National Selfie Gallery Opens, Pucker Up

A truly modern form of portraiture has officially “arrived” as the National Selfie Gallery opens in London, showcasing the humble camera phone pic as an elevated form of art.

The National Selfie Gallery sounds like a silly name given its seriousness of title and the casual nature of what we know as the “selfie.” But selfies are not exclusive to the internet era, nor even the social media age.

Long before duckface covered sites where people share their own self-portraits, artists have long embraced photographing themselves and showing the world or an audience how they look to their own eyes in the mirror.

The self-portrait has been a staple of photography since there were photographers, and the “selfie” is really just a new use of a very old medium. With more boobs, by and large.

Kyle Chayka and Marina Galperina are curating the National Selfie Gallery at London’s Moving Image Contemporary Art Fair and 19 artists from the US and Europe will take part.

TIME, long a forerunner in spying interesting photography concepts, explained part of the thrust behind the selfie phenomenon — technology, of course. Selfies aren’t new, but even in the fairly recent past, creating them was prohibitive. Not only was the viewfinder an issue, but the cost of producing what was essentially a blind shot until you got it perfected was prohibitive.

And even then, where would you post it?

Now, the mag turned site explains, anyone can do a self-portrait — and anyone can share it:

“The barriers for entry, however, (like artistic ability, or the need for a canvas, an easel, a darkroom, a patron) have all but disappeared. The channels for exhibition or dissemination are far more open, infinitesimal and unpredictable, and greater still is the likelihood that our representations are removed from their original context and forced into another.”

Chayka told the site:

“The selfie departs from self-portraiture in that the format is improvised and fast, where most self-portraiture of the past takes the form of laborious paintings. I think smartphone selfies come out of the same impulse as Rembrandt’s though — to make yourself look awesome.”

Would you visit the National Selfie Gallery, or do you feel exposed enough to the concept via Facebook?