The Art History of the Selfie | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios | Summary and Q&A

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June 2, 2016
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The Art Assignment
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The Art History of the Selfie | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

TL;DR

Self-portraiture has a long history in art, and selfies are a modern form of self-expression with the potential to be art.

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Key Insights

  • 🤑 Self-portraiture has a rich history in photography, with artists using it to showcase their skills, experiment, and understand new technology.
  • 🤳 Many famous photographers, such as Alfred Stieglitz and Cindy Sherman, have made significant contributions to the genre of self-portraiture.
  • 😑 Selfies, while often criticized, have the potential to be a form of artistic expression and are accessible to a wide audience.
  • 🤳 The motivations behind selfies can vary greatly, and the exact intentions behind most selfies will remain unknown.
  • 🤳 Selfies can serve different purposes, including affirmation, concealment, questioning societal norms, and empowering the subject.
  • 👻 The quality of smartphone cameras has democratized the medium of self-portraiture, allowing anyone to participate.
  • 🫵 It is up to the viewers to interpret and decode selfies, as they offer glimpses into the lives and identities of the subjects.

Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] The selfie is the recipient of so much hate that I almost feel sorry for it. Often seen is the surest indicator of vanity or narcissism, the selfie persists nonetheless. We want to do it. We have to do it. But why? Maybe art history can tell us. People have been making photographic self-portraits since the dawn of photography. In fa... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why did photographers in the early days of photography take self-portraits?

Early photographers took self-portraits to demonstrate their abilities, understand their new devices, and experience capturing their own image in a revolutionary way.

Q: Who were some famous photographers known for their self-portraits?

Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, and Cindy Sherman are just a few examples of renowned photographers who captured themselves in self-portraits.

Q: What are the motivations behind selfies?

The motivations behind most selfies are often unknown, but selfies can serve various purposes, such as affirmation, concealment, subverting the male gaze, or bearing witness to personal experiences.

Q: Can selfies be considered art?

While not all selfies can be considered art, the potential for artistic expression exists within the selfie medium.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Self-portraits have been made since the early days of photography, with artists using them to showcase their skills and explore new technology.

  • Many renowned photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz and Cindy Sherman, have created noteworthy self-portraits throughout history.

  • Selfies, while often criticized, have the potential for artistic expression and are a democratic medium accessible to everyone with a smartphone.

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