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The consecration of the selfie

A cultural history
André Gunthert
Traduction de Fatima Aziz
Cet article est une traduction de :
La consécration du selfie [fr]


The term "selfie" corresponds to a late process of identifying a set of photo or video reflexive practices, related to the emergence of an aesthetic of subjectivity. Exploring the articulation between autonomy of shooting and participation in the action, as well as the take-off produced by conversational uses, this article shows that a media controversy triggered this phenomena. In 2013, the denunciation of the narcissistic character of self-representation or disrespect of values and norms presents the selfie as a subculture. This condemnation leads to a response of adhering to a gesture then identified as an impertinent and progressive signature. Vector of its promotion, the controversy consecrated the selfie as a cultural form, and imposes it as the photographic practice most representative of contemporary visual expression.

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1Just before leaving on a week-end, after stowing their luggage in the trunk of their car, Thelma and Louise, in Ridley Scott’s eponymous film (USA, MGM, 1991), make what at the time nobody yet called a selfie. If this cult sequence bears any credit for its ethnographic quality, what is striking is the speed and spontaneity with which the two women lend themselves to this exercise.

2Not in the least hesitant, Louise (Susan Sarandon), seizes the Polaroid camera, holds it at arm’s length and sticks to her friend, Thelma (Geena Davis), who also immediately adopts the appropriate pose. This brief interlude of a few seconds, perfectly reconstructed by the film crew, seems to indicate that the act of situated autophotography is already commonplace.

  • 1 Sarah Projansky, “Feminism and the Popular: Readings of Rape and Postfeminism in Thelma and Louise” (...)

3Its intervention in the beginning of this road movie can be interpreted both as a symbol of the couple’s union and as a sign of independence of the two women, of whom no man takes a picture in their place. In this film, remembered for its feminism,1 the inaugural Polaroid functions as a joyous signal of reclaiming independence.

Fig. 1. Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott, 1991 (photogram).

4These indications immediately isolate this image from the classic self-portrait, traditionally reserved for representing a single individual, and from its narcissism. As through the presence of the protagonists of the action, the genre is defined by the self-production of the image, as well as by its highly situated dimension. What Thelma and Louise immortalize is the portrait of a moment and an experience, the beginning of the trip which reunites them, in a photograph that bears their visual signature, both through their presence in the picture and by its self-made nature. A final shot shows the Polaroid blowing away in the wind just before the two women’s car plunges into the ravine.

5All these characteristics summarize a discreet use, which already seems to be largely in line with practices. Even in the absence of an official identification, its cinematographic mention qualifies as a certificate of acknowledgement and indicates that it is sufficiently recognizable to be mobilized as an emblem (as demonstrated by the widespread distribution of the promotional photograph reproducing the scene). However, the rise of this gesture in its digital version would be necessary so that the selfie becomes the photographic practice most representative of contemporary visual expression.

Technologies of participative auto-photography

  • 2 Gisèle Freund, La Photographie en France au XIXe siècle, (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 2011), p. 11.

6According to Gisèle Freund, the historical significance of the rise of photography is the democratization of the self-representation.2 But the recording technique based on the principle of optical projection imposes a geometrical separation of the universe into: space of representation vs represented space. According to this division, the operator cannot be part of the picture, except by using means which bypass constraints of the camera.

  • 3 One of the most ancient device, the Autopoze, is patented in 1902 in the USA. The Kodak self-timer (...)

7As long as the photographer was a professional at the service of a client, this exclusion was not a problem at all. But the development of amateur photography gave rise to the desire of the photographer to participate – a logical wish if considering that the operator is no longer an outsider, but a member of the family or friends circle. The introduction of the self-timer – its first models were marketed in 1902 – is the oldest form of automatization of shooting.3 Correcting the optical constraint by the time gap, this tool allows the operator to join in with the group or to photograph himself in situation.

8The Kodak Retinette user’s guide, one of the first mainstream models to integrate the self-timer in 1954, explicitly comments on this increased autonomy: “Photographing by yourself! Show that you were a part of it, then the picture becomes interesting. One cannot always find people willing or capable of handling the camera on site. You only need a stable support, in the absence of a pod, and the self-timer does the rest!”

Fig. 2. Retinette's guide, Kodak, c. 1954.

