In three clicks on your phone, you can now show the world (or at least your friends) your holidays, parties, musings or sporting achievements. Even stars have embraced this new practice, and more or less well-known actors now jostle to snap selfies at the Oscars… We take a look at the photo phenomenon of the 21st century.
The figures involved in this phenomenon are astonishing. It is estimated that since 2012, the number of selfies has increased annually by 17,000%. In 2014, smartphone users alone sent or shared more than 93 million. In 2013, “Selfie” was declared word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. The industry has been quick to seize this golden opportunity and cameras and phones have rapidly been equipped with specialist functions, sharing on internet has become simpler and faster and accessories such as selfie sticks have appeared.
What was originally viewed as a futile and egocentric practice has gradually become an art form. For instance, Norwegian artist Helene Meldahl has taken on the phenomenon by producing selfies which she then customizes and posts on Instagram and on her website Mirrosme. The photographer and filmmaker Andy Davidhazy traveled 2,600 miles (4,184 km) from Mexico to Canada, on the Pacific Crest Trail. At each mile, he immortalized the moment by taking a selfie.
More surprisingly, it will soon be possible to pay using a selfie. China’s leading e-commerce platform Alibaba is in the process of creating an unusual payment method called Smile to Pay. Unveiled at the last CeBIT in Hanover, this new process will allow users to pay for their purchases via a facial recognition system. So to pay using a mobile, customers will simply need to scan their face.
Again in relation to business, the “Sellfie” website, launched last July, sells selfies published on Instagram, without their authors permission. The site trawls the social network for pictures that have been tagged #selfie before offering the results online for US$150 dollars. The platform’s interface functions like a gallery in which the user can scroll through a selection of selfies of unknown strangers. Each photograph is sold as a single copy and is removed from the site once purchased.
The founder of this business, Damjan Pita is a digital creative director in New York and a member of the Do Something Good collective. Legal questions aside, the initiative highlights the power of selfies, which seem increasingly to be asserting themselves as a distinct artistic form, both connected and mobile. Quoted in the Huffington Post, Damjan Pita considers that, “A selfie is like the mirror of our time.”