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Letter From The Editor: #Selfies


I'm the blur in between

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Letter From The Editor: #Selfies | A Practical Wedding

It’s popular to mock selfies these days. “Stupid self-absorbed teenagers, taking selfies on their camera phones. We would have never! Especially at a funeral.” Except, please. As a slightly-too-old-to-be-a-millennial, you’ll have to excuse the fact that I just had to step away from the computer and go get my Nineties-era photo albums up from the basement. Okay. Done. They’re full of a lot of things. Snapshots of people I see passingly on Facebook, here in a more youthful and hopeful form. Pictures of my little sister, pictures of my high school boyfriend, pictures of speech competitions and school plays, pictures of that slightly annoying high school theatre friend named David (I MARRIED HIM, SELF). But you know what I value the most? The pictures of me.

Yeah. I said it.

Because how else do we understand our lives, looking backwards? We understand them though piecing together the bits of self we left behind. The photos, the notes, the journal entries. I’ve always been a documenter, so I feel lucky to have boxes of journals, bags of passed-in-class folded notes, and shelves full of photo albums. And let’s not forget six years of writing on this site (which I always vaguely hope is interesting to you, but let’s face it, I wrote it for me). I could spend hours retracing my fashion choices, the faces of the people posing with me, the contours of my hometown in the background. I like examining the ways I’m the same and different, figuring myself out through those painstakingly recorded archives.

This month, we’re taking a time-out from discussing interpersonal relationships to focus on the personal side of things. Because let’s be for real, some of my favorite pictures on my phone are selfies. The staff did an unofficial count of what our phones are full of, and the result came in a bit like this:

Maddie: 70% selfies, 25% Juno, 5% who knows what

Lucy: 70% our pets, 20% selfies/pictures of my hair, and 5% everything else

Kate: 60% travel pictures, 10% selfies, 10% things I’ve knit or made, 10% pretty clouds and funny random things, 10% Kev and cat

Meg: 60% baby, 10% work, 10% selfies, 10% selfies with the baby, 10% family shots

My kid gets a lot of airplay on the phone these days. But even in documenting him, I’m documenting my life. He might or might not want to look back at photos of him mugging with noodles in his hair, or a video of him humming while walking around the house. But I’m sure as shit gonna want to. I’ll look at him, what he was wearing, his little baby chub, our living room in the background, David’s football playing behind the shrieks, and I’ll remember what our live was like then, in painful, nostalgic clarity.

Selfies aren’t as simple as self-absorbed snapshots. In documenting ourselves, we’re documenting the ways our most important relationships have shaped us. By documenting ourselves, we’re valuing the intrinsic good that we bring to the lives of others. Because we’re not just girlfriends, wives, mothers, and daughters. We’re humans that are loved and love. That make funny jokes, and have good hair sometimes, and make awesome lipstick choices.

So my phone is full of selfies. Some of them document a good hair day, or a particularly good outfit. But most of them have at least two people in them. In the hours when the baby and I are home alone, we like to look in the phone mirror and mug. We make silly faces at each other, and then one of us hits the shutter button. My selfies document the life I’m living, right in this moment. They feature good hair, but also little toothy grins and chaos and silly faces.

My selfies. Myself. Plus a handsome husband, some serious hustle, and one chubby baby. And me, the blur somewhere in between.

XO,

Meg 

I can’t wait to share stories of your blur this month. And yes—your good hair days. Share your best stuff with us on Instagram with the hashtag #APWselfies (or the perennial #APWwedding), and we’ll get On documenting you, Just as You are today. Follow us there for #Selfies month fun.

Photo: from my instagram feed (updated to fit the debate, why not)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Anne Schwartz

    Hey!

    A group of math teachers from around the states are doing selfie month, too! We’re talking positive body image! We’re on instagram under #shutupandduckface.

    I love this idea. I think selfies are awesome. Happy February!

    • Meg Keene

      <3

  • Laura C

    I cannot take an adequate selfie to save my life. I have a lot of them from the dress-shopping process, and they are all awful. But I value pictures of myself and my life, so I make A take them. The dresses I thought were actual contenders? I had him take pictures so my mom could see them full length and with me laughing because A was haranguing me to do so. And when, at the end of the year, I’m putting together a little booklet of pictures of myself to give my parents for Christmas, I go through A’s phone and invariably find some pictures I’d forgotten about or never known about to begin with because, say, he just thought me and the cat were being cute and snapped them spontaneously. It’ll do.

    • Meg Keene

      MINE ARE TERRIBLE TOO. Goal for the month: improve.

