If you read here on a regular basis, you know that I am generally not a fan of selfies. Neither of myself, nor of my movie boyfriend. Sure, I have taken selfies, documenting happy moments and encounters that I want to treasure forever. But they usually stay behind the invisible cut that separates my RL from any kind of online presence I might have. I dislike the pretense of selfies, which I find even stronger than in a portrait photographed by a pro – or any other third party. Portraits that have not been self-curated usually convey a truth that goes beyond what the sitter wants to show. And I like that ability of photography, capturing a moment, a sentiment, a characteristic, a stolen insight into a person. Selfies OTOH – those are snapshots that are nothing more than Gebrauchsfotografie, or “pulp photography”, trashy, transitory, forgotten as soon as they are taken. If selfies were a song, well, this one would probably describe them very well. (Put this on as the soundtrack to reading this post ;-))
Yeah, selfies are as insignificant as this music – cheaply made, tacky, inconsequential. You hear it once, and you forget it instantly because you have heard thousands of other songs like this one before.
That’s a lot of hate for an introduction on a post about selfies. But I have been asked to write about last week’s shower of selfies, so I better make it clear that this is not going to be an *ooof*. As you know, I never *ooof* selfies
with one exception because I believe that only images that have been made with photographic *intention* are fair game for analyses. Good thing then that one of the three images from last week most definitely is not a selfie.
This, quite clearly, is the best of the three images from last week. It’s composed to the advantage of the sitter – in this square image he takes up most of the space. The white t-shirt contrasts nicely with the darker tones of the headphones and the microphone screen. There is an interesting depth of field to the image that keeps the face and the accessories that characterise the image (the microphone/headphones) in focus while letting the background fall off. I particularly enjoy the angle at which the photo is taken: While RA is sitting at his recording desk, the photographer is standing in front of him with the camera slightly higher than eye level. This is an unusal perspective – with Armitage so tall, we rarely get images where the photographer is *not* shooting upwards. At the same time, this also is not what I usually call “selfie angle” (more about that below). It comes across as considered – and rather sexy because RA can still do his smouldering thing and look up into the camera from under his brows.
I really like this shot – the focus is incredibly crisp: We can see individual pores of his skin and we can count the
grey hairs in his beard. And even with a potentially disfiguring pair of headphones on his head, RA looks really gorgeous in this shot – a man who is very attractive in his own distinctive way: a prominent nose, a gaze hooded and framed by long lashes, the hint of his strongly angled forehead. This is quite clearly not a snapshot. It doesn’t look as if the sitter is just looking up from his work, narrating an audio book. It is static, not mid-movement, but in a good way because it exudes a sense of calm and depth, particularly if you concentrate on the eyes. There is a smidgen of sadness in the eyes, but also strength, willpower and discipline, and as such this impromptu shoot in the studio environment conveys a lot about the sitter besides his current occupation as an audio book narrator. Full marks to whoever took this shot. If there is any criticism I would have, then it is the fact that this was quite clearly shot with available light, and even though the image appears very crisp where it matters (e.g. the face), there is that tell-tale graininess that appears when you shoot with a high ISO in an unevenly lit environment. For comparison, here’s a colour image that was taken in the same session.
The colour version of the image cannot compare with the b/w imo. The skin tone looks far too pink for my liking, and the uneven grain is distracting. The reason for the discolouration and grain is the fact that the photographer has shot without a flash in an environment that is only dimly lit. On top of that, there are obviously several different types of lighting in this image – some very yellow tungsten (on the left) as well as some brighter, hotter light (could have been daylight or fluorescent/neon, maybe coming in from a neighbouring room or window) which create an uneven colour temperature in this image, to the extent of discolouring the skin and creating unnatural hues. It’s a typical problem to be faced with when shooting indoors and impromptu, i.e. without a flash. However, the image is nice, too – very “promo” of course, in that pose and with the book so prominently held. But as Auntie Guylty likes to say “When it’s shite, turn it black and white” – desaturating the image and making it b/w was a great decision.
Let’s move on then to the *real* selfies. Staying in the studio environment, here we have a self-portrait by the man, just as he is reading his next audio project:
Sigh. What can I say. This is the kind of imagery that I find very difficult to like. Let’s talk positives first. I love that little button at the bottom of the image. Because it is actually open, and hey, knowing that sets my brain in motion.
Especially when coupled with the hint of hair visible in the open collar just above the button. Also: smile! It cheers me up that Richard, in his selfies, tries to convey a happy message. He puts on a smile and opens his eyes. It’s a friendly gaze, it looks open and inviting and happy, and that is always a pleasure to see – although I think that Richard needs to work on his mouth a little bit – show us those pearly whites, Rich. They are gorgeous and they were obviously not cheap, so instead of a tight-lipped grin, go the full hog and shine brightly!
And while I am at it with telling Richard what to do: Lay off those stupid filters, man! I think it has been well-established that – based on the reactions in your fandom – most women do not care about your laughter lines around your eyes. Or those lines across the forehead. If anything, the lines around Richard’s eyes give him character. They certainly neither detract from his distinctive handsomeness nor do they scream ‘old age’. If there is any ageing implied then only of the “experience/maturity” kind. Any middle-aged man – or woman – will have lines on their face. That’s just nature’s law, as much as we may hate it. Obliterating them with filters is a short-sighted short-term solution. Come the next photographer, those filters may not be used, and *bam* suddenly the lines stand out even more…
Absolute pet hate number 1, though: The classic “selfie angle”. Alright, alright, I understand that Richard was trying to capture the guitars in the corner behind him. But I don’t think it really counts as an excuse here because I have seen him angle his phone in this way before. And that really irks me because it is used predominantly by (young) women. It’s an angle that catches to birds with one stone: By shooting from above eye-level you a) give definition to the chin line and b) catch the cleavage. Considering that RA neither has a double-chin nor boobs, I just don’t get why he is doing it. It irritates me to the point of frustration – because the man is so freaking handsome, he does not need any cheap tricks. He is gorgeous as he is, lines, grey hairs, nose and all. Heck, even with that beard he looks hella attractive and super masculine.
The only time I really like his selfies, is when he is fooling around. Bacon beards, kumquat ears, tattooed-bum-shots – *those* are the selfies that are believable and insightful. They are not meant to impress but to entertain. And they do exactly that so brilliantly. They convey so much more confidence than any contrived, selfie-angle beauty shot. It’s when RA puts on a grimace that I like his selfies best. This latest one no exception:
I am so not a Halloween fan, but this selfie really made me laugh. There’s RA, essentially trying to look like the skull on his shirt. I think this is hilarious, not least because I imagine him taking this picture: Standing somewhere in his room, holding his iPhone and giving a big roarrrrr. And best of all: no silly girly selfie-angle! This looks like he is actually shooting up from below, angling his head down and leering into the camera. Really fitting for a roaring monster kind of shot. “I’m coming to get you, raaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!”
Also, the fun selfies are really unique! The typical selfie pose with the tight-lipped smile – interchangeable with any selfie taken by anyone *ever*. A roaring skull, a dribbling denture fitting and tearing a bite out of a Cryptozoic card? There’s only one man who can pull this off. I love seeing this playful side to that otherwise so measured and considerate guy. It’s another facet to the man, and one that makes him so much more attractive than the umpteenth beauty shot. Silliness is disarming, humour is sexy, and laughter lines don’t need any filters.
So there. That’s my take on the selfies. What do you think? Have I convinced you with my diatribe against the selfie angle? Let me know in the comments!