Careful with that *Selfie* Eugene..

One of my personal criteria’s, (for what its worth) for what makes a great film a work a art is one in which, upon your return to it at different stages of your life, you continue to glean more understanding about the workings of life from it than prior viewings. This happened today for me with Guy Maddin’s 1992 film, “Careful“After trying to desperately “catch up” to some semblance of PhD rigour in my understanding of poststructuralism, I am starting to have my own personal Henry Higgins/Elisa Dolittle moment of, “By George, I think she’s got it!”.  (I still have a ways to go of course, but since I enjoy learning, I anticipate a continued expansion in my knowledge on poststructuralism and other philosophies and theories for the rest of my life. )

But for now, I was chatting with my Husband, Brian about what I’ve synthesised so far about poststructuralism as it relates to selfies. (Broadly, what my PhD research focuses on.) This was brought up due to articles that Brian randomly sends me from popular media from time to time that usually express, ( In my view), very extreme ideas of the potential dangers of creating selfies.  The warnings usually state things such as, Selfies can cause diseases from something gross but treatable, such as head lice ( I guess from people with head lice putting their heads together during selfie shots) to very serious claims of causing mental illnesses such as narcissism or being an indicator of murderous psychopathic tendencies.

The latest one he sent today was titled, “ When Selfies Go Wrong: 17 Deadly Selfies”. When I opened it I saw very quickly that it contained either photoshopped images of supposed deadly selfies or photographic images that I staunchly do not classify as selfies. For example the first one claimed a shark attacked some guy on his honeymoon no less..(oh sob!)..while “foolishly snapping a selfie”. What a fool, he should have never taken a selfie or he would be alive!

Wait, he is alive, as the picture is a hoax and it took me all of two seconds to find the corresponding two images photoshopped together on google.



So, why would popular media put out such constant stream of extreme warnings about selfie production, ( and really the use of all technology)?

Ah, we’re getting to the “poststructuralism” part, finally…..

The quick answer, power. Perhaps it’s a way of maintaining the power over the “order” they have a hand in constructing and controlling. “Let’s tell them it’s vain, girly stuff, (cause girl stuff is bad and weak).. it’s narcissistic, tell them it could even kill them! Come on, listen to us, we (popular media ) have your best interest in mind! ”

There are probably many reasons to propagandise people away from using their personal cameras as tools that potentially deviate from what is currently deemed societally and socially acceptable  forms of memorialising ones life, but two immediately come to mind.

  1. First, to prevent citizen journalism. Look at the power people have literally in their hands to capture any unfair treatment they may randomly come across.  That must be stopped to maintain the power structures in place.
  2. And secondly, gender and how those roles are expected to behave. Woman and Men must behave and present themselves in the gender tropes the power structure has created for them. If people begin to define their own alternative, less confining image of themselves, ( which happens through regular explorations of self-imaging ones self), the power and order could lose control of them being good little unquestioning citizens that buy and make the things that keep the powers wealthy and in control.

An unfortunate growing trend in journalism is to take the “company line” towards presenting information. Journalists feel it is in their best interest put out only the information sanctioned by the corporate powers that control the news companies they work for to in order to keep their jobs.

So, (getting back to the film), having a strange mind that makes unusual connections, these constant mass media proclamations of the supposed deleterious outcomes of selfie production reminded me of the prologue from Guy Maddin’s brilliant 1992 film, “Careful”. It is a film about a fictitious small Swiss-like Village of Tolzbad and the omnipresent danger of constant avalanches and the absolute necessity to keep one’s emotions and sound suppressed at all times, for fear of causing devastation to their village. Shot intentionally like a movie from the silent film era, it brilliantly shows through humour how the constant messages broadcast from “the powerful in the community” instructing how one needs to conduct themselves in order to live their lives safely and prudently, how this suppression and agreed repression ultimately effects the citizens very gravely. I watched just the first five minutes of the prologue again today and I felt it illustrated many poststructuralist ideas of the symbolic order and power structures we come to believe to be the only way we can be. I recommend viewing the entire film of course, but hopefully this rambling post and 5 minute clip below might encourage those who have not seen the film to do so! It just gets better with every viewing.



So, don’t call the illuminati patrol, I haven’t lost the plot!

