The selfie isn’t new, says The Sartorialist

Bea J. Ledesma - The Philippine Star

’It seems a little crazy right now, but just think: how cool would it be if this whole thing happened in the Renaissance? And we had all these people in the Renaissance doing selfies?’ — Scott Schuman


If there’s any trend that emerges for anyone perusing Instagram at any time of the day, it’s that people like taking pictures of themselves: bathroom shots, outfit-of-the-day shots, look-how-thin-I-am-while-moaning-about-my-weight-gain shots.

“Someone asked me the other day, ‘What do you think about this generation? Now, everybody’s doing selfies, and everyone wants to be famous. Everyone wants to be online. They want to see themselves.’”

Scott Schuman has a lot to say about the pervasive trend defining visual culture today. No surprise, as the photographer, known for his blog, The Sartorialist, essentially pioneered the street style blog as we know it. Schuman, who was flown here by SM to shoot the new campaign for SM Megamall’s Mega Fashion Hall, which opens in January, believes that technology is the self-portrait’s game changer.

“I don’t know if it’s such a new thing,” he opined. “Because, really, one of the first guys to really do a lot of selfies was someone like Van Gogh or Rembrandt. They both did a lot of selfies. Different technology, but a lot of people have seen Van Gogh’s selfies.

According to Schuman, the advent of the self-facing camera phone made the option available to folks who didn’t have the means to do it pre-iPhone.

“A painter could paint a selfie. He had the technology and the means to do it, so he did it. Everyday people, y’know, it’s hard to do a selfie if you’ve got a film camera at home. You don’t even know if you’re aiming right. But, with these phones now, you can see exactly what you’re doing.”

Schuman argues that technology didn’t alter human nature — the desire to be admired, to share our mugs with the world is a historical fact.

“I don’t think human nature has changed. Is it a bad thing? I don’t know. I look at things in a historical manner. Is it kind of annoying? Yeah, but I just don’t look at those. I’m very picky about the Instagrams I look at.”

If our online detritus — the infinite amount of stuff we post, the selfies and the Buzzfeed links and the viral videos — may seem like a lot, Schuman is convinced that everything serves as a narrative for future generations. So they can look back and say, “Wow, vain much?”

“It seems a little crazy right now, but just think: how cool would it be if this happened in the Renaissance? And we had all these people in the Renaissance doing selfies, and we really had a chance to see all the different classes, right? All the paintings we have from the Renaissance are very high-level: the clergy, and the wealthy. There weren’t a lot of paintings of everyday peasants.

“So, I think it’ll be fascinating, a hundred years or two hundred years from now, where people can say, ‘Wow. We really understand what that time period was like, what people wore in all different class levels, all around the world, all different economic levels, different races, developed countries, under-developed countries.’ I mean, we’re really capturing our moments, and I think we’re too close to it right now. But, I think, historically, people are going to look back and say, ‘Wow. We really understand that period better than any other period that’s come before.’”











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