Gallery: nearly three years of selfies

“Proud,” on the road in Kazakhstan

Narcissus fell in love with his image in a pool of water, hence “narcissism.” I must love my image if I now have hundreds of selfies from the last three years of travel. This album contains about thirty four of them—my attempt at a representative sample.

I’ve taken selfies from near and far, perched my camera up on rocks, used the self timer, but this album is only made of those with my face front and centre, for comparison’s sake.

Counterintuitively, after making this album I struggle to describe the sum of these images; what I look like. I have even teeth, prominent gums, voluptuous earlobes, hazel eyes. I’m white, and wrote that first and then changed the order of adjectives to pretend it wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. To me, what I look like has varied a lot over the years and even from one day to another. I suppose this itself is narcissism—noticing the details that others may not. It’s been fascinating to make this album chronological, to see time’s effect. Certainly my gradual explorations into what is required to look like a woman can be seen.

The first reason to share this album is to poke fun at my vanity. That my clothes are few and untrendy and that I no longer wear makeup represent vanities transferred, not removed. If we find ourselves in a room with a mirror, I smile at it—at myself—incessantly. I love my eyebrows because they are of a universally likeable shape; I keep my hair short less because it’s easy and more because I think it looks really good on me. After I post this album, I’m going to go hunting online for what others have to say about the line between vanity and self-love. Is the latter the ability to look in the mirror or in the camera display without feeling like you want to adjust anything about the image?

If that’s self love, I’m not there yet: a few of these selfies make me blush, others make me cringe. They are the ones I generally curate out of what I share with others. They’re not in here to seek validation, but to slightly reduce vanity’s grip, to accept that in those moments that was exactly what I looked like, not a trick of the light.

This album is also to celebrate the selfie. Through travel, most of us want to feel: comfortable or un-, sad or happy, comprehending or confused, immortal or fearful, rested or exhausted; all of the above. Presumably we want to remember these feelings after they’ve passed into our histories. I know for some it’s a picture of a trail, a meal, a sunset or the face of another that brings these memories back. For myself, selfies bring back the moment’s feelings in a particularly powerful way. Maybe that is because taking them was an intentional act of digital graffiti, my way of announcing that “this place has affected me,” that briefly “I existed, here.”

The amount of selfies I take has dwindled over time. Part of this is due to partnering up; I took more in the weeks and months of travelling alone. And whether alone or with someone else, I’ve generally taken less pictures as the months travelling have turned into years travelling. I wish I was more consistent. There’s an appeal to some sort of aspiration like a selfie per day or something, but it’s not a priority.

But enough preamble. Behold, my face! Click each image to see where I was and what I remember feeling at the time. And for more celebrations of the selfie by people travelling, I recommend this post by Cycling Cindy and this essay by Daniel Baylis, a woman and a man that have inspired me over the years, through their writing and through their selfies!

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