9Nevertheless, the self-timer has several drawbacks. Besides the need of a support, it requires the picture to be composed beforehand, therefore excluding spontaneous photography. Giving the camera to a stranger, a documented practice in the context of tourism, must also be considered as a case of auto-photography by delegation, and a testimony of the constant wish of actors to be present in the picture.

  • 4 Edmund Carpenter, Oh What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1972), (...)
  • 5 Pierre Bourdieu (ed.), Un art moyen: Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, (Paris: Minui (...)

10The anthropologist Edmund Carpenter notes that a tourist does not simply record an image of a place : “Better still, he has someone photograph him in front of it. Back home, that photograph reaffirms his identity within that scene”.4 No doubt that tourism offer a favorable testing ground of participation. Personal confrontation with a cultural reference belongs to the domain of experience. To take a photo at this very moment produces not only a picture of the self, neither of the place, but precisely a trace of their ephemeral articulation, the relationship of the actor to the situation. As written by Pierre Bourdieu, what counts then is not the aesthetic dimension of photographs, but the “singular adventure of the one who has shot them.”5

Fig. 3. Touristic auto-photography, 2002-2009 (coll. part.).

11Participation remains nonetheless a parameter difficult to reconcile with the autonomy of shooting. There are three main ways of taking a selfie: by using a mirror, by reversing the camera or, with the most recent models, by using the front camera. To this list can be added the original solution suggested in 2005 by Nick Woodman with the GoPro’s action camera format, that adapts the principles of underwater shooting for consumer practices. Created to record sports performances without outside help, the camera is characterized by automatic exposure, a fixing on the action support and the choice of a wide-angle lens which records a wide frame, often including the protagonist’s body. To mention finally a few sub-categories such as photographing feet or reflected shadows, that also allow this inclusion, without using particular tools.

Fig. 4. Different types of selfies: a) mirror selfie, b) reversed selfie, c) front camera iPad, d) feet selfie, e) front camera iPhone 4.

12These various methods do not produce the same images, nor under similar conditions (fig. 4). The mirror selfie usually provides a wider field, allowing the control of the frame, but it depends on the availability of a reflective apparatus. The reversed selfie, often considered as the most typical, causes a narrowing of the field, framing on face(s), and must be carried out on guesswork. Optical principles of action-cams allow a wider field but simultaneously impose a particular visual signature. Combining these different practices under the same name is hardly obvious.

13GoPro is not the first camera model specifically designed for participation. As soon as 1983, Minolta Disc-7 analog camera was furnished with a convex mirror on the front and a telescopic stick to facilitate self-portraiture. This proposal, also available in the first GSM mobile phone integrating photography, the Sharp J-SH04, commercialized in 2000 in Japan, was not highly adopted. Similarly, the iPhone’s 4 famous front camera, added in 2010, allows only a definition of 480 x 640 pixels. Being of a much inferior quality than the smartphone’s 2 megapixels camera, it was actually thought for video chat. The front camera belongs to the genealogy of the webcam, an equipment widely used in the 2000s, especially designed for, not the portrait, but rather for visual communication. This device, nor the development, since early 2000s, of the articulated LCD monitor for camcorder or bridge cameras, would never be associated with any form of criticism of narcissism.

14These observations allow to refine questions of the selfie’s definition and historicity. The success of the genre encouraged a search of antecedents which quickly fueled a ‘history of the selfie’,6 some of which seem to recapitulate the entire history of the portrait. This approach appears questionable since the term “selfie”, attested from 2002, refers clearly to the digital version of auto-photography. Moreover, the introduction of this term corresponds to a change of scale, as to an evolution of its functions and its cultural imprint. It is always dangerous to apply a recent interpretative grid on an ancient practice. Strictly speaking, any practice prior to 2000, must not be called “selfie”.

15However, in the case of selfie, we are not confronted with a technological innovation, the emergence of a format or a genre in the strict sense. As suggested by the seniority and diversity of reflexive forms, the absence of their psychologizing classification, or the fact that manufacturers had, until very recently, not developed corresponding devices, we are then dealing with a bouquet of practices, that the term “selfie” has reunited a posteriori in a cultural construction. Therefore, it belongs to this dynamic to extend its use beyond frontiers or precise acceptations.