      • Laura C

        I’m pretty sure it’s hopeless for me. I have just now gone on this incredibly long mental tangent over this about not just how we see ourselves vs. how others see us but who we are with others. The possibility of which is, I guess, where you’re getting a month of material out of this topic.

      • Laura C

        Actually, are you still taking submissions on this theme?

        • Meg Keene

          Oh hells to the yes.

  • blimunda

    I used to be a pro at taking selfies (usually with other people with me) with my old film camera!!
    Meg, I’m always shocked at how fast time goes by when you say for how many years you’ve been writing APW… I’ve been reading for 5! and I’m getting married this year! and i’ve found my dress last Saturday! MeMeMe MineMineMine :) here’s my contribution to Selfies month. Cheers!

    • Meg Keene

      I know. It’s craaaaazzzzzzzzyyyyyy, right? Crazy. We’d just moved to SF and David had just started law school and I’d just started at the investment bank when I started this thing. Now: lawyer husband, Oakland, toddler, working for myself three plus years.

  • JLSeldon7

    My phone has basically turned into baby photos. I’d have to go 70% baby, 10% baby & me, 10% knitting/crafting/cooking, and 10% what is that/what it loots like outside my door

  • anon

    I think there’s a difference between documenting your life for your own memories or sharing with friends and family, and taking endless photos of yourself making exactly the same face and broadcasting them to the entire world. I take a LOT of pictures of my life. Most of them are not of my own face, but there are some, and I like pictures of myself so that my kids will be able to see when I was young (and I’ll be able to remember). However, they don’t go on public websites every day. I think it’s the public-ness, the same-ness, and the repetitiveness of it that people are complaining about, and that teenagers will hopefully be embarrassed by someday (just as we are all embarrassed by some things we did as teenagers), and not a general documenting of one’s life for one’s own private use and sharing with people who care about us.

    • Meg Keene

      I worry a bit when “we hope teenagers are embarrassed by things one day.” It’s an oft heard sentiment, but I can’t really get behind it. I love (I mean LOVE LOVE) teenagers. It’s a hard time (not one you need to be embarrassed about), but also so much growth happens there, and self understanding. I think selfies are really part of that. I kept miles (I mean MILES) of journals as a teenager, something I’m not at all embarrassed about. I don’t have any real urge to go read them, I’m sure it would be a little painful (see: not an easy time). But it helped me understand myself and shaped who I am now. Selfies, I think, do much the same thing, different form.

      • Outside Bride

        Yay for a defense of the harmless ways teenagers document themselves, and please more trying to learn from them. I often have teenage interns during the summer at work. There are times when you just want to pack them in bubble-wrap and put them in a closet for a few years (for their protection and yours) and sometimes they make choices that make you cringe, and sometimes there are consequences. Really really hard consequences. And yes, sometimes the selfies are part of the mistakes, but a lot of times its just nice to see them so happy, whatever the form of expression. When I look through my photos, I always wish I had more joyful selfies, and less pretty depopulated landscapes.

        • Meg Keene

          Also. I really strongly support teenagers (particularly girls, when we get down to it) having a chance to take control of their image. Your teen years are years where you’re shaped by how other people see you (and holy shit do they have opinions, from judgmental friends to judgmental adults). Getting to figure out how you want to see yourself is, I think, wonderful and important.

          Separate from my huge love and empathy for teenage girls (<3 <3 <3) I think this is good for all of us. It's also why I struggle with selfies. I take lots of bad ones at the moment, possibly because I'm in transition, and not quite sure HOW I want to see myself.

          (I'd argue the equal and opposite important thing is pictures that show you how people you love see you. You know, the ones they snap when you're not looking, that make you see yourself in a whole new way? Those.)

      • anon

        I think I disagree. The embarrassment about the way I’ve acted at certain times in my life is part of the learning and growing process. I’m not beating up on myself (or others) for being foolish and making stupid decisions, but I do think that the recognition of “that was dumb, won’t do that again” is an essential part of growing up. I think selfies (and I mean the duckface, look-how-hot-i-am selfie that most people think of when they hear the term, not just pictures of oneself) are not at all a reflective process – they’re a presentation of a surface image that is meant to be consumed by others, not a reflective activity meant to be read only by our future selves.

        • http://andshelovesyou.com/ Lucy

          But frankly, what you think a teenager (or anyone) is portraying when they post a selfie is entirely your own assumption and inference. Even when a caption on a selfie is “look how hot I am,” you have no idea what is going on in the mind of that person. Maybe they’re using it as armor because they’ve had a particularly hard day and want to document one thing that’s going alright (that they look nice, or feel like they look nice), or any host of other things.

