Have selfies really killed photography?

Have selfies really killed photography?

selfie at St. Peter’s
Have selfies killed photography? At least one writer at Russia Today thinks it has, lamenting the rise of a digital narcissim.

To me, this obsessive snapping of everything isn’t photography. It is mere visual capture; event-logging, and rarely more than that.

No, we are not photographers. We are editors at best. As we swipe through the results, if our eyelashes are out of proportion with our elbows, the results of these mostly random clicks are expunged.

Yes, it is efficient. But it is also empty, crass and soulless.

Yes, narcissistic selfies are everywhere now. But there were plenty of crappy photos before digital photography came around, perhaps especially because you couldn’t see the results of your photos until after you took them for developing.

At least now, some of the time there will be a subject in that photo of a random vacation locale. Melanie and I were lamenting recently over our old photo albums from our college days that we had so many photos of random buildings in exotic locales or out of airplane windows and not enough of actual people. We’d travel places and take pictures of interesting buildings or beautiful vistas, perhaps with visions of National Geographic dancing in our heads, instead of the people we were traveling with or the people we were meeting. Now with a selfie at least there’s someone in the photo.

And while we lament the loss of the great art of photography, let’s also recognize how wonderful it can be to have a camera always with you to record your child’s first step or the last time you saw your grandma alive. As noted photographer Chase Jarvis famously said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” Yes, we can become too obsessed with recording the moment instead of living in it, but we can also enter into the lives of friends and family far removed from us more easily than ever before too.

All great technological advances have trade-offs. I think this one is a net positive. Despite hordes of selfie-stick wielding tourists making duckfaces in front of great monuments.

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