Sincerely selfie…

I was hastily looking through my post-high school photo albums searching for a picture of me when I first wore glasses. Apparently, I wasn’t that proud of my bespectacled look, for I never found one. But what I did find, not surprisingly, was a “selfie” or, rather, an “usie” (a selfie for two):

2014-09-11 17.47.17

This photo includes me (at a slightly younger age) on a date with my beloved Bill. (My first husband died of complications from ulcer surgery at age 25, too few years after we shot this precious selfie while on a date.) We had too few photo opportunities — as we mostly dated long-distance via cards and letters and infrequent, expensive phone calls and even less frequent, expensive visits — and, though we had the occasional friend or stranger shoot a photo of us in those cherished moments together, we often resorted to selfies, our cheek to cheek “usies.”

Just looking at this photo and its caption brought back the precious memories — but it also made me laugh at myself. Not only was I happy to be in the photo with Bill (who became my husband), clearly I also was proud of my ability to shoot such a photo, for I included the “secret” of the shot in my caption. (I should have patented it. Obviously, more people have looked through my photo album than I thought.)

The photo was shot in the late 1980s, back in the days when a camera’s lens only pointed away from you. (Why do I feel the need to explain this?) If you were using the viewfinder on the camera, you were not shooting a photo of yourself. If you were shooting a photo of yourself, you were not framing the shot by anything but guesswork.  This was so long ago that we used film; we had no idea what we’d shot (or the quality of the shot) until we developed the film. This was also before such luxuries as one-hour photo developing, or at least before one-hour photo developing became affordable. 

The funny thing?

Though I shot this photo back in the ’80s, I didn’t put it in an album until 10 years later… and I still thought shooting a selfie unique and unknown enough to include the “how to.” Just ten years after that I would be putting together my daughter’s life album as a high school graduation present — and find I had to make it a two-volume tome because she had so many selfies of herself alone and with friends to fit within the pages. The first fourteen years of her life were in one album; her high school (and selfie) years were in another the same size.

I didn’t include instructions for shooting a selfie with any of those photos. It didn’t seem necessary. It had become so commonplace.

Back in her high school days, my daughter still used a camera to shoot selfies, also without using the viewfinder. But cameras were digital, memory cards reusable, batteries rechargeable. You could point and shoot — and keep or delete — without great cost. Smartphones that allow you to shoot from either side of a camera hadn’t yet made their way to the market. But film was ancient history, and my daughter could at least see the digital photos immediately afterward and reshoot when necessary. Now, selfies are as common as smartphones, which are ever on our person and built so the camera lens and the viewfinder can point in the same direction. 

Back in my high school days, I took few photos at all and, as I look back at my scant albums, I see no evidence of a self-shot photo; my college years, however, I began shooting selfies, usually of groupies and “usies.” 🙂 But buying film and paying to develop it kept a lid on frivolous photography.

By the way, I was much better at photographing myself back in the days of old technology. Now, I find it rather disconcerting that what I see on the screen is the mirror image of how the shot will actually appear. I need someone to invent a smartphone with WYSIWYG camera ability — what you see is what you get rather than the mirror image of what you see is what you get. I think I also need someone to say “Look at the birdie” so I know where to focus my eyes.

But I keep trying…

Spontaneous selifes by way of illustration: The two on the left were done with modern technology, me looking at what would be the mirror image WYWIWYG. The right one, quasi modern, digital smartphone camera but holding it as I would a traditional camera.
Spontaneous selifes by way of illustration: The two on the left were done with modern technology, me looking at what would be the mirror image WYSIWYG. The right one, quasi-modern, digital smartphone camera but holding it as I would a traditional camera.

Maybe someone should give me the “secret” to shooting quality selfies.

The truth is, however, that I don’t need to shoot so many photos of myself (although they do liven up my blog posts as photo illustrations 🙂 ). The reason I cherish the selfie of Bill and I together is that it captured a precious person and a precious moment.

I have other such selfies with other beloved people in my life.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes that “Two are better than one,” and I believe that holds true for photo opportunities as well. Creating an “usie” is what makes a selfie special (Ecclesiastes 4:9).

Which leads me to the real secret behind a good selfie … let the other person hold the camera. 🙂


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