          Everything a human does externally is, on some level, just a display or presentation for others. However, we allow plenty of other pieces of what we present to the world—our music, our style, our art, the list goes on—to have deeper and more complex meanings, to be indicative of how we are reflecting on ourselves. To me, to then dump self portraiture, which is what selfies are regardless of their technical skill, in its own bin as shallow or a non reflective activity means you’re assuming the person in the photo as less than who they are.

          In short, I love selfies because I think humans are complicated and worth imagining as complexly as possible, and there’s a whole series of thoughts in the mind of the person who just posted a duckface to the internet, and you can’t possibly hope to know what those thoughts are. And no one gets to decide what I find to be self-reflective but me.

        • Meg Keene

          Are they though? In a social media world (which modern teenager-hood is), selfies are a way of taking ownership of your image, otherwise controlled by others.

          Also, it just depends. Taking selfies is reflective for me (and mayyyybeeee 1% of what I take ends up shared anywhere, including my very private FB). I take them for me. (And we’re allowed to look-how-hot-we-are. The world does enough of telling us we’re not good enough.)

          • zoe

            Yeah, but the world also rewards a certain kind of hot. And I see a lot of selfies where women and girls spend hours and hours trying to fit that “conventionally hot” mold as carefully as possible. Sure, feeling good about yourself isn’t a bad thing, but a lot of these selfies just proliferate patriarchal expectations of attractiveness, which isn’t awesome. I know it’s not necessarily either/or, but would you rather your 13 year old sister/niece/daughter spend hours practicing soccer/woodworking/acting/math skills, or taking selfies trying to perfect her duck face so the guys in her class will tell her how hot she is?

          • Meg Keene

            Bu it’s not either or. And I’d like her to feel that she can lay claim to the way she looks, by self documenting, and claiming her image from the male gaze. (Should that be important to her. That was important to me, and I had plenty of time for acting.)

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          I think this is really interesting, because it’s only recently that we’ve been able to control the flow of information in this way. I just did an informal survey of my college FB photos and there is a duckface selfie of me from EVERY NIGHT OUT. I didn’t even own a camera. For me, it was like the rat with the bell. I was more interested in seeing if I could make myself look good in photos (and practicing until I got it right), because for so long, that skill had eluded me (and played on my self esteem. I’ve always felt pretty damn OK about the way I look, and hated the way I looked in pictures.) But before cell phone cameras, these were things that were taken on my friend’s cameras, which were then uploaded to Facebook. It was actually NEVER meant for public consumption, but when it became clear that’s where they were going to go, it became sort of a fun game (and each party album would have a few photos tagged with “Maddie’s required series of selfies.”

          Anyway, certainly some people are looking for an audience. But more often than not, I just think humans are vain creatures. And our vanity/need to explore our own meaning, is much more understood than what technology is doing for our ability to broadcast said image.

          Plus, I like the argument that selfies are this millennium’s cave drawings. We’re just trying to preserve and tell our story. And right now, Selfies feels sort of right for the story we’re living.

          • Meg Keene

            Interesting. I think there is a lot of stuff here. The idea that when other people take pictures of you, you don’t look good (You guys, this is truth. I’m always looking at photos of Maddie and wondering who the hell it is in the photo. So many photos of her just look like someone else. A less cute someone else.) So trying to figure out what you want your own image to be, and reclaim that… lots of body image stuff to unpack there.

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Yeah, it’s interesting, because it’s never about “I hate my arms” or “Why do I have a double chin in that photo” and always, “That’s not me.” Because I can live with an unflattering photos, but it’s actually really jarring to see something that is SUPPOSED to be me and isn’t. I fee a little betrayed, almost.

          • Kate

            “I’m always looking at photos of Maddie and wondering who the hell it is
            in the photo. So many photos of her just look like someone else. A less
            cute someone else.”
            Uh.

          • Meg Keene

            Not the photos we publish, obviously. But you can see Maddie talking about it above. Some of us just take weird photos that are unflattering and don’t look like us. Those people tend to be good at selfies. If other people can’t capture the way you really look, you gotta learn to capture yourself.

      • zoe

        I do think, though, that there is a valid difference between the “look at me posing in an attractive way” selfie that is intended to draw the voyeuristic “male” gaze (even if it is consumed by other women) and other forms of self-reflective excercises (i.e. journal writing, pictures of yourself traveling, doing activities, posing with loved ones, or just DOING something). One is intended for outward consumption and one is intended for reflection. I think as a society, we do a WHOLE LOT of the LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, surface level broadcasting, and a whole lot less of the actual self-reflection. So I think #selfies as a theme is a little unclear, at least to me. I’m not sure what we’re trying to get at.