16Three major developments combine to help reveal practices until then discreet. Considering the lack of accessibility to amateur photography before interactive platforms such as Myspace (2003) or Flickr (2004), a key factor is the unprecedented visibility of vernacular productions. What could then be observed, is the extent to which the spread of camphones, lightweight, automatic and easy to use, encourages auto-photography. In this context, the visual conversation gives a new usefulness to the selfie.

17If these images are preferred as profile pictures rather than the plain passport photograph, because of their fun and original aspect, they are also often followed by messages or captions which reveal a highly contextualized nature of their use. Published in October 2005, a selfie of Flickr’s co-founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, titled “Hi Mom”, bears the typical indication: “This was sent for my parents as I was talking to them on the phone so they could see the view from where we were standing.”

Fig. 5. “Hi Mom”, selfie by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr cofounders, October 2005 (licence CC).

18Connected photography and its conversational use make the selfie a vector of a particular type of communication: live notification of a situation, specifically addressed to a receiver. The image here becomes a visual message, which interpretation depends heavily on the triangle formed by its sender, the occasion represented and the intended recipient. In other words, the selfie presents a high degree of dependence on context.

  • 7 Danah Boyd, Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics (doctoral thesis, Ma (...)

19One can understand the development of particular forms of online conversation as a response to what some authors describe as a “context collapse”, caused by the loss of the multidimensional nature of face-to-face communication.7 In keeping with the status formats (Twitter initially proposed to answer the question: “What are you doing?”), the selfie produces a message characterized by the situation of its premises and the temporality of the action, as well as the sender’s relationship to this action.

20The selfie responds to context collapse by hyper contextualization, which corrects the inaccuracy of interaction and simultaneously becomes a dialogical resource. Unlike the egocentric vision of online communication, it contains only few self-sufficient, terminating messages. On the contrary, digital conversation promotes a pursuit of interaction and exchange. To this end, it is necessary to provide interlocutors with material that allows or arouses responses. The selfie’s interaction proposal is more attractive because of its personal dimension, and because of its highly contextualized dimension, factors of engagement in conversation.

21The do-it-yourself nature of auto-photography adds to these features an aesthetic that has largely contributed to its identification. Playing on the uncertainty of framing, manipulating of the camera or the amateurism of shooting, the selfie presents a set of visible flaws which have rapidly become the signature of the genre. These flaws, which distance the selfie from stiff rules of portraiture, giving it freshness and originality, have been interpreted as signs of authenticity. Overthrowing the iron law of representation, which since Plato’s cave rests upon dissimulating the dispositive, and showing the self-made character of image has become a guarantee of spontaneity and loyalty.

22Its relaxed, often funny, self-depreciating dimension have confirmed that the selfie is a part of LOL culture and off-beat humor, typical of online expression. Displaying the camera has become its trademark, to an extent that photographs showing a selfie shoot can be mistaken for actual selfies.

Fig. 6. Selection of selfies, Buzzfeed, 2013.

  • 8 Edgar Gomez Cruz, Christina Miguel, “I’m doing this right now and it’s for you: The role of images (...)
  • 9 2014 celebrity photo hack”, Wikipedia,

23The visibility of the selfie on social media must not obscure the fact that its autonomy makes it a favored tool for private communication. Erotic auto-photography, even though as old as the recording media, are especially difficult to observe and document due to the slander associated with pornographic images.8 However, accidents such as the hack of celebrity nude photos, about several thousand images which briefly circulated on 4Chan, Imgur or Reddit between August and October 2014, partially unveil these inaccessible sources.9

24This sample suggests the massive nature of the erotic uses of selfies. Most often shot by the actors themselves, ranging from targeted exhibition to preliminary sexual activities, this iconography confirms the decidedly banal nature of auto-photography in its uses for seduction. And what these images tell us in their happy, carefreeness is the standardization and prodigious expansion of a genre powered by digital autonomy.

The selfie’s controversy

25While the selfie in its digital version constitutes a visible practice since the beginning of 2000, but not posing any problems, 2013 would change the scenario. Within a few months two successive media episodes feed a public controversy that eventually ended up making the selfie a cultural symbol.

