Camera Phones and Art; The Selfie as an Artistic Movement

Cedric Chambers
November 22, 2014
Cedric Alessandro Chambers Selfie

In 1888, people made remarks about how you couldn't go outside without having your picture taken. The first handheld camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman, it was called the Kodak #1. The handheld camera achieved enormous popularity with the invention of the Brownie Camera in 1910. As camera technology developed and because of Kodak’s consumer-friendly approach to photography, representational painting was slowly overshadowed by pure abstraction because photographs were cheaper than portrait painting. I suspect that the wide use of the camera phone today will do to photography what photography did to painting during the Modern Art Movement.

The first camera phone was released in South Korea by Samsung in the year 2000 and was equipped with a .35 megapixel camera. It was nowhere near the level of technology as camera phones out today. The camera phone, in the last ten years, has gone from a simple gadget to an all in one contraption. It's already showing signs to replace modern DSLR’s. As of 2015, the Sony Xperia 1 came equipped with a CMOS sensor, the same sensor used in professional DSLR's. The Samsung Galaxy S5 came equipped with an 18-megapixel camera, built-in photo editing software, and the ability to instantly upload photos. The camera-phone has made professional-grade photography available to the masses.

An artistic movement is a tendency or style, usually followed by a group of artists within a specific time. The selfie can be defined as an artistic movement. There are hundreds of millions of selfies uploaded to social media daily. According to Webster's dictionary, a selfie is "an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks". Webster's dictionary defines the term "selfie" via the first selfie ever taken.


2002 ABC Online (forum posting) 13 Sept.

“Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”


Selfies are all the rage in the media today, this blog entry by Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D. associate professor of psychology at Albright College, explains the relationship between selfies and narcissism. I don't think one can argue that the selfie is not a movement of some kind. Content that's created specifically for use within selfies is relatively new. The idea combines photography, interactive art, conceptual art, and performance art, into a publicly available piece. While art that fits this description may have already existed, it has not existed in the same way. A good example of engaging art that falls into the “selfie” movement is Kelsey Montague's #whatliftsyou murals.

Kelsey Montague received national recognition for her artwork when her mural went viral in New York City. She is known for creating interactive artwork that is created with the sole purpose of being shared on social media. She includes a hashtag directly into her design, along with a place for people to stand and to take selfies. People pose for selfies in front of her mural and share their selfies using the hashtag. See figure 1.

Jessica Stam #whatliftsyou

Fig. 1, Jessica Stam #whatliftsyou



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