“Why are all those people standing with their back to the Eiffel Tower?” I wondered out loud on a visit to Paris a few years ago. “They are taking selfies”, I was informed by two barely ten year olds. Everywhere you go now, it seems that somebody will be pointing a camera phone at themselves to record their visit. Now the Saatchi Gallery has decided to put on the first exhibition devoted to the selfie or Saatchi Selfie. Where better to take the teens?
The first room is filled with images of old-school selfies, those painted with brushes and paint by artists. This being the twenty-first century, the paintings are not the actual paintings on canvas but photos of them displayed on what looks like giant phone screens. You are encouraged to vote for your favourite by touching the screen and are rewarded by a big heart.
One vast room is devoted to thousands of images of people using Skype, FaceTime and the like. Not only can you see them, you can hear them too: its like sitting in the middle of a call centre and hearing one end of lots of conversations. The projector even projects on you, casting your shadow on the display, making you become a part of it. All very clever.
There are pictures of people taking selfies and lots of those selfies themselves. I confess that one of my favourites is a piece of fake news. Alison Jackson is well known for a her photographs that look like paparazzi shots but are actually cleverly composed using actors. This shot of hers purporting to show Donald Trump taking a selfie with some Miss Universe contestants is great, we can believe it, but at the same time there are tiny details that go just too far over the top.
It’s not just humans that take selfies; this macaque monkey is the first known animal to knowingly take its own photo. I notice with dismay that he has got the smiling and looking into the lens thing on his first attempt, unlike my own sorry attempts. Maybe if I asked the macaque, he could take a photo of me?
SELFIE TO SELF-EXPRESSION
31 March 2017 – 30 May 2017
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, Kings Road, SW3 4RY
Open: Daily 10am – 6pm