26Still less used in 2012, the term “selfie” establish itself from early 2013, propelled by a series of articles that point the finger at connected auto-photography. ReadWriteWeb and Mashable launched the topic of condemning narcissism of young social network enthusiasts, based on borrowing on popular psychological works and on moral questioning of the role of image in modern societies.10 Time magazine devoted the cover of its May issue to this topic, followed by several TV shows or famous newspapers such as The New Yorker or The Guardian, which amplified this critical vision by presenting it as a global cultural phenomenon.11

Fig. 7. «The Me Me Me Generation», Time cover, 20th May 2013.

27Two biases skew this approach. The first is the retrospective research through hashtags for terms such as #me or #selfie. These selections produces artificial corpuses, as such general categories are rarely used in the conversation, and one worldwide study shows that the proportion of selfies is quite low within the entire iconography shared on Instagram (3 to 5 %).12 Instead of it, this sorting makes it appear as a massive phenomena, taking out of context individual practices, analyzed only on a formal level.

28The second is the intensive use of Instagram and Twitter by a few young, show-business celebrities (especially Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian). This new communication, more direct, targeted towards fans, shares the common uses of these medias, and therefore includes selfies. But the fame of these celebrities bestows on these images a far more superior viral quality, accentuated by their mention through tabloid websites, that purposefully highlight their provocative character. Several news articles will emphasize on the imitation of auto-photography practices of the stars by young girls.13

29This generational reading is based on an iconographic impoverishment. While a paper by Buzzfeed, published in January 2013, still illustrated the entire variety of the genre, with funny images, group portraits, family pictures or photos of animals (fig. 6),14 the psychological criticism reduced the sample to solitary portraits, usually of pretty, young girls, separated from all elements of context (fig. 8).

  • 15 Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, (...)
  • 16 Douglas Quenqua, “Seing Narcissists Everywhere”, New York Times, 5 August 2013, http://www.nytimes. (...)
  • 17 Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me. Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, (...)

30The interpretation of moral decline caused by new technology is founded on the paradigm shift which applies the psychologizing of social facts, initiated in 1979 by Christopher Lasch in his study, The Culture of Narcissism.15 The next step was taken by the best-sellers of the psychologist Jean M. Twenge who, as noted by the New York Times, “sees narcissists everywhere”.16 The author of Generation Me (2006) and The Narcissism Epidemic (2009) argues that the rise of self-esteem education in the 1980s gave birth to a youth who “have the language of me as their mother tongue”.17

Fig. 8. Selection of selfies, Mashable, 2013.

31If Twenge’s works receive a considerable media coverage, her method as her findings rise violent criticism among specialists in the field. A study conducted by Kali H. Trzesniewski, published in 2008 in Psychological Science, shows that youngsters have not undergone a fundamental change of thought, feelings or behavior over the past 30 years.18 In 2013, a special issue of Emerging Adulthood, edited by Jeffrey J. Arnett, seeks to systematical demolish the theories of the psychologist.19

32But the strong journalistic potential of a simplistic explanation that combines social phenomenon, scientific authority and moral condemnation cannot be ignored by the media. Invited to the Today Show or Good Morning America, Jean M. Twenge quickly becomes an all round commentator, interviewed about Facebook as well as the excesses of the cosmetic surgery. Generation Me becomes an explanatory key to understand all the evils of contemporary society, especially in women’s magazines or under “Life style” section, that publish endlessly on selfies.

  • 20 Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, (New York: Anchor Books, 1959).

33While we have never had such a conversational, social and narrative tool as the smartphone / social media system, the fundamental social interaction that Erving Goffman called “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”20 is interpreted as a narcissistic and anti-social reflection. In a word, we no longer understand social life. To explain contemporary culture, psychiatry has pushed sociology over-board. At least in magazine pages which apply, without much thought, individualistic schemes fueled by neoliberal ideology.

  • 21 The first mention of the term ‘selfie’ is dated in September 2002 by lexicographers, on an Australi (...)
  • 22 Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (1972), new editi (...)

