Taking it to another dimension

After last Tuesday’s workshop I started thinking about adding an additional dimension to the project. I was thinking already before, that just putting the images up on tumblr with a quote would not be enough as it is lacking depth and will be quite superficial (which again, is also part of how we use social media nowadays!).

It would be more interesting to add the person’s view and opinion and not just show their looks. One possible way of doing this would be to add an audio/video recording to the image. I’d prefer the audio over the video, I could imagine having the selfie image which is “clickable” and then plays a short audio track of the person’s response, possibly addressing how they feel taking a photo of themselves.

Another idea could be to create an “outside” view of the situation – meaning that while doing a selfie the camera is focused on the subject, yet there is a lot happening around that subject and it would be interesting to capture people’s reactions. I remember sitting on the tube in London once, next to me a lady in her 30’s. She pulled out her make up bag, started to brush/paint/apply all these different things to her face and then took out her phone and took lots of selfies. I just sat next to her laughing, I couldn’t help. In German we say “fremdschaemen” which means basically feeling embarassed for someone else. Other people were looking at her too and were laughing or watching somehow in disbelief.

A way of capturing this 360 degree outside view would be with an App called Panorama 360 Teliportme. It takes a moving panorama (which for some reason I can’t implement in here) but the still image looks like this:



And here are examples on the website:


The issue with this though, is the fact that people are not standing still but moving, especially on busy streets in the city centre. I doubt the images will turn out nicely and also the faces of people won’t be detailed enough to actually be able to show their expressions. Stitching the panorama together with the person taking a selfie in the middle might turn out interesting, I will try to take one myself and see how it looks.

Another idea is more based on photography itself. The generation I’m interested in (70’s+) would still know how back in the day families would get an official family portrait taken. The images were usually very staged, having your photograph taken was quite an event! So people would put on their best clothes and the way the family would be “arranged” was down to certain rules of composition and setting.

I looked into different era’s of family portrait, here are two examples of Victorian photographs:

(Taken from http://blog.findmypast.co.uk/2011/family-photos-composition-and-studio-setting/)

0506family      fig10-1905-claire-dulanty

Then moving on to more modern times, 30’s and 40’s:



Fig.14 Studio photograph, mid-1930s (unknown family) – click to enlarge. During the 1920s-1940s, head and shoulders compositions were usual for single and small group studio photographs. Head angle and lighting were especially important (Katharine Williams)


The author further writes on her blog:

“As the 1900s advanced and during the early 1910s, painted studio backgrounds were often cloudy and indistinct, vaguely suggesting shrubbery and leafy glades, while in the foreground clients might pose by realistic-looking stone plinths, pedestals and balustrades (fig.11). Studio room sets of the 1910s usually appear plainer than during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, reflecting more modern tastes: typically photographs of this decade show blank-walled or wood-panelled rooms, often featuring painted bookshelves and/or curtained, small-paned windows and simpler furniture including long bench seats and wooden chairs of modern or traditional design (fig.12).

Hazy backdrops continue into the 1920s, with substantial groups of people still being photographed in full length. Remember that by now, amateur photography was becoming increasingly popular and fewer people were visiting the commercial photography studio, although the professional portrait was still considered a superior product. Accordingly, the distinguishing trend with studio photographs of small groups and with single portraits, from the post-WWI period onwards, is for clear head and shoulders shots focusing on the head and upper body, with close attention paid to camera angle and lighting. This vogue continued throughout the 1920s (fig.13), 1930s (fig.14) and 1940s, providing intimate, high quality visual records of our more recent ancestors and relatives.”

On this blog I found a collection of images that span from the 1924 – 2008 depicting the life of “Olga”


It is really interesting to compare how the technology and image quality developed throughout the years (ending on quite a sad looking 89 year old Olga) and what feeling these images evoke in the viewer (black and white images causing a certain sense of nostalgia).

I thought about these old black and white images and their “staged” character and how different they are from the typical selfie, not just in quality but also in value. For some reason, although in the 40’s and 50’s photography has become already quite commercial, the images bare a certain value as still not everyone had a camera and could take a million images a day. People were also taking photos of others, not of themselves.

Or at least not as much as we do nowadays – the camera was pointing outwards not towards themselves!

Unless you were some sort of artist, they were into selfies anyways. Like this gentleman here:


Edvard Munch  (painters would take images of themselves to then create actual painted self portraits)

to this one here:


Paul McCartney (just simply loving himself!)

The idea of / image –  quality -quantity – value / interests me and the generation I’m looking at could possibly have interesting views on this topic too. They might feel really awkward taking a photo of themselves and thinking that this is what people nowadays do, the whole concept of taking “portraits” has evolved basically.

Maybe it would be an interesting idea to juxtapose these images of the same person (obviously aged), so having their selfie but also a throwback and show an image of when they were young and had a photograph taken of them.

For the project this would mean to take it off the streets and actually establish contacts, who would be willing to share their old image and take a selfie. I could contact various caring homes in Bristol and see how the response is and/or ask people I know who have contacts here.



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