The Selfie: A Digital Portrait

The selfie has become an accepted digital media practice for millions of people all over the world. Selfies are a recognizable part of popular culture. They’re also the focus of considerable debate. As a powerful form of photographic imagery, the selfie is the digital self-production of the self-portrait.

Selfie popularity has had a transformational influence on contemporary popular culture. It has invoked important issues in self-expression, communication, and digital technology. Some argue that selfies are a shallow behaviour of narcissistic vanity and attention seeking self promotion. Yet, selfies can also be seen as a politically oppositional form of resistance and an aesthetic self-representation.

An Empowering Form of Democratization and Self Expression

Research on marginalized groups has begun to recognize the use of selfies in ways that defy popular stereotypes of superficiality. These studies raise awareness of empowerment and human rights. This page explores the selfie phenomenon. It argues for the selfie as an empowering form of democratization and self-expression.


History of the Selfie

Popular art and photography played a key role in the history of the selfie. In the 16th century self portraits emerged with painters such as Rembrandt. These self-portraits were a symbol of wealth or celebrity. Developments in photography in the early 20th century played a key role in the production and popularity of self-portraits and personal snapshots. Later these images spread across a much larger population and are important to the history of the selfie.

A key factor in self-portraiture has always been an expression of the self. Selfies have a snapshot aesthetic that help narrate and make sense of our lives. They communicate who we are to ourselves, others, and those who survive us. They also authenticate us (Iqani and Schroeder, 2016). Self-portraits can be seen as both a representation of the subject and the society they live in.

Communication, Self-Identification and Representation, and Movement

“ The self-portrait not only testified to the artist’s ideas of his or her own identity, but to an equal degree a partial period picture of how we fundamentally see ourselves as human beings” (Tojner, 2012, p.4). The selfie has become an important form of communication, self-identification, aesthetic representation of the self, and social/political movement in the digital age.