34This first wave popularized the term “selfie”, which would be consecrated in November as the word of the year by the Oxford Dictionaries.21 It was followed by a second media wave in the summer of 2013 which confirms its “moral panic” character (or more aptly, its attenuated version as an efficient narrative) traditionally aroused by new cultural forms, from rock music to Facebook, and which target in particular youth, accused of perverting moral values and sabotaging social order.22

35Two collection of images published in August 2013 on Tumblr by Jason Feifer, titled Selfies at funerals” and “Selfies at serious places”, which collect self-portraits of teens published on Twitter and Instagram, document the paradox previously noted by Errol Morris about the photographs of Abu Ghraib23 : the reflex of a photographic pose encourages the mimicking of a smile, which can be inappropriate under particular circumstances. Proving that the selfie is not only a simple portrait, it is in this case the context of the shoot which provokes ridicule and critical comments. A year later, similar poses taken at the Auschwitz concentration camp aroused outraged reactions on social media, mostly reported by the press.24

Fig. 9. Tumblr Selfies at Funerals, 2013.

36The case seems clear. Auto-photography encourages bad habits in teenagers, who do not respect the basic rules, neither the most sacred ceremonies. When the Dutch Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt took a selfie with her smiling seating partners, Barack Obama and David Cameron during the Hommage ceremony of Nelson Mandela, on December 11, 2013, the image of the world leaders, “caught in the act of childishness”25 made the front page of several newspapers. At this moment, the selfie is already the symbol of narcissism and disrespect, the emblem of all that is revolting and disturbing in the connected culture.

  • 26 Sherry Turkle, The Documented Life”, The New York Times, 15 December 2013, (...)
  • 27 Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien, (1) Arts de faire (1980), (Paris: Gallimard, 1990).

37The selfie joins in with the smartphone as one of the most important figures of the ideology of disconnection, illustrating the absurdity of a life continuously documented and the emptiness of a communication transformed into self-branding.26 But the apparent unanimity of this condemning did not caused the end of auto-photography at all. Within the structure of a regular controversy, blacklisting the selfie produced a typical response of spontaneous resistance behavior as described by Michel de Certeau.27 As the impressionist painters took on their account a negative appraisal of the critic, the selfie users have rectified the totemic labelling of auto-photography, to the point of making it an impertinent signature, a modernist statement, a sign of overthrowing hierarchies.

38It is the implausible nature of the moral condemnation, associated with an evidently conservative bias,28 which from the start had weakened the narcissistic narrative. Unsurprisingly, the reply of selfie practices used resources of viral publishing on social media. Rather than an argumentative reply, the last quarter of 2013 shows the appropriation and repeated mention of art works or advertisement which divert famous cultural references by adding a smartphone to Christopher Columbus, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, Superman or Darth Vader portraits…

Fig. 10. Viral images that add a smartphone to famous portraits.

39The collective construction of the meaning of the selfie followed then the separation between conservatism and progressivism, high culture and low culture, elites and the masses. By labeling the selfie as a subculture, the moral censorship managed to put smartphones and social media on the side of geek culture, whereas advocates of an open and egalitarian web had always refused the closed ended Facebook and mobile applications.

40Instead of reducing the selfie vogue, media controversy promoted it and contributed in expanding its practice. Its utilization in advertising and marketing confirmed and strengthened its trend. Its use during the 2014 Oscar ceremony, bringing together the most famous celebrities around the host Ellen DeGeneres, resulted in a tweeting competition confirming in an exemplary manner its popularity.29 Since then, selfie’s labelling does not stop expanding, though play or by contamination of reflexive forms, to the most improbable cases.30

Fig. 11. E. DeGeneres, Oscar Selfie, March 2014.

41It has never been so alive. Scholarly research is dedicating conferences, books and articles to it. Launched in 2013 by an international group of Art professionals, the Museum Selfie Day initiative or the concept of #artselfie invites visitors to publish on social network sites under a designated hashtag, a selfie showing their relationship with the museum or to photograph themselves in front of a masterpiece.31 Exhibitions and art works dedicated to the selfie are increasing and contribute in legitimizing this practice which acts as an ideal tool for mediation between popular culture and heritage, personal expression and contemporary art.32

Fig. 12. Tumblr Museum of selfies.

42During his recent visit to Canberra (Australia), confronted by a crowd of admirers, Prince Harry was annoyed. When a young girl asked him to pose by her side, his Highness replied: “No, I hate selfies. Seriously, you should stop it. I know you are young, but selfies are bad. Just take a normal photograph”.

