The Shelfie


by cheri sabraw

Crossing the Arno River last May on the Ponte a Santa Trinita, I was struck by the number of African immigrants selling selfie sticks. Gone were hawkers pushing feathered-ball trinkets that danced like frenzied Pinocchios along the cobblestones in front of the Uffizi Gallery and gone also were the Madonna and Christ Child key rings, magnets, and cell phone covers.

Selfie sticks were and are the rage, so much so, that major museums such as the Met and the British Museum have wisely banned them.

In the WSJ this morning, resides an article about teenage girls and the selfies they take and disseminate and what they receive back from others.

The selfie now is more than a photo of two people who are too shy or too drunk to ask a tourist to take a normal picture of them on the Ponte Vecchio, more than a photo where chins and smiles are larger than life and facial distortion routine– today’s teenagers are photographing and then sending their own body parts along to their friends, and in some scary cases, to strangers.

Those in my generation will remember the hilarious scene in Woody Allen’s movie “Bananas” (1971) in which he tries unsuccessfully to hide a pornographic magazine inside a business magazine. In those days, before the internet made pornography easy to access, one had to buy stimulating photographs and hide them somewhere. Playboy Magazines were gold and as we know, most men said they read them for the “great articles” (ha, ha).

Now, we have two-generations of young people and others (think Anthony Weiner and Brett Favre) so oblivious to modesty or to what is provocative  to the opposite sex,  who moon their phones or photograph their  breasts and send them off to their friends.

Were I still teaching  teenagers today, I would encourage them to shelve the selfie and instead concentrate on images of true beauty.

Where such a dialogue would go, I do not know.



About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life, My photography, Parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Shelfie

  1. The pictures posted on FB have become noticeably better since the selfie-stick. I worry about the ones taken inside the car however. The lack of head room would give a frustrating tip-tilted image I suppose.

  2. Richard says:

    Apart from criminalising and pursuing those who exploit, including the providers of social media, all we can do is to educate and warn, not against the activities as such, which are crude and unsubtle, but of the risks of exploitation and the ruination of lives. Drugs are a related problem, both socially and physiologically, so we know the limitations of such measures.

    Those who are squeamish about breach of privacy and intrusion by government should recall the extent to which anonymous and unanswerable internet providers already do this.

    That is a fine and striking photograph and an apt reminder of true beauty for those who have eyes to see.

  3. Muni says:

    But the photograph looks more like Ano Nuevo than Arno.

    • Cheri says:

      Hello Muni!
      Good guess about the location where I captured those lazy elephant seals, the glassy sand, and the busy seabirds..but guess again, closer to Cambria..

  4. Christopher says:

    Since ours is the Age of Narcissism, what better expression of this than the “selfie”?

    And, how appropriate it is that that veritable embodiment of preening narcissism, Donald Trump, seems now likely to become the next President.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Christopher,
      Always good to hear from you. I am more concerned about young girls and boys and their selfie-content than I am about the current political scene. Keep in mind that just as George W. Bush created Barack Obama, Barack Obama has created Donald Trump.

  5. shoreacres says:

    I had an interesting discussion with a professional photographer recently about the differences between a self-portrait and a “selfie.” One distinction we agreed on is that a selfie almost always is for others, for public consumption, while a self-portrait can be a means of inward exploration.

    Also: selfies seem reflexive, while self-portraits involve intentionality. There are people who can’t seem to help themselves — they just have to keep clicking. I was at an event Friday night where I was sitting at a table with nine other people. Six of them had no time for table conversation. Every one of them spent the half-hour or so before the event began taking selfies. It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.

    • Cheri says:

      As usual, your comments are loaded with food for thought. Thank you. That is one of my concerns about the preponderance of selfie takers…think back to Barack Obama, the Princess of Denmark, and David Cameron taking selfies at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. It’s over the top what some people do.

  6. wkkortas says:

    Vanity to the point of the dangerous and foolhardy is nothing new–just ask Narcissus. It is just the technology has improved exponentially. As an aside, I agree that taking a selfie at Mandela’s memorial service is tacky and then some.

  7. Cheri says:

    Yes–to both your sentences!

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