Do realise this is just a snappy 1133 word blog post and not my PhD thesis and know that I am aware these are pretty broad sweeping statements. I am also well aware that there is a dark side to selfies and also to technology use. It is prudent and urgent to have a balanced approach towards including the new tech devices into our lives in order to prevent loss of civil liberties through surveillance and data mining.  I just observe that often times the wrong kind of press is getting out there, fear mongering people into submission instead of informing.   Instead of fear mongering the masses into behaving with social propriety with their technology, what about about covering with the same zeal, the stories about the devastating pollution and literal slave labor that the tech industry gleefully participates in? The list of corporate and political abuses with technology can go on for miles.

But let us not forget that many technologies we think of as seamless aspects of everyday life, such as transportation, architecture, farming, text and language, fire, etc..we obliviously forget that we are a species that creates and adapts to “technology” in our lives.  For better or worse, all technology should be carefully monitored but not fear mongered by the “powers in charge” in order to suppress the masses.

P.S. More random stuff…The title of this post is inspired from the song, “Careful with that Axe, Eugene”, by Pink Floyd. Being someone born back in stone age, I realise not everyone would “get that”, har har…

Ways of Seeing: Direct to Audience


Whether through digital channels, print or on exhibit, the impact, influence and reach of the still image has never been greater. But with so many images fighting for our attention, how do photographers make work that most effectively stands out and connects with an audience. In this seven-part series, TIME looks back over the past 12 months to identify some of the ways of seeing—whether conceptually, aesthetically or through dissemination—that have grabbed our attention and been influential in maintaining photography’s relevance in an ever shifting environment, media landscape, and culture now ruled by images.

Direct to Audience

2014 saw an increase in independent photographers cutting out the middle man and going direct to audience. Facebook, Twitter and particularly Instagram have been instrumental in building online communities and growing audiences for photographers for some time. But this year saw the monetization of these platforms through various print sale initiatives by photo…

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A Serious Comedian: Honoré Daumier’s Critique of Photography and Modern Society

the politics of information

The caption beneath this 1862 lithograph by French caricature artist Honoré Daumier reads “Nadar elevating Photography to the height of Art.” The print comically typecasts Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (known as Nadar) as a mad scientist or absent-minded professor figure who—in his excitement to capture the perfect shot—is unwittingly about to lose his top hat. Below him, inscribed on every building in Paris, is the word “Photographie.” In many ways, this satirical depiction of one of the most prominent photographers in Paris works to capture the essence of the 19th century debate over whether or not this new medium of photography could be considered “art.” At the time this print appeared in the journal Le Boulevard, Nadar was already well known for taking the first aerial photograph of Paris four years earlier in 1858. He likewise “had a flair for showmanship, and was much in the public eye as a balloonist”…

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Selfie Bingo!

The Carceral Net

There was a talk about selfies at the National Portrait Gallery in London a few weeks ago (, and when I was there I talked to Annebella Pollen who was chairing the session. As we were talking, anticipating the evening to come, I mentioned the fact that the same recurring themes seem to come up in discussions about the selfie. The predictability of some of these themes – ‘selfies are not photography’, ‘there are too many selfies’, and so on – interests me, as it demonstrates just how restricted the way of talking about this practice had often become. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, it’s not so much the photographs themselves, or what we even say about them, that I find important – it’s the social structures that support and are supported by such statements.

As a whimsical reaction to this, I have made a bingo card of (mostly…

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Research of Mobile Photography

mobile photography

mobile photography (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

My current postgraduate research focuses on how programmed nostalgia (retro/vintage pre-sets) within mobile phone photography provides memory illusions that facilitate the construction of our sense of self. I suggest that  a “new aesthetic” nostalgia presents visual and social cues that allow us to construct and rapidly re-construct memory illusions of our sense of self.

In one sense this is nothing all that new.  Amateur photography has long provided the means for memory and self-representation built off social and cultural interconnections and activities within domestic life.  Susan Sontag wrote in, On Photography, that “amateur photography has brought with it the emergence of a new visual code, which has forever augmented the Western world’s idea of realism, memory and identity of both the viewer and the photographer”.

Mobile phone photography continues with this heritage bringing with it specific mediated affordances that justify reopening and contributing to the already rich body of research on this subject. Through our devices, mobile phone photography not only becomes part of what creates our autobiographical memories, but a mediated tool that caters to our basic psychological requirement for identity construction and transformation.

This is what I will explore, the how and the why mobile photography does this. This new blog will comprise of my journey through my research. I will use writing in this blog to help clarify my ideas and observations, because of this, it may be full of conjecture and whimsy much more than the content of my academic papers.