43Coming from the scion of the British Monarchy, this gibe made the press react. The Guardian’s art columnist seized the occasion to pronounce the end of selfies. Judging it depressing that contemporary culture has made of the sublime art of self-portrait a vulgar, collective farce, he claims the abandonment of this “idiotic travesty of the human image”.33

44This reaction can be understood. The intrusiveness of selfie, the closeness between the celebrity and his audience, the appropriation of his image are all elements that can cause embarrassment and unpleasantness. The final advice of Prince Harry establishes the right distance. To take a “normal photograph” means: proper stay in your place, respect the unwritten rules that build a protective screen between the subject of attention and his admirers – sometimes made by barriers and guards. A world separates us, says the Prince: there are those who look at and those who are looked at. Photography is not there to contradict this distinction, rather to strengthen it.

45But the answer of the selfie is that, from now on, it is the user who decides how to write the relationship to notoriety. Celebrity has changed: rather than being called to passively attend a show, as in the time of the Sun-King, the audience slips within the frame and affirms its interest by playing as actors, then shares these images via its own social media. Today, which event would have the least interest if it wasn’t accompanied by these testimonies of public approval?

46Well beyond an extension of the self-portrait, the selfie has become a symbol of a powerful movement of empowering cultural practices, encouraged by the digital transition. It’s ability to define itself by its aesthetic and conditions of production enrolls it in the genealogy of great visual genres. While the circulation of cultural models in the visual field have always respected the top-down approach, it has witnessed an exemplary reversal of this dynamic by introducing within the communication patterns of celebrities and world leaders, a vernacular practice representative of the private sphere. Far from reducing its imprint, the moral condemnation of selfie has made it one of the emblems of connected practices, associated with political, existential, or epochal meaning. It can be hoped that this unique rise in the significance of a visual form awakens interest for the knowledge of images, the absence of which could have been measured.

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1 Sarah Projansky, “Feminism and the Popular: Readings of Rape and Postfeminism in Thelma and Louise”, in Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture, (New York: New York University Press, 2001), pp. 130-162.

2 Gisèle Freund, La Photographie en France au XIXe siècle, (Paris: Christian Bourgois, 2011), p. 11.

3 One of the most ancient device, the Autopoze, is patented in 1902 in the USA. The Kodak self-timer is introduced in 1918.

4 Edmund Carpenter, Oh What a Blow That Phantom Gave Me!, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1972), p. 6.

5 Pierre Bourdieu (ed.), Un art moyen: Essai sur les usages sociaux de la photographie, (Paris: Minuit, 1965), p. 62.

6 Jerry Saltz, Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie”, Vulture, 26 January 2014,

7 Danah Boyd, Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics (doctoral thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008).

8 Edgar Gomez Cruz, Christina Miguel, “I’m doing this right now and it’s for you: The role of images in sexual ambient intimacy”, in Marsha Berry, Max Schleser, Mobile Media Making in an Age of Smartphones, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 2014, pp. 139-148.

9 2014 celebrity photo hack”, Wikipedia,

10 John Paul Titlow, “#Me: Instagram Narcissism And The Scourge Of The Selfie”, ReadWriteWeb, 31 January 2013,; Christine Erickson, “The social psychology of the selfie”, Mashable, 15 February 2013,

11 Kate Losse, “The return of the selfie”, The New Yorker, 31 May 2013,; Elizabeth Day, “How selfies became a global phenomenon”, The Guardian, 14 July 2013,; Alexandra Sifferlin, “Why Selfies Matter”, Time, 6 September 2013,

12 Lev Manovich, Alise Tifentale, “Selfiecity: Exploring Photography and Self-Fashioning in Social Media”, in David M. Berry, Michael Dieter, Postdigital Aesthetics. Art, Computation and Design, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

13 Shona Sibary, “Selfie photo craze: The pouting pictures I fear my daughter will end up regretting”, Daily Mail, 26 March 2013,; Bim Adewunmi, “The rise and rise of the selfie”, The Guardian, 2 April 2013,

14 Dave Stopera, “The 32 Absolute Best Selfies Of All Time”, Buzzfeed, 15 January 2013,

15 Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, (New York: Norton; revised edition, 1991).

