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Whoever they are, and for whatever reason they hate selfies, they are wrong.henever I think about selfies, I think about the women who came before.
I think about the ones who never got to use front-facing cameras, that technological ease and excess that we have so quickly taken for granted.
I think about Julia Margaret Cameron, who got her first camera as a gift, in 1863, when she was 48 years old. We know this from her great-niece, Virginia Woolf, who wrote that Julia was an ugly duckling in a family full of cameo complexions; her nickname was “Talent,” where her sisters got to be called “Beauty.” Cameron became instantly obsessed with photography and dove into her second act.
Her daughter gave it to her, a toy to stave off the solitude of aging. She made hundreds of silver albumen prints, practicing and practicing in a kind of fever dream until she had created a unique method of applying a soft, dewy focus to her portraits of British celebrities.
In her own portraits, she looks glum, dejected, staring at the ground or into the lens with a withering squint, as if she cannot believe she is doing this. Vintage cameras had long exposure times, requiring the sitter to hold the same expression forever.
It is an opportunity for us to reflect on the language and ideas that represented each year.
For a socialite, she didn’t have much of a social network of her own.
She had no one to share her face with, and so she kept it to herself like a secret.
This is why they believe that no selfie could ever mean anything other than vanity.
This is why they think selfies are a phase, something they can wish away.
Maybe she is sitting at an outdoor cafe, her phone held out in front of her like a gilded hand mirror, a looking glass linked to an Instagram account.