What’s the difference between Selfies and Self Portraits?

The first “selfie” I took was in 1999 with a Polaroid camera. I’m not sure why I wanted to take a photo of myself. My husband at the time was/is a photographer, and he took a lot of photos of me. Yet, for some reason taking a photo of myself was different. I had control over my own image. It wasn’t that the photos I took of myself made me look “prettier” because they seemed to be more emotional in expression than the ones my ex-husband took. Perhaps those polaroids said more about how I felt about myself than they documented a face.

Polaroid taken of me with the same camera by my ex-husband. Obviously, I look way prettier here than in my selfies.

I never forgot those Polaroids. At the time, I described them as “self-portraits.” They were, indeed photos I had taken of myself. Held at arms length, at random times of day, I didn’t put all that much thought into the composition, or the lighting, or anything really. The act of taking my own photo felt strange enough.

In 2013, the word “selfie” earned the honors of becoming the “Word of the Year.” Never before in history, has there been so many people taking photos of themselves, at arms length or in the mirror, though not with a Polaroid, but with a digital camera. But these “selfies” are not self-portraits, or are they?

…anyone who’s seen selfies out there can tell you that some people put A LOT of thought in the composition and lighting.

Self-portraits are generally thought to be works of art, either by an artist or photographer. Selfies are not considered art, and sometimes considered works of narcissism. Some say that self-portraits incorporate thoughtfulness to composition, lighting and the subject. However, anyone who’s seen selfies out there can tell you that some people put A LOT of thought in the composition and lighting (and subject matter). Others say the difference between self-portraits and selfies boil down to intent. Are you just snapping a photo of yourself? Do you have an artistic intention? Whether your photo is any good doesn’t matter, it’s what you mean by it.

Are you just snapping a photo of yourself? Do you have an artistic intention? Whether your photo is any good doesn’t matter, it’s what you mean by it.

I’m not so sure it’s any of it. The division between creating a self-portrait and a selfie is the latest in linguistic elitism. Art and craft. Fashion and street wear. Photography and pictures.  Eroticism and pornography.  On one side you have a class of people who create on an artistic level, and then you have what everyone else creates. Art is a painting; craft is paint-by-numbers, unless it’s Andy Warhol’s Paint by Numbers, then it’s art again. How the Fashion gods decide what is “Fashion” and what is “Street Wear” I’ll never figure out, except maybe, “Fashion” is who shows at Fashion Week, and “Street Wear” is who shows at trade shows.

Zinaida Serebriakova self-portrait in 1909, wouldn’t be out of place today as a selfie.

In the Middle Ages, when mirrors became cheaper and more accessible, artists started painting themselves, mostly as marketing pieces to show off their skills to potential patrons. Before the 20th Century, women were not allowed to practice painting nudes of other people, so they painted themselves. Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo used self-portraiture to depict their intensities and emotional pain. Cindy Sherman, in her early work, used self-portraiture to identify female archetypes in film.

Cindy Sherman Film Still

So, what of bloggers who take selfies to market their beauty or fashion skills to their potential readers? I remember how I started The Coveted as a street style blog, only to find that taking photos of myself was easier. There are those people who dress up in costume for their selfies, and others who share their emotions. Even though my early Polaroids show raw emotions, there really wasn’t much thought put into them. I just wanted to capture a moment.  Yet, those Polaroids feel less like “selfies” than other selfies that incorporated more thought and intention.

Whatever the reason, we have this impulse to photograph ourselves. Maybe it’s just that impulse that is at the heart of Art itself.

What do you think? Is there a difference between self-portraiture and selfies?

 

I Feel Like I’m Getting Dumber

I used to think I was really smart. Until we moved and my new teacher tested my reading level by giving a paragraph to read. I sat there, and even though I could read, I couldn’t concentrate at all, the paragraph just looked like a bunch of letters. So naturally, I couldn’t answer any of her questions about the text, and naturally she put me in the dumb kids reading group. It wasn’t really called the “dumb kids reading group” but we all know that’s what it was.

[I’m] smarter than a most cats but not as smart as Stephen Hawking.

Even though I wanted to be “really smart,” it became pretty obvious that I am really just “regular smart”. Like, smart enough to be able to decipher IKEA instructions, but not smart enough to understand Walt Whitman or (insert any poet) Henry David Thoreau. Smart enough to be able Google a dumb question, but not smart enough do my own taxes. Smarter than a most cats but not as smart as Stephen Hawking.

In my quest to be “really smart,” I used to do things like be seen carrying around Nietzche, even though I never got past the first paragraph. I even wrote poetry, of which I was pretty certain that even though I had penned it myself, I was no closer to understanding of the meaning than poetry written by other poets.

Here is an example of one of my old poems:

  • Thanksgiving.
  • Turkey head, turkey bed.
  • I baste myself.
  • And go back to sleep.