16 Douglas Quenqua, “Seing Narcissists Everywhere”, New York Times, 5 August 2013,

17 Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me. Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled, and More Miserable Than Ever, (New York: Free Press, 2006); J. M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell (ed.), The Narcissism Epidemic. Living in the Age of Entitlement, (New York, Free Press, 2009).

18 Kali H. Trzesniewski, M. Brent Donnellan, Richard W. Robins, “Do today’s young people really think they are so extraordinary? An examination of secular changes in narcissism and self-enhancement”, Psychological Science, n° 19, 2008, pp. 181-188.

19 Jeffrey J. Arnett, The Evidence for Generation We and against Generation Me”, Emerging Adulthood, March 2013, vol. 1, n° 1, pp. 5-10,

20 Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, (New York: Anchor Books, 1959).

21 The first mention of the term ‘selfie’ is dated in September 2002 by lexicographers, on an Australian forum, but they note that its use grew remarkably during 2013: Anon., The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2013 is…, OxfordWords blog, 18 November 2013,

22 Stanley Cohen, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers (1972), new edition (Londres: Routledge, 2009); Danah Boyd, “Are sexual predators lurking everywhere?”, It’s Complicated. The social lives of networked teens (New Haven, London: Yale University Press, 2014), pp. 100-127.

23 Errol Morris, “The Most Curious Thing”, Believing is Seeing: Observations on the mysteries of photography (New York: Penguin Press, 2011), pp. 97-119.

24 Ruth Margalit, Should Auschwitz be a site for selfies?”, The New Yorker, 26 June 2014,

25 A. L., Le selfie d’Obama fait la une en Grande-Bretagne, 20 Minutes, 11 December 2013,

26 Sherry Turkle, The Documented Life”, The New York Times, 15 December 2013,

27 Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien, (1) Arts de faire (1980), (Paris: Gallimard, 1990).

28 Jean-Paul Brighelli, “Rousseau et le selfie: Le smartphone, néant de la conscience”,, 23 April 2015.

29 Alexis Ferenczi, Oscars 2014: un selfie d’Ellen DeGeneres pendant la cérémonie bat des records sur Twitter,, 3 March 2014,

30 Aude Deraedt, Selfie du macaque: les singes sont des photographes comme les autres”, Libération, 7 August 2014,

31 Laurence Allard, “Selfie, un genre en soi. Ou pourquoi il ne faut pas prendre les selfies pour des profile pictures”, MobActu, 14 January 2014,; Mairin Kerr, The value of Museum Selfies”, EdGital, 29 August 2014,

32 Laurence Allard, Laurent Creton, Roger Odin (ed.), Téléphonie mobile et création (Paris: Armand Colin, 2014).

33 Jonathan Jones, RIP the selfie: when Prince Harry calls time on a craze, you know it’s well and truly dead”, The Guardian, 7 April 2015,

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Table des illustrations

Légende Fig. 1. Thelma & Louise, Ridley Scott, 1991 (photogram).
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Légende Fig. 2. Retinette's guide, Kodak, c. 1954.
Fichier image/jpeg, 948k
Légende Fig. 3. Touristic auto-photography, 2002-2009 (coll. part.).
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Légende Fig. 4. Different types of selfies: a) mirror selfie, b) reversed selfie, c) front camera iPad, d) feet selfie, e) front camera iPhone 4.
Fichier image/jpeg, 484k
Légende Fig. 5. “Hi Mom”, selfie by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, Flickr cofounders, October 2005 (licence CC).
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Légende Fig. 6. Selection of selfies, Buzzfeed, 2013.
Fichier image/jpeg, 356k
Légende Fig. 7. «The Me Me Me Generation», Time cover, 20th May 2013.
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Légende Fig. 8. Selection of selfies, Mashable, 2013.
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Légende Fig. 9. Tumblr Selfies at Funerals, 2013.
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Légende Fig. 10. Viral images that add a smartphone to famous portraits.
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Légende Fig. 11. E. DeGeneres, Oscar Selfie, March 2014.
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Légende Fig. 12. Tumblr Museum of selfies.
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André Gunthert, « The consecration of the selfie »Études photographiques [En ligne], 32 | Printemps 2015, mis en ligne le 16 juillet 2015, consulté le 24 mai 2024. URL :

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