Creative Arts Book of the Week, 25/04/16

Another interesting week, helping students with some last minute referencing enquiries prior to dissertation hand-ins. I really enjoy seeing what they’ve spent the last 6 months or so working on. This week, I’ve learnt something about Snapchat and am really looking forward to seeing the results of that student’s project at the Graduate Show. Her supporting research was around the changing culture of the photograph, so this week I have chosen Selfie: The changing face of self-portraits as my book of the week. If you the think the ‘selfie’ is a modern phenomenon, then read on. Susie Brooks, the author, suggests the first selfie is over 40,000 years old.

She informs us that most Stone Age hand stencils seem to be left hands, suggesting the artists used their right hand to paint. Ancient Egyptians carved their faces and figures in stone, whilst in the Middle Ages, artists incorporated self-portraits into decorated illuminated manuscripts. This little hard-backed book is aimed at ‘selfie-lovers of all ages’ and is written in a style that anyone can relate to. Illustrated throughout, you can see examples of the self-portraits (early selfies) of a range of artists, from the likes of Rembrandt and van Gogh, there are also a few pulling funny faces, for example from Joseph Ducreux. With the invention of photography and its increasing accessibility, the portrait became a popular subject. Many artists used photographs to help their work. As painting became more experimental, some interesting self-portraits were produced, such as those by James Ensor. He painted 112 self-portraits yet he said, “I’ve never managed to capture the resemblance.” (Brooks, 2016, p.31). The final chapter, “Selfie’s Today” cites 2013 as being the year the “#selfie” took off, with more than 17 million people posting a selfie on social media each week. Each person creating a view of themselves that they want others to see. In 2014, selfie made it into the Oxford Dictionary.

Of course, for an essay, you’ll need some extra academic sources and you will find plenty of them. A search on the Library’s Discovery Service found 31,215 hits for ‘selfie’, with 1,644 of those in academic journals! A topic for next year’s dissertation perhaps?

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