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I Was There: Selfies And Disaster

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 23, 2015 in Internet |

Selfies, the fad of taking a photograph of yourself, is not a modern thing no matter what people may say. Artists through the centuries have recorded their own image in their works since man first discovered that he could scratch on cave walls, and many of the most famous Masters have included themselves in world events, in mythological depictions, in historical memories of their times and earlier.

Selfies and Disaster

Screenshot Source: Jerome Taylor / Twitter

With our modern technology, from the very beginnings of the use of a camera to (almost) instantly record an event, it has become much easier to place yourself within a scene, to record yourself in front of the Brandenburg Tor, the Eiffel Tower, the Houses of Parliament or the White House. Thousands of tourists do it every single day, and carry their memories of a visit to some historical place back with them, or send the images onto the Internet for others to share their experience.

Part of this ‘I was there’ is now the capturing of events at scenes of disaster, current and past. Self images in Auschwitz, in the funeral parlor, at the scene of a bombing or murder. Even firemen have been seen to record their own face in front of a burning house, and raised many questions about what they are doing, what they must be thinking when they capture, and publicize, such an image.

Selfies and Disaster

Screenshot Source: The Guardian / Twitter

For those who cannot understand why, we only need to take a look at the news media. We are confronted every single day with images of death and destruction, stories of mayhem and murder. Where a photograph of the event, or the remains after what happened, is available, the news media will use it. We see journalists and reporters standing in front of smashed cars and planes, ruined houses, massive craters in the ground, reporting the details. And we watch from the safety of our own couches, read about events at the breakfast table.

Is there such a massive difference between the reporting of events – before, during and after – through the news media and the taking of a selfie by a private person? The individual is simply doing what the media does: placing themselves at the scene, recording their own image to tell the story to others later. We can be there through the news media, through live reporting on our television screens just as much as being there in person.

Why condemn someone for taking a selfie, when the media do it too, even if their methods and reasoning are different? We may not be able to understand the mentality of an individual taking advantage of such an event, but we should be able to understand the reasoning. ‘I was there, and here is the proof’ is much the same as ‘I have a story to tell, with pictures’.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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