What is it with ‘selfies’? Why do so many people feel the need to remind themselves constantly of what they look like?
Personally, that couple of minutes twice a day looking in the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth is more than sufficient for me to keep the old memory banks topped up, self-image wise. I’m pretty sure I’d recognise myself anywhere, with no need for further training.
Of course there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a picture of yourself and/or your loved ones, either as a free-standing portrait or ‘on location’ (we were here, this us what we saw). But on a recent trip to Venice I couldn’t help but feel that the whole selfie thing had got out of hand.
Venice is undoubtedly one of the most photographed places on earth. And why not? It’s beautiful and – apart from the teeming tourists – fully deserving of its description of ‘La Serenissima’. There are more than enough worthwhile subjects to fill a whole case of Compact Flash cards, even with simple ‘record shots’. I snapped away very happily over a period of four days. And guess what? I never felt the slightest necessity to turn the camera on myself.
However, the tat stalls around Piazza San Marco were doing a brisk trade in something quite new to me: ‘selfie sticks’. For anyone else who may be unaware of this seemingly crucial bit of kit, it’s…well, a stick, on the end of which you can put a camera, thereby facilitating the taking of a photograph of yourself. Whoop-de-do.
To be fair, they looked like they might come in handy as a sort of periscope, to raise your camera above the heads of the other ten thousand tourists striving to capture that defining image of a gondola, or the Bridge of Sighs. Indeed, my first sight of one of these things had it being used for just that purpose. That seemed sensible enough, but then it soon became clear that (a) there was really a large proportion of visitors toting these devices and (b) hardly anybody with one was using it for anything other than taking pictures of themselves.
And without wanting to descend to national stereotyping, most of these people looked like they came from the same country. In Asia. Economic powerhouse. Eat a lot of fish. Prone to earthquakes. Use the Yen as currency.
The thing is, Venice is usually so crowded that it’s hard enough to get a ‘clean’ shot of any of the top attractions at any time. If you’re trying to get a picture of yourself with the Doge’s Palace in the background, realistically all you are going to get is a photograph of you in front of a lot of people milling around some old building or other. You could be almost anywhere.
Just what exactly is the bloody point? If you’re so self-absorbed as to want only to capture images of yourself, why commit to all the trouble and expense of going somewhere scenic to do so? All you’re doing is getting in the way of the poor buggers who are actually interested in their surroundings. Like me.
Really, I’d like to help these people. So if any of them want to know where to stick their selfies, they only have to ask.