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Smartphones

World’s newest, biggest selfie magnet is ... a selfie museum in Los Angeles

Get your smartphones ready for some super selfie action at a new interactive exhibition that explores the history and cultural phenomenon of snapping a photo of yourself

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2018, 6:25pm

There is an art to taking the perfect selfie, from the angle and the focus to cropping out that pesky outstretched arm and, above all, the smile.

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In a celebration of self-portraits in the social media age, Tommy Honton and Tair Mamedov opened the Museum of Selfies in Los Angeles last Sunday – an interactive exhibition exploring the history and cultural phenomenon of snapping a photo of yourself.

And for those who think that if a moment wasn’t photographed it might as well have not happened, the good news is that at the Museum of Selfies, selfies are compulsory.

Visitor Lori Nguyen, a 45-year-old event planner, said she doesn’t take selfies very often because “I’m not, like, super young.” But another visitor, Nina Crowe, said she takes “one a day”.

Neither missed the chance to snap several at the Museum of Selfies, including at an exhibit mimicking the rooftop of Los Angeles’ Wilshire Grand Centre, the city’s tallest building.

In reality, the exhibit features a backdrop photograph of the “ground below” printed on a small platform, from which sprouts a tube that looks like the building’s antenna complete with a red signalling beacon. Add a selfie stick, an “I’m afraid of heights” grimace and a click – and the result is very realistic.

The exhibition begins with mirrors, perhaps the most basic kind of selfie. But Honton and Mamedov view the concept as something more than just a simple photo.

“Selfies have a surprisingly rich history, and go back as far as people have been making art,” Honton explains. “Rembrandt did hundreds of self-portraits, Albrecht Dürer five, Van Gogh dozens … What’s the difference?

“Yes, artistic technique and scale is one thing, but in reality, if cell phones and cameras had existed, everyone would have taken them.”

The exhibition in Glendale, a Los Angeles suburb, is just the latest in the city’s stream of quirky museums focusing on everything from rabbits and death to neon and velvet.

It is full of fun facts about the selfie trend: women take pictures of themselves more than men, for example, and while 65.4 per cent of selfies in Sao Paulo are taken by women and 61.6 per cent in New York, the divide is more extreme in Moscow, at 82 per cent by women.

There aren’t statistics for Los Angeles, but museum visitor Ally Bertik admits she is a frequent selfie-snapper.

“It shows off my good side. And I get to show people ‘hey, this is where I am, maybe you guys should check it out too, this is what I’m doing.’ It’s just a fun way to spread what I’m doing, show people where I’m at,” she explained.

Wandering through the museum, guests will be able to pose with Colette Miller’s “Angel Wings” paintings and a work by Darel Carey, who creates three-dimensional patterns across walls using lines of tape – a concept the museum describes as a “selfie magnet”.

There are pieces by Brazil’s Rob Vital, German-Canadian Joseph Nowak, Italy’s Michele Durazzi – and a copy of the Russian government’s recommendations for taking a selfie safely, created following several accidents and as many as 12 selfie-related deaths in the country.

Also featured is the controversial monkey selfie taken by David Slater, who became embroiled in a legal battle over who has the copyright for photos taken by monkeys using his camera.

In a corner, meanwhile, are three statues resembling Michelangelo’s David – painted blue with pink mobile phones – in various stages of falling over, and a Game of Thrones-esque throne created using selfie sticks.

You just “can’t avoid” taking a selfie there, says Mamedov, a Russian actor who arrived in the US four years ago.

The Museum of Selfies will open in Glendale initially for two months. Its founders are open to extending its LA run and taking the exhibition to other places around the US, if not the world.