        • Meg Keene

          Welp, this letter is an exploration of what we’re trying to get at.

          I agree that selfies can be done to draw the voyeuristic “male” gaze. I don’t agree all selfies are done that way. I think many of us have phones filled with selfies that are only meant for our gaze, they are self documentation in the purest sense. I documented my pregnancy through selfies, that were never intended for any kind of consumption by anyone other than me.

          To me, white washing all self portraits (taken by phone) makes no sense. Some are look-a-me, maybe some are performance art, maybe some are self documentation, and there are a million other reasons you might take a selfie (I just thought of three).

          This month we’ll for sure be exploring why the idea of selfies makes people uncomfortable. The whole staff is super interested in that.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            And let’s not completely discount selfies that ARE done to draw the voyeuristic male gaze. There’s a ton of feminist writing about women entertainers and the like doing just that in an attempt to control the particular image men see. This can be very powerful as well. AKA I might be peddling a sexy image for the male gaze, but I can control the circumstances, the way I am presented, etc. I don’t want to write these types of selfies to be written off as just bad or problematic. There’s room for nuance.

          • Meg Keene

            I submit the following for review: http://instagram.com/p/jxNEaIPw1k/

          • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

            I love this shot. And I love this conversation…

    • amc

      I agree. I have never considered photos that I am in to be selfies. To me, selfies are holding the camera out with one arm and grabbing a photo of just your face or taking a photo of yourself in the mirror. There’s a vanity about it (not in a bad way).

      • Shiri

        I think the crux of this is “There’s a vanity about it (not in a bad way).” To me, part of the judgment of selfies is that we shouldn’t be approving of ourselves in this way OR seeking approval in this way (i.e. a public, permanent, boundary-reduced way). I think there’s nothing wrong with taking a selfie and keeping it on your phone or showing it to the people you love, but that there’s something we need to address about the need to do it more publicly. And I don’t think blaming girls and women is the way to do that – I think it is more about our societal views about appearance and defining ourselves by how physically attractive we are or are made to feel.

        • Meg Keene

          Oooo. See. We disagree! I’m not actually a huge selfie-er online (um, I take pretty horrible selfies). But I think the assumption that women share online (photos, writing, anything) out of a need for approval is a false assumption. See: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/04/hate-reading-and-feminism/

          • Shiri

            I agree with Rachel by and large on that (awesome) piece, but I think there is some degree of variation between, for example, why an adult woman blogs about her life vs why the majority of my female high school and college aged students (male and female) post selfies. This isn’t solely dependent on age, of course – there are a lot of reasons why people live publicly. Part of it is defining who they are and what their experience is, and part of it, I think, can be about performing yourself, creating an image that you want to be seen as. Wanting to be seen sounds so different from wanting approval, but I think they share something.

            There was a great piece recently (I thought was from Happy Hour, but I can’t find it) about how Instagram is performance and how unrepresentative the photos we share are from those we don’t, and I think that’s what I was trying to get at here, in a way. And also to break how some of the hate on duck-face teenagers, because they’re having a societal response.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Formerly as one of the teenagers you’re talking about (and someone who spent most of college doing duckface selfies for digital cameras before cell phone cameras were even a thing), I want to throw out another idea here. I was a pretty controversial teenager. I was everything people worried about, in terms of where I got my influence. I wanted to be equal parts Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and my wardrobe reflected that. I also developed early and had a banging little bod for a teenager (bless my youth.) I made a LOT of parents and other adults uncomfortable with my clothing choices (some of which might be embarrassing if I thought too hard about it, but I’m actually glad I went full tilt when there was no reason not to.) Anywho, I was always deeply hurt when someone expressed that what I was doing was inappropriate, because my underdeveloped sense of empathy didn’t leave any room for me to understand that what I did for ME was also up for public consumption. I know it seems obvious, but it really wasn’t at the time. I remember once my mom told me that something I wore made a male teenager feel uncomfortable and I was mortified, because I just didn’t think it was for anyone but me (I also didn’t understand why I had to be responsible for his thoughts.) SO. My point is, what is considered broadcast to us, may be more nuanced than that. I think teenagers are often looking to be seen and heard, but the part of the equation that involves the people seeing and hearing them is often outside their realm of understanding. (Because to a certain extent, teenagers, love them as fiercely as I do, are tiny sociopaths.)

      And for the record, I distinctly remember all of my duckface selfies being prompted by a desire to look like Angelina Jolie. :)

      • Shiri

        I think this is brilliant, Maddie, and very much at the heart of what I believe about this phenomenon and what it says about us.

