February 19, 2006
Source: The New York Times
Written by Alex Williams
MORGAN ADAMS, a recent college graduate, decided that her picture on her home page at MySpace.com had lingered a little too long, a full month. To snap a new one she called on the only photographer she thought she could trust: herself.
In her bedroom in Lubbock, Tex., Ms. Adams, 21, tried out a variety of poses — coy, friendly, sultry, goofy — in the kind of performance young people have engaged in privately for generations before a mirror. But Ms. Adams’s mirror was a Web cam, and her journey of self-expression, documented in five digital self-portraits, was soon visible to the 56 million registered users of MySpace.
“Everyone’s a little narcissistic,” Ms. Adams said. “Being able to take pictures of yourself in privacy allows you to do it without inhibitions. Each person takes better pictures of themselves than anyone else can because they know their own bodies, they know their own minds.”
The era of cheap, lightweight digital cameras — in cellphones, in computers, in hip pockets, even on key chains — has meant that people who did not consider themselves photography buffs as recently as five years ago are filling ever-larger hard drives with thousands of images from their lives.
And one particular kind of image has especially soared in popularity, particularly among the young: the self-portrait, which has become a kind of folk art for the digital age.
Framing themselves at arm’s length, teenagers snap their own pictures and pass the cameras to friends at school or e-mail the images or upload them to the Internet. For a generation raised on a mantra of self-esteem, striking a heroic, sultry or brooding pose and sharing it with the world comes naturally.
“It’s a huge phenomenon,” said Matt Polazzo, the coordinator of student affairs at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, referring to the compulsive habit of teenagers to snap everything in their lives, especially self-portraits. “Just yesterday I had a girl sitting on the couch in my office,” he said. “She took out her cellphone and said, ‘Here, I’m going to show you a picture of my best friend,’ snapped a picture of herself and showed it to me, all in one fluid motion.”
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