Thursday, March 17, 2016

My ainsel

I don't photograph well.
Blurry selfie, 2010.
Wait, don't run off! This is not going to be a discussion about physical attractiveness. By saying that I don't photograph well, I'm merely stating my opinion that still photographs don't do a particularly good job of capturing my personality -- mostly because I am uncomfortable in front of cameras, and it shows. That deer-in-the-headlights stare in the image above is my default response to any lens pointed in my direction (even, apparently, when I'm the one doing the pointing).

Selfies are everywhere now, of course, especially across social media, and when they first exploded as a phenomenon I was very tempted to state, in full-on Old Fart Mode*, that selfies were another sign of the shallow self-obsession of modern youth (you kids today! myeh! back in my day we had to use Polaroids and we liked it that way, we liked it FINE!). Fortunately I managed to hold my tongue for once, and spent a little more time looking at selfies online and what people were actually doing with them before making a snap judgement. And while some images really do project little more than vanity and shallowness -- sorry, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em -- others, MANY others, reflect an interesting visual aesthetic and a way of sharing how a particular individual experiences the world. Selfies can be as unique as their subjects -- funny, curious, mysterious, tragic, bold, goofy, astonishing -- it largely depends on how any particular individual chooses to wield a camera. And while I do think it's important to live in the moment rather than obsessively documenting it, selfies can also be a powerful tool for creative visual thinkers to create a narrative or a conversation about their lives.

I also realized somewhere along the line that I shouldn't complain too obstreperously about selfies, because I'm taking one right now. This blog is, in many ways, my selfie -- it reflects my ainsel (an old folk term meaning "my own self"), not necessarily the way I look on the outside, but what's knocking around in the back of my noggin. I may not ever get comfortable with cameras, but words? Especially written words? They're my element, and I'm as free using a pen or a keyboard as others are with a smartphone and a selfie stick. And if I expect other people to be OK with my particular choice of medium, I need to be willing to return the favor. In the end, the medium isn't nearly as important as the message.

*46 is well into Old Fart territory, ne?

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