        “I think teenagers are often looking to be seen and heard, but the part of the equation that involves the people seeing and hearing them is often outside their realm of understanding.”

        • Maddie Eisenhart

          Yeah, I truly did not get it as a teenager. I was like, “Why do they care what I’m doing?” I had no idea that they were humans with complicated feelings and emotions. They were just…adults. AKA Robots.

        • Meg Keene

          Like, like, like.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      I agree with most of this – but like the others, I think “embarrassed” is a hard word.
      Look back on and wonder “what was I thinking”, yeah. But then, we all have those things behind us.

  • Ellen

    My phone is about 40% travel, 40% kitten, 10% new house, and 10% arts and crafts stuff. What I did notice was that through the types of pictures I was taking I could tell how we were transitioning into our new house- once it went back to being mostly pictures of our ridiculously adorable and photogenic kitten I knew life was back to normal. :-)

  • Kina

    I’m interested to see where this month goes since I generally hate all pictures of myself. I’m also interested to see where people fall in the whole discussion of selfies: are they preserving a moment in time forever, or are they taking you out of “just being” in the present moment? Sometimes when I see people with a million pictures on their Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, I wonder if they’ll accurately remember the moment they’re capturing itself, or if they’ll just remember posing for the picture. Anyway, random thoughts to kick off Monday morning/Selfie Month, yay!

  • never.the.same

    Can we get a definition of selfie? I feel as though people use it to mean “any picture of me” but I don’t think that’s accurate. When I think of selfie I think it has to be a photo you take of yourself, often with a camera phone, with the intent to document you, right at that moment. So… professional headshots, friend’s photos of you and family photos aren’t “selfies.” Travel shots of you standing in front of a famous landmark aren’t selfies, usually (unless it’s mostly you and not so much the landmark, it’s a grey area…). I kind of think that snapshots of you and a friend, even if taken by one of the people in the photo, aren’t strictly selfies (more than one “self” present!). This might be a more strict definition than most, I know!

    What do others think?

    • Meg Keene

      I think you’re right about the technical definition. The technical definition is obviously not really the theme of the month, we’re using artistic licence ;)

    • http://andshelovesyou.com/ Lucy

      I think landmark photos totally count. It’s almost like a passport stamp, a “see, I visited here and I exist in the world” sort of self documentation.

    • Meg Keene

      Ok! I figured if we were going to have this debate I’d update the photo (I had a more relevant one taken this weekend). These were photobooth selfies, not camera phone selfies, but I think that totally counts… just an older technology.

  • Tory

    I have to admit that I seldom take pictures of myself and don’t usually like the ones I see of me. I focus too much on the flaws in the pictures and not on the happy smile that’s usually on my face. I’m working on it because I know that someday I’m going to wish I had more photos of myself and my friends and my life.

    • Meg Keene

      THAT is what this month needs to be about.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      :-) One of my good friends who is about 27 years older than me said once that when she looks back on pictures of herself from her 20s, she sees that she was perfect and didn’t understand THEN why she didn’t think she was. I hope you will look back on photos of yourself this way

      • Meg Keene

        YES YES YES. TRUTH.

      • Tory

        I definitely look back at most of my photos from when I was younger and think “not so bad” except for that one with the hair that shall not be mentioned! Eeeks it was a bad haircut.

        But today, still seeing the wrinkles and the increasing gray and the double chin.. and I know in my brain that I’m still “pretty” but all my eyes see are the flaws. Working on it!

  • Moe

    I posted a selfie with the hashtag #apwselfies. :D eeek!
    I spent A LOT of years cringing over photos of myself. The fat girl, the dark skinned girl, the nerdy girl,they always amplified all the reasons why I felt why I didn’t fit in. It took me a long time to grow into my self, and just be ok with who I am. What a great theme, I can’t wait to see what the month has in store!

    • jashshea

      Is there a way to “follow” a hashtag in IG?

      • Meg Keene

        There isn’t! (Oh, Instagram), but the idea is we’re going to try to re-post them, with whatever narrative text you guys include to describe the moment. REDUCE SHAME, BEGINNING NOW. (Besides: other people’s selfies are super interesting!)

  • Kayjayoh

    I have the best series of selfies when I went on my min-vacation to Seattle. I was traveling by myself, so there was no one to trade of standing in front of things and taking pictures, as is traditional. So there are pictures of things I was looking at combined with selfies of me in front of the things I was looking at.

    The best of them are from when I was in the EMP Museum. I have photos of me with a Cyberman, a Dalek, the Terminator, and the Alien each sneaking up behind me. A friend of mine dubbed them “selfies of impending doom.” I was able to share my travels with my fiance and friends in a fun, playful way, and I can look at them and remember my trip.

