Photography, to me, is a cracking way of capturing the impression of a moment. A street scene, something I just glimpse with the corner of my eye, or even something I haven’t actually seen but that happened to fall in the framing of my lenses: this is what photography is for me.
If there’s something that my photography lacks (apart from skills!) it’s self portraits, and for quite a simple reason: I know how I look like and I don’t really feel the need to prove on Facebook that I’ve been somewhere. So, it’s with a bit of puzzlement that I’m witnessing the rise of this new mania for selfies, especially since the diabolical selfie sticks have been invented and, apparently, have taken the world by storm.
As hard as I try I don’t seem to be able to understand what brings people to travel somewhere, be it the restaurant down the road or a destination 14-hours away by plane, and then clog up the memory of their camera or phone with a seemingly endless parade of pictures of themselves partially obscuring monuments, natural sights, food, clubs or what have you. Photos of places and things are, to me, a way to show them to others who, perhaps, aren’t so fortunate to be able to get there themselves; selfies are just a mean to show how good you’re doing, how cool you are and, implicitly, to tell all your friends on Facebook that they suck because they weren’t there, in the photo. Selfies are indeed selfish, and these new sticks are only making them worse for their remove even the small need for interpersonal contact that “classic” self portraits involved, i.e. finding someone willing to snap the damn picture for you.
I’ve been to many places where selfies are now kings of the mountain, but Rio’s top attractions, the Sugar Loaf and Christ Redeemer, are in a league of their own. You might be in a tropical marvel, overlooking a naturally stunning city, but you’ll seldom see anyone contemplating it, or taking in the views. Every phone will be perched atop its damned stick, pointed rigorously towards its owner and every camera will be aimed at some smiling individual. There’s no escaping it, and my only solace was that I must’ve been tagged “That idiot who photobombed us” in thirty languages and on at least a hundred different Facebook albums.