Selfies, Self-Perception and Self-Representation

Artist Blog by Margaret Murphy

I am part of a generation of adults who grew up online in the mid-2000s. Creating and curating online profiles was nearly mandatory. Capturing my likeness, and being aware of how I look, has now become something so ingrained in my psyche I doubt I could forget how to do it if I tried. I’ve been capturing my likeness for over 15 years and thanks to advancements in technology, a record of my changes in hair color, style, body, and life in general, are all documented in these photographs and I don’t imagine I’ll stop taking them anytime soon. It turns out, I’m not the only one. John Berger wrote about this phenomenon in his book Ways of Seeing in which he says “A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” This concept often appears in my works as I explore self-portraiture. The more I speak about this as an inspiration for the work, the more I feel connected to other viewers who have felt the same way in some capacity. It wasn’t until discovering the work of artists such as Arvida Byström and Leah Schrager that I began to think about the female selfie as a form of feminist art. The self-perception of a selfie as a woman is a culturally acceptable form of categorizing our value in society. The influence of the patriarchy on my identity as a woman is complex and something that motivates me extensively in my art.

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