    • jashshea

      1. that last paragraph is awesome.
      2. I do the same thing when I travel solo. I have 100s of pictures of me (film, digi, and phone) with my head in front of some landmark. I used to get annoyed that I basically had these super sweet landscape shots, but no real proof I was there. So I started jumping in the shots. They’re uniformly terrible at the beginning, now I’m a little better.

      • http://andshelovesyou.com/ Lucy

        I did this on my solo trip to San Francisco because fuck if I wasn’t going to document my first trip to the west coast. And people now are much more touchy/standoffish if (oh god forbid) you ask them to take a photo of you with your camera.

      • Christina McPants

        We did the same when we took our honeymoon. In hindsight, I am amazing that how many pictures were a) on our phones, not the fancy camera and b) taken by us, even with people around.

        • Kayjayoh

          I am a pretty serious photographer and I have a couple of nice SLRs. However, not that I have a good camera on my phone, I’ve stopped bringing my SLR along with me unless I am specifically planning on having my photographer hat on. It gives me on less big thing to pack and track, and frees up my attention to enjoy the moments at hand. Also, you need a tripod or some kind of stabilizer to do a self-portrait with an SLR…not something I want to haul with me all the time.

    • Sara

      The reason I learned how to take a decent selfie with a digital camera is from solo travels. I returned home after one, and my mother complained about how I wasn’t in any of the pictures :)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

      My favorite is the Terminator one! :)

  • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

    I hardly take any photos of myself, and I think this month might be what I need to change that. I’m so busy taking pictures of other things, and other people, that I’m never in any of them.

    My mister thinks he’s not photogenic, so between that and my awkward dislike of posing for photos, we hardly have any pictures of us together (one of the reasons I was super adamant about finding a wedding photographer we really clicked with, because I know we’re both going to feeling super weird about all of the pictures). But there’s one that I took on a whim last summer, as we sat on a bench eating ice cream at dusk. I told him to prepare for an adorable selfie as I whipped out my phone, and he put on the most incredible duckface without warning. I realized what he was doing and managed to get my own duckface on before snapping the picture, and that picture is so. priceless. I want to have it framed.

    • karyn_arden

      THIS. This so much.

      In the midst of life, I’m trying to make some lifestyle changes – diet and meal-planning, exercise, managing some health issues, therapy and medication for depression that I haven’t addressed in 3+ years – and I wasn’t even thinking of visual self-perception, which is also really important. My husband and I have next to no pictures of us together and I want that to change SO MUCH. I’ll have to start snapping pictures of us in the moments when we’re just being together or goofing off at home. I don’t think I’m photogenic either, but I probably am and I want more pictures to prove it!

      • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

        Yes, let’s do it! We are wonderful and fabulous and let’s (try to) not be afraid to show the world!

        (Also: solidarity fist bumps for lifestyle changes. Therapy and medication are some of the best presents I have ever given myself. Hang in there, sista.)

        • karyn_arden

          Solidarity fist-bump back, lady. I did therapy and medication years ago, then quit taking my meds because I was like, “Hey, I’m doing so awesome, I don’t need these stupid pills.” And then I was fine for a couple years and then I fell apart. So I’m back on the wagon, and it feels better already.

          • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

            Woo! High fives!

      • Caroline

        I’m in for not feeling photogenic and a partner who doesn’t like photos with the goal to take more photos. Because the ones we have are awesome. Especially the weird ones (like the one where I’m taking a bunch of photos of him and the cat and he starts pretending he’s trying to eat the cat’s head, or the one my dad took where I am totally cracking up and he is trying to do his stone, no smile picture face but there is this incredible smirk as he is failing to suppress whatever it was we found funny.) And actually, I really adore the few selfies I have on my phone. So here’s to more photos!

  • KC

    I need to just get over myself and self-document. The archival process is really important to me, too (being able to look back and remember and know), but there’s this whole self-important “but actually making a record feels too self-important” thing. Which is kind of hilarious as an inversion, but annoying in reality.

    (also: spouse does not like getting photos taken. Spouse does not “get” why photos could be significant/important. Hence, if I’m going to get photos of me (well, more than one per year or so?), either I’m going to have to negotiate and admit that I do want photos of myself to my spouse, who doesn’t really “get” it, or they’re gonna have to be selfies!)

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    YES! I love selfies. I take photos of myself alone and with others, especially the baby. Fortunately, having a iphone makes this happen even more often now. I was inspired to take photos of myself from my mother actually and the fact that she has only a handful pictures of herself from late teens and early twenties. I’m so curious as to how she looked and what she wore and just what she was like as a young woman, which I think does come through in photographs. So I document myself for two reasons: 1) so that I can look back and reflect and remember what I was like and 2) so that I share with others, particularly my daughter, what I was like, if she’s ever interested.