Seriously. I wrote that. I mean, not just right this second, but that was a poem that a 17-year-old Jennine actually wrote in all seriousness. What does it mean? My guess is as good as yours!

I also used to love watching art house films. Going to the museum and learning about old artists. Going to galleries and trying to discover new artists. Listening to bands no one has ever heard of. I used to love having conversations about the ‘meaning of life’ and discuss the woes of the planet. How I was going to get things right in my life. How I was going to evolve into this higher being, intellectually.

Being smart, that was something I really wanted.

But then…

I am not sure exactly what happened. Or when. But instead of watching art house movies, or even dramas where you know the actors acted. I’d opt for some comic book turned action movie. A goofy comedy. I started watching a lot of TV shows. A lot of TV shows. Like, every single one of them.

Instead of “improving my mind” I’d watch Maru jump into a box.

Repeatedly.

Instead of agonizing over the evolution of human intellect, I’d agonize on whether I’d get brown boots or black boots this year.

At some point I decided that “intellectual” conversations were about as as meaningful as the conversations about black boots versus brown boots. That in the end, who we are can’t really be fixed by conversation. So I stopped looking for that deeper meaning in life, and just lived in the moment. Moments that mostly consisted of watching Netflix and reading about Internet cats. Since my brain can only fit so much, it became full of meaningless anecdotes from streaming episodes of canceled TV shows (Remember when Tami Taylor said, Hi Y’all!?) and cute things I saw on the Internet, like that sneezing Panda.

I decided… who we are can’t really be fixed by conversation. So I just stopped looking for that deeper meaning in life

Maybe, it’s not just my poor decision making, it’s been scientifically proven that our IQ is up to 14 points lower than our Victorian ancestors. If that wasn’t hindering my quest for intelligence, the fact that brain activity slows after about 20 years of age. That my “epiphany” that everything is somehow meaningless and we might as well just have fun and look at cute things on the internet, might actually be a symptom of my brain’s deterioration.

Of course, it’s not too late. There is always time to learn about all kinds of things that stimulate the ol’ noggin. Even if I delve into more meaningful subjects, I’m pretty sure I’ll still be looking for black boots and Internet cats.

Image credit: Painting by Frances Van Hove, a contemporary French painter, who is very likely to be much smarter than I.

Slow and Steady Wins The Race

So here is my first complete NYFW presentation this season, the last day, of the last hour of fashion week. Sorry, I really messed up this coverage bit. Deanne from Dream Sequins invited me along to see Slow and Steady Wins the Race, a label which is most famous for recreating luxury designs in canvas. Here she takes it a step further by taking the classic tee shirt and recreates it in 10 different fabrics. I of course was tickled pink by this and you can well see it in this video… I swear, I have a way of making everyone appear drunk, including myself in videos. Maybe I should stop making them, but somehow I feel compelled to continue.

The Young Family McCartney

You’ll have to pardon my lazy post today.

I was working on another post, for Eat, Sleep, Denim (The Beatles in Denim) and while researching, I came across this photo of Stella Mary McCartney as a baby tucked into Paul’s jacket. I just about fell out of my chair! You know, one of those moments when your ovaries burst? That happened.

Then getting lost in a Pinterest spiral, I kept finding more and more photos of the family McCartney. So much love! You could really see it in the photos. We all love our babies, our parents, our siblings, etc. but how often are we able to capture that on film (or pixels)? It’s not so easy. Anyway, this post has nothing to do with anything, but just how much I was touched by this beautiful family.

And… they are also very cool.

This just about killed me with cuteness!

Why the “Not-Feminist” Feminist Trend Is Frightening

When I think of “Not-Feminists,” usually images of older men, probably not very educated. Older women, like from my grandmother’s generation. Some people who didn’t go to college, or maybe high school. Hillbillies. The religious right. Sarah Palin types.

What’s disturbing is the new generation of Anti-Feminists are young women. Young women with careers. Seemingly educated.

They also believe that they should have the right to vote. They believe in “equality.” They believe they can be whatever they want without feminist principles.

Via Women Against Feminism

But they aren’t “feminists.”

Sure, Taylor Swift is one of these not-feminist feminists… back in 2012, she said in an interview:

I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.

She’s bubbly, talks about boys, and I get it. When I was younger, I tended to dumb down my demeanor. In fact, it’s a bad habit (drives my father bananas) I still do to this day. (See my video from yesterday). Maybe she knows what feminism is, but knows very well what identifying as one would mean. Maybe she didn’t want to politicize her work because that would cost her the “nice, non-threatening girl” image.

She’s not alone. Lana Del Rey is not interested in feminist issues. Lady Gaga “hails” men. Shalene Woodley says you can’t take power away from men.

“For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept,” she says. “I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”  says Lana Del Rey, “My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.”

