It’s summer 2005. We are in New Zealand, and the world is very different. If you want to use the internet in a hostel you have to pay money to use the computer, and you have to be patient, very patient. The connection is slow. Wifi doesn’t exist. Every other week or so you send an e-mail back home to let everyone know that you’re still alive. Freedom. Utter freedom. No Social Media, but instead real Social Interaction with the ones you meet on the road. Today you’d have to travel to the Australian Outback or Mongolia to find this type of disconnect.
Invention of the Selfie-Concept
The word Selfie had actually already been invented, though hardly anyone knew it back then.“On 13 September 2002, the first known use of the word selfie in any paper or electronic medium appeared in an Australian internet forum – Karl Kruszelnicki’s ‚Dr Karl Self-Serve Science Forum‘ – in a post by Nathan Hope“, says Wikipedia. If you’re interested in the history of our latest societal obsession, Wikipedia has collected lots of information about the topic of selfies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfie
When Film Cameras weren’t a Hipster Thing
I don’t remember what kind of digital camera I owned. The fact that I had one at all is a small miracle. Digital cameras for normal consumers were very new on the market, and they were super expensive (at least for a teenager like me). I could only afford a cheap one. The trip was expensive enough and I rather wanted to spend my money swimming with dolphins than dumping it on (from my point of view as an avid user of analogue photography) unnecessary technology. I think my digital compact camera had about 1 Million Pixels. That’s ridiculous from today’s standards and that’s exactly what the photos look like. Thank Goodness that the development in the digital field was so rapidly – quality and price wise.
I barely used it. I thankfully stubbornly kept using my analogue Canon. To use a film camera wasn’t a hipster thing back in the day, but simply normal. Nothing fancy about it, just practical usage. Films were still super cheap (1 Film cost me 1 Euro, the development with 36 prints in 10×15 5 Euros. Yes, photography friends, not long ago we were in photography heaven, but we let it slip away…*cries silent tears*…).
My very first Selfie
I was travelling in New Zealand on my own, and I’m really shy about asking other people to take a picture of me. Consequently, there are hardly any pictures of me from that trip (or any other journey that I have taken since then, every once in a while I force myself to take a selfie so that I have something to smile about when I’m 80 or so). At some point in my journey when I reached the Fjordlands of the South Island, I finally had the sensible idea to send a photo of myself to my family – as an added visual proof to the sparse e-mails, so that they can actually see that I am still alive and well.
And so it happened that on a boat cruise amidst the gorgeous fjords of Aotearoa I got that small weird digital camera out and took my very first selfie. I was 19 years old. Never before had I had the urge to take a picture of myself. None of my friends had. I thought it was the stupidest idea I ever had. It was awkward. I hoped no one would notice. It took a bit of practice to get the angle right. Such a weird thing to do. (I actually still feel exactly like this every time I take a selfie today).
I picked one of the shots and sent them to my Mom. She was happy to see that I was wearing my beanie (it was winter in New Zealand) and thus taking good care of myself. That was it. Selfie-Success. No likes, no loves, no further comments. Sometimes, I miss those peaceful times. I’ll be forever grateful that I got to grow up in a time where you know that you exist as a valuable and worthy human-being without having to check up on that with a selfie every other day or so – and then have other people confirm your lovability. I’m here, I’m okay, selfie-proof or not, likes or no likes. It’s all good.
New Zealand on Film
I’ve built a small site online for my New Zealand travel photographs so that you can see a bit of this beautiful country at the other end of the world (well depending on from where you look). You can find it here: https://khoell-aotearoa.tumblr.com/
Kristin Hoell is a visual artist and photographer who is currently based in Berlin, Germany. Her works have been shown in solo and group shows throughout Europe. Prints are available: firstname.lastname@example.org