    • Meg Keene

      Yes. I love getting to explore what loved ones were like, before I was around. It’s such a gift.

  • Kara

    I’ve always preferred to be behind the camera, and I often use the camera as a way to avoid interacting with people (I’m very introverted). I don’t have any social media accounts, so I don’t post pics. My cell phone has pictures of our cats and dogs, our house, friends, and fun events. It’s the way I like it :). Plus, the few times I’ve tried to take a picture of myself, they turn out weirdly.

  • Stephanie B.

    My husband and I took a selfie almost right after the wedding ceremony (once we were upstairs for our 10-minute post-ceremony just-us break [we aren't Jewish, so I don't want to call it a yichud]). It wasn’t planned; we just got to the room, and were relieved and giddy and wired and I saw my phone on the mantel, grabbed it, and said, “Newlywed selfie!” I love a lot of the professional photos from our wedding, but I adore our newlywed selfie because you can see all the joy and giddiness and relief from that immediate post-ceremony moment.

    Maybe I’ll post it to instagram with the #apwselfies tag.

    • Meg Keene

      PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE can you do that and write a tiny bit about how you were feeling so we can share it. THAT is the conversation I want to have. Other people’s documentation of our life experiences is just never going to be the same as your own documentation. And I think the fact that there is a lot of shame associated with documenting your own experience is troubling. I don’t even care if you’re documenting just for yourself, or you share it with people. I think self-full and selfish are not the same thing. And self-full makes us better everythings: partners, friends, parents, whatever.

      • Stephanie B.

        You got it! My Instagram name is Teppy623, so it won’t be the same as my name here.

        • Meg Keene

          Awesome! Tag it #APWselfie (in the post or in a comment on the post). I’m going to have a fun afternoon, clearly!!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      My post-courthouse wedding selfie is one of my favorite photos of all time. PLEASE SHARE YOURS. :)

  • Tania

    Talking of self documentation…. When I was 10 my dad suggested I write a letter to myself about my life and he would give it to me when I turned 15. At 15 I opened the letter, read it, wrote another letter, sealed it back up and opened it again at 20… I’m now 36…. The paper of my 10-year-old letter is now yellowing. The letters have turned into a parcel documenting my life in 5 year increments. Over the years friends have added their contributions. The envelope is currently sealed – waiting for 40 (!) when I’m going to commission a photographer to document my personal archive. So glad my Dad made me do this all that time ago!

  • Sara

    I actually take less selfies with my phone than I ever did with my camera. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how do take a decent one with my phone. I’m fantastic at framing one with a regular camera but can’t get it together when the screen is actually facing me and I supposedly can see what I’m doing. I know, total weirdo.
    I love taking pictures, but only seem to like looking at them with some distance. I took a trip last year with some girlfriends and hated every picture we took at the time (to the point of asking to retake them several times, until I just gave up). I just looked back at them and loved them! I guess I’m too critical in the moment.

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

    YES!
    “Selfies aren’t as simple as self-absorbed snapshots. In documenting ourselves, we’re documenting the ways our most important relationships have shaped us.”
    I read an article a couple of years ago encouraging people to take self-portraits / get others to take photos of them at places when they travelled, because in a few years time, you’ll otherwise look back at the photos of the places you went, with no proof YOU were specifically there – the memory is different when you look at a photo of yourself.
    And, honestly, who really accurately remembers how they looked 5 years ago? 2 years ago? While heavily pregnant?
    Especially if you are always the one with the camera, you NEED to take selfies every now and then, otherwise your kids / historians will look back at your life and you will basically not exist.

    • Caroline

      I have maybe… 40 photos of my partner OR I OR both of us in 5 years of living together. I’ve decided this is time to change this. I love even unflattering pics of me as a kid and teenager. Bring on the selfie.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        I’ve gone through my flickr stream (I dont have instagram, and am not adding another social media platform to my life), and pulled out the photos of me, my husband, our son, my parents, brother, and niece.

        I did a self-portrait month as part of a photo-a-day challenge in 2012. It was a great month to pick, as we were in Europe at the time, so I got awesome photos of me (and sometimes hubby) in front of AWESOME landmarks.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/anakiwa_forever/sets/72157640474098886/

    • Jane Patterson-McGuire

      And can I add that it is really, really easy to be the parent that is never in the pictures? I’m the photographer so the rest of the family is well documented, but until last year there were less than 5 occasions where I and my kids are in the same shot, and maybe twice that of me at all (and my kids are in 3rd/4th grade.)

