“Teach me how to take a good selfie,” I said to my daughter, Amber Gillmore, 19, one recent evening. So she explained the finer points of finding your light, tweaking your head into just the right angle to show your best side and making sure your background isn't something embarrassing.
Then, she showed me some of the selfies she'd taken using her iPhone. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Her self-portraits were stunning. Some were cute and smiley, in some she looked sullen but beautiful, and in some, she had a “come hither” look on her face.
But they all were gorgeous, and I was shocked at the glimpse into this secret life of selfie-tography she'd gotten so good at.
So, I did what many moms would do — I printed them up and framed them. To me, they're better than any school picture or professional photographer would have shot because they are so individual and personal.
Surprisingly, the high resolution camera in the iPhone 5C that Amber uses produced good enough photos to blow up to about 11-by-13 inches.
It turns out, selfies are more than just self-portraits. They're an important part of the culture of America's youth. Gillmore calls her generation the “selfie generation.”
“The selfie generation, from my experience, is really open and accepting, so within your circle of friends you're in a safe place to say ‘Look how cute I look today, look how great I look,'” Gillmore said. It's about loving yourself and being OK with that.
“There are all these negatively spun ideas about appreciating yourself — liking yourself despite a society whose main model of beauty is photo-shopped images of superthin women.”
Is it narcissistic to take lots of selfies?
“I really do feel like we live in a society, at least in my generation, where it's like if you're confident in your abilities and what you do and what you say, you're considered conceited and you're full of yourself,” she said.
“I don't see why it's a bad thing to love yourself and be into yourself.”
‘There's only one you'
Selfies, one day, will be a way to look back on yourself and remember when and where you took that photo, how you were feeling and what was going on in your life at that time. It's a timeline of sorts. And, for parents, kids' selfies can be a constant source of frame-worthy art.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ezra Koenig, frontman of Vampire Weekend (ask your teen), defended selfies.
“I'm definitely pro-selfie,” he said. “I think that anybody who's anti-selfie is really just a hater. Because, truthfully, why shouldn't people take pictures of themselves? When I'm on Instagram and I see that somebody took a picture of themselves, I'm like, ‘Thank you.' I don't need to see a picture of the sky, the trees, plants. There's only one you.