to the daily selfie and has been mocked endlessly for her vain commitment, posted this: I know selfies are almost a taboo on social media but why is it so bad to click a selfie? Selfies are sometimes born because of the need to feel good, look good, and love your own self. The control being in the self-photographer’s hand, is what appeals to most people who take selfies – you can control the way the photo hides your flaws and highlights the best of you. I dislike photos of myself taken by someone else which portrays me in a way that I do not like myself. Hence I love selfies! They make me like myself. If you dislike selfies don’t take them, but don’t judge others who do.

She may have a point. If you put your judgy selves aside, selfies are beautiful things. There is no such thing as a bad selfie. The angles are flattering, the extended arms are thinned, out and the jawline becomes the hero we always wanted but never had. Selfies are, in fact, now being considered a legit art form. There are selfie artists, men and women who use them as a powerful form of self-expression. Kim Kardashian, with her unapologetic book that is a celebration of the selfie (and also selfishness), may actually have been on to something.

Selfies are, in fact, now being considered a legit art form. There are selfie artists, men and women who use them as a powerful form of self-expression.

If you think about it, there have been two things human beings have indulged themselves in since time immemorial:  self-paintings and erotica. Cave paintings of self-expression date back 40,000 years, and we find them even in popular culture where Daenerys and Jon discover people painting themselves in a cave below Dragonstone in Game of Thrones. Vincent Van Gogh painted over 30 self-portraits as did Frida Kahlo. But, the first classical selfie as we know it, a camera turned inward on the face of the photographer, dates back to 1839 in Philadelphia. It was taken by a man named Robert Cornelius. Crediting the selfie to millennials and the Gen Z generation is then like crediting RGV for Sholay.

Today selfie exhibits are are a thing. At an exhibition of selfie art – From Selfie to Self-Expression – held at Saatchi Gallery in London, the curator of the exhibition, Nigel Hurst told TIME Magazine, “For the last five centuries, humans have had this compulsion to create images of themselves and share them; the only thing that has changed is the way that we do it.” His main argument was – we can no longer ignore them as a cultural institution.

Sadly, I suck at this cultural institution. I don’t know how to pout, don’t know what a duck face is, and have strands of facial hair scattered further away than the thoughts of a teenager. I fault my phone for softening the image too fine, the front camera for having too few megapixels, and my arms for not being steady enough. But now, at least, I feel less foolish and more artsy every time I take a decent selfie. One of these days, I’ll even put one up on social media and brace myself for the nasty comments.

Art, I’ll tell those idiots. This is art.