      I still want to retouch the ones I manage to take/get taken, and I haven’t quite worked out how I feel about that.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

        I keep having spurts where I remember that I need to take photos with me in them. And then I forget for weeks at a time. Must work harder :)

  • ardenelise

    In going through pictures for our wedding, I’ve realized that nearly every picture of my fiancé and me from our six years together is a selfie. We were long distance for most of our relationship and when one of us would visit the other often we’d have no one else there to take a picture of us. I’m so grateful we took those selfies, because otherwise we’d have next to no pictures of us as a couple. It’s super fun to go back through them and see how we’ve both changed and grown throughout our time together. We took one right after we got engaged on the beach that I’ll have to post with the #apwselfies tag cause I love that it perfectly captures how happy and excited we both were in that moment!

    • Jo

      this this this! the long distance, the looking back… one of my favorites is a selfie i took of us moments before we got engaged, looking out at the sunset together (me unwitting, him hiding his nervous excitement). fist bump for beach engagements!!

      • ardenelise

        I love it! We actually have a selfie from right before our engagement too– though it’s not my favorite because I was a little stressed out, wondering if he might propose! But I do love that I officially have a “last picture of us as boyfriend and girlfriend.”

  • Sarah Brown

    I love selfies and I love the fact that during the day my man and I send each other selfies of horrible faces and secret under desk angles and pictures of ourselves in the drive thru at lunch. It’s like being together all the time with out actually being together. They’re never pretty or flattering but I think that’s what makes them all the more special to us.

    We’re talking about stopping right before our first kiss and taking a selfie in the middle of our ceremony with everyone in the background, instead of a sand ceremony or something, because that’s not us and selfies are.

    • M.

      We do this too :) Funny faces from under the desk!

  • clairekfromtheuk

    Ok so I just selfied myself while reading about selfies and posted it with the apwselfies hashtag. This is either some kind of record or a sure fire way to spiral into a self referential vortex

    • Jess

      If we don’t hear from you again, I’ll assume you went into a selfie-singularity.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    One of my favorite selfies is one I took 14 years ago on my film camera and didn’t know who the person was when I got the film developed.

    Maybe I need to be more introspective.

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

    I’ve spent the better part of a year trying to reconnect with my true self. In that year I have been looking for a new job (that I haven’t found yet) that falls in line with who that true self is. In doing so, I have pulled further and further from the public eye of blogging, Facebook, etc. because I wanted my true self to stay safe as I tried to meet her again. But in all that time, I haven’t been able to take any selfies, recoiling at the very word because I couldn’t see myself on that level, as something to be seen at all. Worse, I couldn’t put a photo up on linked in until last week. I don’t seem to know how to present myself at all. But Meg, thank you for this. I needed this. And for my February resolution I intend to take a selfie every day in February. Hopefully I’ll see something that I’ve been missing. I’m hoping to catch some bits of joy within the worry, within the real life me. Is it okay for me to use the APWselfie hashtag for all of these?

  • http://www.devabydefinition.com/ Deva C.

    I struggle with selfies. Oddly, a selfie is what snapped me out of an unhealthy relationship with food and my body when I was in college. Now, I struggle with taking what I think of as a good selfie. I tend to “myspace” my selfies because I feel like my eyes look too squinty, etc. I JUST got new glasses over the weekend and I kind of really love them so I’ve been selfie-ing up a storm with them on, because well, LOVE my new frames. For me, at least, i use a selfie to document where I am right now. I have so few photographs of myself from college because of the aformentioned body confidence issues and it’s something I wish I could go back and reverse as I hardly remember what I looked like when I was 18, 19, even 20. It’s almost like I disappeared, in a way, and I want to be able to look back as an adult and show future children or nieces or nephews what we looked like, or what the fashion was like where we are right now, etc.

  • Chelsea

    Meg, I’m right there with you. I have no idea how the idea of a “selfie” has become so demonized in the last two years. And what bothers me is it seems like teenage girls are the ones targeted, when I know for a fact that my younger brother went through the same “selfie” phase. It may be the historian in me (I study the early 1900s) but if you go back and look into archives and personal papers–there are selfies! There’s a ton! People are fascinated by themselves, trying to understand their identity, and I think photos play a large part in that. Perhaps some selfies are a result of a desire to be liked.. welcome to life. I think the dismissal (and the terrible, sexist, hurtful words that often follow it) are totally unwarrented. Because lets face it, photos are cool. They capture a full, chaotic, ever-changing life in one static picture.

    I’ll keep my selfies too.