2014 as the Year of Selfie

by Allen Murabayashi, via PhotoShelter Blog |

The selfie represents one of the most culturally significant developments in photography of the 21st century. Once designated as the by-product of a narcissistic personality, the selfie and its myriad of niches has transcended this traditional definition. Whether humorous, ironic or serious, the selfie is a mainstay of photographic culture around the world. Here is the world of selfies in 2014.

JANUARY

The year started off strong for the selfie after The Oxford Dictionaries named it Word of the Year 2013 noting its rapid rise and the number of portmanteaus that entered the mainstream (e.g. bookshelfie, welfie, belfie). Later in the year, even Cronut inventor, Dominique Ansel, started hashtagging instagram images with #anselfie.

Sad and Useless published a set of “Cats Taking Selfies” – posed images of cats taking selfies, but not actually pushing the trigger.

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Feature Shoot published Jenna Garrett’s “The Public Profile Project” which examined tropes and cliches in social media images. Although not specifically limited to the selfie, many of the representative images are selfie in origin.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin criticized the selfie in a promotion for her short-lived TV show “Amazing America” by posting the following to her Facebook page.

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FEBRUARY

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more depraved than a funeral selfie, an Alabama high school student mortified humanity posing with a cadaver in the University of Alabama anatomy lab.

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Fashion model Cara Delevigne was photographed holding a phone as she strutted the catwalk the London Fashion Week.

Delevigne quickly released the results of her video selfie, which she declared as “The first video taken from the catwalk.”

Selfiecity uses data analytics to reveal what selfies say about cultural stereotypes and how the selfie is used in consumer culture. Among the findings? Women have a more extreme headtilt than men.

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Selfies can be fun, but it turns out that they are also a vector for…head lice amongst teens. Apparently mashing heads together for a selfie may explain a rise in hair lice in San Francisco.

MARCH

TIME magazine got into the selfie data analytics game too with a database of over 400,000 Instagram photos. Surprisingly, two cities in the Phillippines held the record for most selfies per capita, beating out Manhattan for the accolade.

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APRIL

The first of two high profile images that brought up the question of ownership emerged at the Oscars when Ellen gathered a group of stars to pose for a group selfie. The image quickly became fodder for legal speculation over who owned the image with two different camps: 1) Bradley Cooper because he pressed the shutter button, or 2) Ellen because she directed Cooper to frame and take the image. Both points were rendered somewhat moot when it was speculated that the whole event was part of an elaborate promotion for Samsung.ellen-stars-selfie

Boston Red Sox star, David Ortiz, asked the President for a selfie while visiting the White House. The President happily obliged, but was none too amused when Samsung quickly posted the image to social media. Ortiz had recently signed a sponsorship deal with the company and allegedly yelled “Cha Ching!” after getting the shot.

Visual marketing company Olapic turned selfies into sales by pulling in user-generated selfies into the social media accounts of different brands. In the same vein, Calvin Klein introduced#mycalvins to source people in their underwear “for a chance to be featured in the #mycalvins gallery.” mycalvin

MAY

Brazilian stock photo agency teamed up with Cargo Collective to design a new campaignlaunching the addition of the National Geographic Collection. If only animals could really take their own selfies…

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JUNE

The nerds at MIT developed an algorithm to transmorgify your selfie into a masterpiece by melding aspects of master portrait photographers like Avedon, Arbus, Schoeller and more.

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JULY

The New York Times reported on a trend of women shunning the selfie in favor of more professional staged and shot portraits for online brand management and enhancement. Hardly the death of the selfie, but rather people using the right image at the right time.

Police searched for a man who was captured taking a selfie in front of the pack during the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Rafa Rivas’ image of said runner quickly spread through social media with the hashtag #eltontolmóvil, or idiot with the mobile. We hope he had a wide-angle lens.

My old boss used to joke that every morning he woke up, he stared into the mirror and shouted, “Hey good looking, I hope you never die!” For those of you for whom this is a reality, you can now do the same with the Selfie Toaster. Yes, your image burned onto a piece of toast.

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AUG

It’s been known for years that driving while texting or walking can be hazardous to your health. But a Polish couple found out the hard way that selfies can be deadly as well when theyplunged to their death at the cliffs of Cabo Da Roca in Portugal.

In 2011 Wildlife photographer David Slater left his camera unattended in Indonesia when a Macaque picked it up and started taking photos. The amazing monkey selfie was posted to Wikipedia, and when Slater issued a DMCA Takedown Notice for copyright violation, Wikipedia refused. The reason? Non-human actors can’t hold copyrights. The resulting hullabaloo captured the public’s interest and The New Yorker had a brilliant response.

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Reality TV star and game developer Kim Kardashian made even more news for announcing the 2015 release of her book “Selfish” – 352 pages of selfies with a clever title.

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SEPTEMBER

Noah Kalina pioneered the long-term online selfie project and there have been many poorman knockoffs since. But dumo’s really blew us away with a stop motion approach that is well-planned and equally well-executed.

OCTOBER

Combine the selfie with video and elements from the Matrix and you get Karen X. Cheng’s donut selfie. The headline sounds dubious, but the results speak for themselves.

NOVEMBER

Designer Olivia Muss was visiting the the National Gallery of Denmark when she came up with the brilliant idea to insert her hand holding a cellphone to create historical selfies.

Sometimes your arm or selfie stick simply aren’t long enough to get the perfect image. Fortunately for you, Stanford postdoc Christoph Kohstall is developing a wearable drone that flies off your wrist to take a selfie.

The South Korean government threatened selfie stick retailers with a massive $27k fine for the non-sensical reason that the bluetooth enabled sticks might be emitting hazardous radiation.

DECEMBER

Casio introducted he latest in a line of devices focused on helping you take better selfies. TheExilim EX-MR1 puts a lens behind a mirror so you can check all the fine details before taking a photo.

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The White House explicitly warned journalists that no selfies would be allowed with the President and Prince William. The decision was apparently the result of a group of excited French reporters who selfied themselves with the President and Francois Hollande in February.

Mash-up culture prevailed as a video of a woman trying to take the perfect pool selfie was combined with narration from a nature documentary.

From an expression of narcissism to an essential tool of communication, protestors in the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown have taken to using the selfie as a generational platform. Jay Capsian Kang writes in The New York Times Magazine, “Millions of [the selfies], however, will be published across the Internet, and while most will be either ignored or halfheartedly favorited, the sheer number of images has formed an aesthetic unto itself.”

At Art Basel Miami, visitors swarmed the galleries while selfie-ing to “epidemic proportions” according to The New York Times. Not even the pretentiousness of the art world can escape the cultural force of the selfie.

More than anything, the selfie has seemed to evolve into the ultimate statement of “I exist. I was there.” You can take a photo of the beach from your last vacation, or you can insert yourself into the frame in the most intimate way possible – with your arm outstretched, inches away from the camera. The evolution of the selfie bolsters the notion of photo as language, and I, for one, am selfishly enamored. Bring on 2015!

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