Assignment 3 – The Curated Ego – What Makes a Good Selfie – James Kilner

While researching the concept and practice of self portraits, I stumbled upon a very interesting panel discussion of the National Portrait Gallery. In this discussion, different specialists, a philosopher, neuro scientist, phototherapist and lecturer in photographic theory, discusses their ideas and studies about the self, our own perception of self, how this is translated and transformed in a self portrait and the implications of showing it in social media. I found it incredibly interesting and will point out a few ideas on which I can base my assignment and photograph myself.

James Kilner, a neuro scientist, explained the processes that take in our brain when we look at people. We understand each other in not verbal communication through mimicking the facial gestures the observed person is making. Our brain reads the movements of the muscles and through that we have an expectation of what a face should look like, which from there determines the way we see. In short, everything is determined of our idea of what we should see.

However, we don’t have proper visual knowledge of what we look like ourselves and base those ideas mainly on the actual feelings of what we feel when we are mimicking others. Because of that it it is difficult to recognize ourselves in our own selfies and do we not always recognize others in their own selfies. We have a poor visual representation of what we look like and are biased. ‘We all think that we are slightly younger and better looking than we actually are’.

With technology we are able to keep taking a photograph till the point we look like we think we look. With digital photography we have a platform to maintain our reputation and build up an image of ourselves that is based on our own perception and not on how other people perceive us.

I will:

1. take a series of photographs and choose the one of which I think I look like most, and then ask others to choose the one of which they think it represents me.

2. try to mimick how I look when I am sad or happy and find photographs in which I am really sad or happy. (or any other emotion)

3. take a few self portraits and create visual allusions that show how are minds are programmed to look at faces in a particular way. 

4. ask a friend to help me dress and put make up on in a way that I would never do myself and photograph myself. So create a self portrait that is contrary to how I feel I look. (idea comes from an other video of a drag queen who explains the process of change of identity he goes through when dressing up)

5. take a self portrait in a politically charged environment and only show interest in myself, emphasizing the criticism of the act of taking selfies being narcissistic and a distraction from political action and indeed, poor taste, also associated with excess

6. take a self portrait with Indians who ask me if I want to take a self portrait with them. 

7. produce a ‘perfect’ selfie.

8. produce a self portrait in a reflection in a puddle, mirror, shopping window or something like that. 

BBC News. (2017). Self-portraits and social media: The rise of the ‘selfie’ – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Mar. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Part 3: The Curated Ego: What Makes a Good Selfie?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].


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