London is the selfie capital of the world, according to a 2014 Mashable study on social media statistics.
While there seems to be some debate around the accuracy of Mashable’s digital proclamation — Time magazine touts Manchester as having a higher density of selfies, per capita, in the United Kingdom — one thing is certain regardless of how you do the math, London is home to some of the finest, most forward-thinking, bon vivant mobile selfie-takers on the planet!
In our quest at SelfieYo to bring meaning & depth to the conversations around selfies while we build innovative mobile apps (stay-tuned for a major iPhone and Android app update coming Spring 2015), we’re exploring the elements of how timeless selfies can influence our lives and communication habits.
We were lucky enough to connect with Anna Petterson, an inspiring British photo aficionado who regularly shares her experiences around London through the lens of her mobile camera.
Anna caught our eye when we noticed a series of well-formed selfies that we thought would be worth exploring for the sake of helping the selfie-loving community better understand the attributes of excellence in selfie photography. Let’s start with this classic mirror selfie.
It’s quite clear, even to the untrained eye, that this selfie is deserving of an A+ rating. Here’s a quick break-down of why we think Anna’s mirror selfie is worthy of imitation:
- Color Choice – Anna was smart to use what appears to be a classic black & white filter on her mirror selfie. The color selection makes the subject, in this case herself, the main focal point of the photo– just the way a mirror selfie is intended to be. We’re not 100% sure whether or not there is some super subtle color in there; it could be our minds tricking us as we have burnt-in brain memory that there’s a shiny tint color to the back of that iPhone 5S. In any event, the outlines on her jacket contrast brilliantly with the outline of her glasses. Black and white really does take this to an incredible level.
- Subject Symmetry – We’re big fans of selfies that use classic, geometrically pleasing framing techniques. Anna does a nice job of ensuring the faint white lines in the background are vertically aligned and at perfect 90-degree angles. It’s subtle, and that’s the point. She frames herself squarely in the image, with equal treatment to both the horizontal and vertical features of the selfie. We do notice the top rim of her glasses appears to be leaning slightly in one direction. In this case, it adds to value as there is indeed such a thing as “too much” symmetry. The ever so slight tilt creates a human quality of imperfection.
- Pose and Expression – All too often, we have a tendency to get carried away with exaggerated expressions in our selfies– from duckface to flaming tongue to turtle-eye selfies. Here, the artist shows us an expression that appears to be entirely genuine, albeit complex. Is it a look of disgust or some look of mediocre expectation unmet? We’re not sure and therein lies the enigma that only the artist hold the keys to. It’s quite interesting. We like the pose because it signifies this selfie is primarily intended as an artifact for Anna. As any good portrait artist knows, work will eventually be judged by others, but the most important critic is the selfie-taker herself.
A bathtub selfie. There’s something potentially irreverent, potentially provocative, but at the same time entirely timeless and fantastic about a well-done tub selfie. This photo by Anna was taken on New Year’s Eve at what we suspect is her home in London. Like the mirror self-portrait selfie, there are some striking elements of this bathtub selfie that are worth examining in detail.
- Genre – The most dramatic component of this selfie is the selection of genre– bathtub selfie. Bathtub selfies are NOT easy to get right. In fact, we suspect the vast majority of tub selfies either fall into the category of something leaning towards the obscene, or more likely, just sloppy and wet. In this situation, Anna bravely committed to a tub-time selfie and did so with total grace. There is nothing but bona fide artistry in this selfie. It’s clean, it’s suitable for all audiences and suspenseful.
- Background & Foreground – This selfie presents a unique juxtaposition between the background and foreground details. Both, in our opinion, are equally interesting. In the foreground, we see a celebratory champagne flute in the hand of the artist. In the background, we see the haircare products, bathtub fixtures and outstretched painted toes– all elements one might expect to see in such a selfie. What’s interesting here is the combination. One wouldn’t normally see champagne and painted toes in near parallel position to one another in a selfie!
- Color Choice – In the previous selfie, Anna showed us a classic black and white. Here, she moves in an opposite direction and utilizes full color in an equally dramatic fashion. The almost Carribean-colored, aquamarine water, the white of the tiles, the flesh tones of skin and the dark hue cast upon the shadow of the tub fixtures creates a richness to this selfie that is as compelling to the viewer as the genre itself. The bathtub selfie genre can be overpowering, but Anna shows us that through the use of expressive color one can create a well-balanced selfie that is intriguing, delicate and joyful.
Anna was kind enough to provide some additional insights into her thinking around selfies, what motivates her to take them and even a few London location recommendations for capturing great shots.
She told us, quite candidly, that for her, selfies are a visual diary and fun way to keep friends involved in her day-to-day life. Anna also mentioned there’s a partial narcissism to selfies. Narcissism is not necessarily a bad thing in moderation and when coupled with a keen sense of self-awareness. A sense of interests in one’s appearance is nothing new, although perhaps heightened and taken to new levels with the advent of incredible mobile camera technology and apps like the forthcoming SelfieYo 2.0.
As for top spots in London to capture essential selfies, Anna suggests The Shard, which is currently the tallest building in the European Union. Her second recommendation, for Londoners and tourists alike is the South Bank at night. Along the South Bank one can capture selfies with the London Eye, brightly lit views of the River Thames and St. Paul’s across the river.
When we asked Anna about selfie sticks, she indicated that they’re not in her selfie wheelhouse. She did mention that she sometimes sees Asian tourists in London using selfie sticks, but said there seems to be a stigma attached to the accessories. Perhaps there’s something still a bit too peculiar about selfie sticks for daily use in one’s hometown?
As part of the SelfieYo quest to better understand and define the timeless elements of great selfies, we’ll be interviewing and analyzing skillful selfie-takers around the world. We thank Anna for her time, and most of all, her continued contributions to raising the bar for all of us who seek to improve our selfie game!