At first I thought, “Whoa, people need to get themselves a dictionary.” Here’s the Webster definition of “feminism”

fem·i·nism

noun \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests

Do we need a new word for “feminism” then?

Somehow, the word “feminist” got confused with misandry. I’m going to make an educated guess, and say the dominant group (men) felt threatened and mistook requests like, “I’d like to own property and vote” for “I want world domination.” The feminist brand is that of an angry woman, who probably hates men. Has a chip on her shoulder. Doesn’t shave. Wants to be a man.

I’d like to say, yeah, let’s get a new word! Woo hoo! New word! But the fact is, it’s called “feminism” because at the moment, women do not have the same rights and privileges as men. Feminism focuses on how to get women the same rights as men. Not more rights. The same. They don’t focus on getting men the same rights as women, because you know, why would a man want to be subjected to slut-shaming or having his wages cut by a third, even though he got better grades in college.

What needs to happen, like with any misconception, like remember when smoking was marketed as being “good for you?” No? Yeah, because people campaigned heavily for the truth: smoking is bad for you. The truth is feminism means men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

We need to talk about what feminism actually is, rather than pulling a Taylor Swift and saying we’re not feminists, but we do believe in feminist principles.

Bronde Girl

I had an itch to brighten my hair, to make a change, but the first change really wasn’t me. In my mind I thought of going lighter, images of Alexa Chung with her brown, but blonde hair.. bronde, the color between brown and blonde. Last night I went back to Pimps and Pinups to fix my hair to something that suited me more. This meant doing research on what exactly was lurking in my mind when I said, “I’d like to go lighter.” Blonde isn’t an option for my olive skin and brown eyes, but sometimes brown is well… boring. It’s hard to add depth, and hard to justify coloring my hair a fraction of a shade and for $100. I wanted more depth, and going bronde looked like it would work on me. My stylist, Marissa, took a look at the images that I presented, not only were they bronde, the had very similar ombre tones. See, hair naturally brightens as it grows, and to be frank, no one shows their natural color these days, so why not play around?

Here is a mood board (sorry, Alexa) with some of the brondes on the runways for AW11:

I feel bringing in a photo really helps and, it’s more aligned with what really inspires. Yeah, I guess that’s common sense, but it took a lesson to make that happen. Anyway, I really like how the new color turned out.

What are some of the hair color trends you’re feeling lately?

Photos: Nando Alvarez • Style.com • Dimitrios Kambouris//Getty

Citizen of the World

It was always my goal to be a citizen of the world… and I tried! Living in the UK, and most recently Germany… it’s getting there.. Los Angeles based weltenbuerger.org is a vintage shop with a German twist. Weltenbueger means ‘Citizen of the World.’ and what I like about this, is the selection here has a definite German flavor.. and I’m not talkin’ about lederhosen..which I was disappointed to find out that ‘lederhosen’ just means ‘leather pants’ it’s not particular to what we think lederhosen means. I’ll stop digressing! Sorry… anyway, this Weltenbuerger is really more present-day German style, and reflects more what you would see in some of the more hip vintage boutiques. The price points on the other hand, are completely American, ranging around the $25 price point something you would see in some of the vintage shops on Melrose. It looks like there will be the German version launching soon, so all of you on the Europe side, stay tuned, I have a feeling this is going to be a good shop to add to your bookmarks!

Chevron (and we’re not talkin’ gas)

In the last post I describe disappointing meanings of words (lederhosen-leather pants)… but for many years, I thought chevron was just the name of a gas station. Embarrassing right? And was delighted to find out that it just describes the general shape of the V character. Nice, the word ‘chevron’ sounds so cool…and it shouldn’t be tied to gas stations and …oil.  I love stripes, but find it hard to wear them. Sure… except when I want to dress like Beetlejuice! Then pile on the stripes thank you! In search to wean myself off of the grey routine has taken over my wardrobe these last few years, I’ve picked up a dress that’s well, grey..but it has other colors.

This weekend I’m getting ready for fashion week, it’s been wild working on the IFB conference the last few months. This fashion week there are going to be so many opportunities for bloggers, it’s incredible. I really can’t believe how much has changed in the last few years. But hey, it’s all part of the fun! Is there anything you want to see on the The Coveted for fashion week? I’d love to hear your requests!

Devil’s Advocate

If you’re a fashion bloggosphere addict, you’ve probably heard about the newest fashion bloggers vs. editors cat fight erupted late last month. Personally I thought it would die down, it seemed to be an argument as old as blogging itself. Tavi also thought it would die down, and she unintentionally sparked this controversy. But it hasn’t, in fact is seems like there’s a new story popping up about it almost daily…and I haven’t even checked my reader (so apologies if some of you have also written about it). The fact that I have been so engrossed with organizing the IFB conference, that my regular mornings with my RSS reader had to be put on hold for the month (as with a lot of other essential parts of my day, like sleeping) …and still I hear rumblings of this. People are upset from both sides, and we need to talk.

