DALTON >> One of my favorite Norman Rockwell works is the picture of the artist sitting at an easel, drawing a portrait of the artist sitting at an easel, diminishing until you can no longer see him. It seems like Rockwell always had a sense of whimsy about his work, and was happy to show the back of his head, and his old plaid work shirt instead of some grander view of his better-dressed self.
Through the ages artists included themselves in their work, especially when mirrors became commonplace. Renaissance artists were known to peek out of a corner or stroll across a canvas. Van Gogh, Picasso, and Gauguin drew themselves in many self-portraits which were seen, and probably more often in works which fell to the studio floor.
What all these artists share is the ability to draw and paint well. They are respected artists and were well-skilled in their craft. I look forward to visiting museums and paging through coffee table art books, enjoying the works of these famous people.
What I don't enjoy so much is the work of amateurs with an overwhelming need to take hundreds of thousands of selfies and post them all over social media. First of all, most have the angle all wrong. Shooting from a camera or cellphone at chest height, we get a great view of nose hair and an out of proportion chin. Unless theses shots are part of their portfolios for an audition to clown college, they should definitely press the "delete" button.
Many selfies are out of focus, which is difficult to understand since most cameras have built in focusing mechanisms. Perhaps at the critical second the camera person was distracted by the flash of another selfie shooter or the innocent nudge of another imbiber at the bar.
Worse yet are the attempts to capture two celebratory faces at once. If Abbott and Costello had cellphones instead of a microphone to record "Who's on first," we could laugh at the result. The selfie duos are neither good nor funny, and in most cases practice does not improve the result.
Many selfies chronicle new hairstyles, clothing, tattoos, and nail polish designs. All I can say about these is that most of the sharings would be better left to the imagination.
Now I can't get some of them out of my mind or the dreams that border on nightmare status. Granted some people are more photogenic than others, but no one's portrait is improved by an inexpert close-up of large teeth and pimples.
There is another whole category of selfie lunacy called the "selfie with landmark." This requires someone to contort themselves in a peculiar way to enable the camera to record a face and a famous place. Your photo may well be improved by the sight of the Statue of Liberty growing out of the top of your head, but if you lose your balance and fall over the railing of the sightseeing boat while looking into the lens, there will be more photos shared than you ever intended.
Lastly, my favorite of the loathsome selfie shots is the simultaneous group grinfest. Selfie sticks should be banned from sale in all civilized countries (instead of the few smart places) because of the clamor caused by groups of goofy guys and gals who insist of memorializing their assemblage. We all thought school class pictures were a drag, but those old photos had something that selfies have not: clearly defined images of well-dressed kids. Most selfies' victims just untag themselves in posted photos and in extreme cases, unfriend the feckless photographer.
Just give me the days of the Kodak Instamatic, where we all took pictures of our pets and pasted them in a scrapbook, which eventually resided in the closet where it belonged.
Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.