Selfie Sticks Change the Perspective

by admin | October 9, 2015 9:31 am

Our daughter Abbie bought a selfie stick a few months ago. This allows her to take self-portraits from an extended reach using dramatic angles, since the stick telescopes out several feet. Her iPhone is locked into a frame with a cable leading to a button on the handle. She photographed her entire senior class of a dozen or so students with the device, which cost her $7 or so at Walmart. It’s a compelling image. I worry that a Walmart-purchased selfie stick is a bit flimsy to hold a smart phone that cost several hundred bucks, but so far no disasters.

Being a vSelfie stick and boats[1]isually creative young woman, she has made some pretty cool shots with this gadget. One of the key precepts of creating an interesting image is finding an unusual angle. Eye-level generally is the most boring perspective from which to photograph. A selfie stick, when used artfully, can change that.

Of course, there is a reason it’s called a selfie stick. The vast majority of images are of the person holding the stick. Abbie is no different than the average teenager in 2015 who owns a smart phone. She takes a boatload of selfies. It is a modern phenomenon that I don’t quite understand, being generally reluctant to be on the receiving end of any photographic device. The few times I have made a selfie, I end up looking like a crazed old man with bulging cheeks who apparently is missing an ear. I generally fail to get my whole face in the photo.

But selfies are here to stay, I suppose. Wander around any public place or event. People are posing for selfies, usually with friends. Go onto Facebook or Instagram and one can find more millions of selfies shot, mostly by young women but not all, posted for the rest of the world to find. By one account, more than 100 million selfies are taken every day. Our daughter is only responsible for 5 million of these.

Kidding. She is not that obsessed. But when one thinks about 100 million self-portraits posted to social media every day, it does give pause. If that collective amount of energy and occasional creativity was spent trying to create a kinder society, ameliorate income inequality or tackle the causes of climate change, just imagine what could occur.

I know. Time to dismount the soapbox. Taking selfies is a lot easier than trying to foster world peace.

Selfie sticks are increasingly banned in public venues, such as Six Flags, the State Fair of Texas, all Disney parks and most museums. This is understandable. Accidentally poking a selfie stick through a Georges Seurat pointillist painting would be a serious faux pas. But that has not stopped the proliferation of these devices, ubiquitous wherever they are not forbidden. More than 100,000 flew off the shelves in the period last year between Black Friday and Christmas. “Selfie” was the word of the year in 2013, as named by the Oxford English Dictionary.

A Pew poll taken earlier this year concludes 91 percent of teens take selfies. Teens and pre-teens both appear stunned when informed that this is a relatively recent trend. In the not-so-distant past, someone who wished to take a self-portrait unassisted had to set a camera up on a tripod, or prop it on a flat surface, push the self-timer and run back to get in the frame before time ran out. I made my own photograph for the back cover of the first collection of columns, published 10 years ago. I was camping at Caddo Lake in my Airstream, in January. I built a fire, set up a digital camera on a tripod, put a chair near the flames, and set the timer. I would run back, get in the chair and hold my laptop as if I were working on a story. (I actually was holed up there doing just that.) I did this several times before getting an image worth keeping.

My camping neighbors could not see the camera, just the fact that I kept running back to the chair from somewhere out of eyesight. I suspect they were tempted to ask if I needed medical attention but thought better of it.

If I had just had a selfie stick at the time. The crazy thing to this old coot is that my iPhone, which is 3 years old, has greater digital resolution than the fairly expensive camera I was using back then.

The times, they are a’changing.

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