In the Independent’s story by Susie Mesure about Grazia’s fashion editor’s reaction to Tavi’s giant bow at the Dior Couture show, noting that ‘former fans complain bloggers have been “bought off” by the industry.’

Mesure goes further to quote editors from Vogue and GQ (both owned by Condé Nast)

Robert Johnson, associate editor at the men’s magazine GQ, said: “Bloggers are so attractive to the big design houses because they are so wide-eyed and obsessed, but they don’t have the critical faculties to know what’s good and what’s not. As soon as they’ve been invited to the shows, they can no longer criticise because then they won’t be invited back.”

They did not use any direct quotes from bloggers in this article. There’s a very good story about that on Business of Fashion.

I’m not going to pretend like I know all the details of what’s going on with PR companies and other bloggers, or what’s going on with PR companies with fashion magazines. But I can tell you my experience.

While I’d like to scoff and say that the editors are wrong. They’re not. Well, they’re not entirely wrong. They’re wrong about Tavi being bought off by fashion houses. They’re wrong to grossly generalize bloggers, and they’re also wrong to assume that this honeymoon period between fashion houses and bloggers will last very long.

Where they are right is that in the past few years fashion houses have been making scrambling to engage bloggers to present a positive image to you, the readers, and so have the magazines themselves. The level of pitches that come through are increasing by the day. I literally get hundreds of pitches daily, and I’m not even that important. As for the campaigns, they’re getting more and more competitive to stand out as bloggers reach points of fatigue. And it’s true some of campaigns are sexy, over the years the opportunities I’ve gotten as a blogger included sponsored trips to Paris (granted it was only a 50minute flight from where I lived at the time) New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, gifts, items for review, sponsored posts… all of which I’ve disclosed to you, and all of which have added value to the content of The Coveted, as I could not fund many of these things myself.

So in this madness how does one determine what to include, and what not to include?

Experience.

In the beginning, I had no idea about the difference between good campaign and when I was being taken advantage of. And through experience, it’s easier see more and more where companies do try to manipulate bloggers into generating positive content. I don’t think that fashion editors could do a better job distinguishing if they were on this side of the fence and managing their own advertising sales. In fact many times they don’t do a better job distinguishing as they are notorious for accepting gifts and selling copy just as much as bloggers.

But just because they do it, does that mean I should?

At first it sounded ok, you know, ‘industry standard’ ‘that’s what everybody does.’ I felt bad, conflicted, somewhat intimidated, and sometimes scared if I didn’t take an opportunity, or if I said something bad then it would ruin my chances to have a successful blog, that part about the GQ quote is true, and I’m not the only one. I saw The Coveted going down this road, reviews, giveaways, sponsored content, invitations, and though I was making more some money, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as the days when I just posted my own clothes and random thinkings. Sure, it made me look like I had reached some level of ’success’ but in reality, it wasn’t at all, so I’ve become so much more selective about what I say yes to.

It didn’t take long to realize that saying ‘yes’ has nothing to do with success, it’s the quality of my content and relationship with the community, that builds success. I’ve written bad reviews, said things that aren’t 100% positive. Griped about bad customer service. Had to face publicists who try to get me to retract words. And yeah, I’ll never be invited back to Chicago Fashion Week because I noted that I did not receive the full designer listing even after I emailed them for it, and Zara probably hates me. But you know what? That’s ok.

It’s also ok to have sponsors. In order to provide quality content, it’s necessary. I run two blogs, one is a community (and will be launching a new blog soon) and there is not enough time in the day to work a day job. For the past two months I have been working 12-18 hours a day on the IFB conference, and because of sponsors, we’re able to offer it to bloggers on a suggested $20 donation, as opposed to charging $300-$400 a ticket which would be what bloggers would have to pay without them.

I didn’t start blogging to get the free things, or to start a business, I started this as a personal project. And as I loved doing this, and wanted to do this full time, I had to start positioning myself as a professional. The difficult part about that, is that were very few professional fashion bloggers at the time, which is why I started Independent Fashion Bloggers. I didn’t know, I don’t know and I don’t pretend to. Blogging is so new, and such a unique medium there is a huge learning curve for everyone, including the journalists who snicker at blogger naivete.

So are the fashion editors right? In a way…yes, but in an even bigger way, they are wrong. To imply that bloggers don’t have the ‘critical faculties to know what’s good and what’s not.’ misses the point of what’s really going on. Perhaps new bloggers don’t know, but neither do new journalists, and successful bloggers have to learn quickly or risk community backlash. The quote misses entirely that like anything really, blogging is an evolutionary medium, and will take time to reach maturity…. and we’re reaching it faster than they think.

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