My Facebook feed is full of selfies, the Oscars was all about one selfie, Obama took a newsworthy one, and the phrase has even made into the Oxford Dictionary. It appears we are in the middle of a selfie revolution.
Seen as the epitome of Generation Y’s ‘ME ME ME’ apparent narcissistic and egotistical attitude to life, selfies have been criticised by many. Even the dictionary definition carries a vanity warning: “occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary.”
But believe it or not, selfies weren’t invented as a result of the smartphone and Instagram’s boom; self-portraiture has in fact been around since history began. Yet it wasn’t until the Early Renaissance (14th century) that artists could be seen depicting themselves as the main subject or as important characters hidden within their work.
The increase in self-portrait production during The Renaissance was mainly down to the availability of better and cheaper mirrors. Another factor was the increased wealth and greater interest in ‘the individual’ as subject matter. Renaissance artists’ self-portraits were also highly idealised depictions of themselves. (Noticing a parallel here?’)
So perhaps capturing a selfie, filtering it and sharing it for the entire world to see isn’t such a new concept after all. We’re just following in the steps of our Renaissance ancestors.