The galloping popularity of the selfie has pushed industry to take note -- and respond with the right technology
By Anand Parthasarathy
The classic image of the Buddha has him seemingly looking into himself . 'Contemplating his navel', was supposed to concentrate the mind and prevent confusion. One might think the millions of selfies captured and posted on the Web's social media sites indicate some sort of mass sharpening of minds. And one would be wrong. The current selfie craze is more about a narcissistic preoccupation with self -- rather than self realization. In other words it's all about I, Me & Myself , sorry, My Selfie.
Not so long ago, getting into a photo that you were taking, meant setting the self timer in a camera and racing to join the group, before the shutter clicked. At tourist spots, those who wanted a photo with their loved ones, thought nothing about handing over their camera to a fellow tourist to click that keep-sake image. The result was usually a well composed image with you, your companion and the Taj or Charminar or the Singapore Merlion, nicely in focus.
Now people whip out their phones, click on the front camera -- and do-it-yourself: The result: millions of skewed, distorted images of people grinning like devils. There seems to be an unwritten, globally accepted rule, that you are expected to make a fool of yourself when you click a selfie. It was not always so. In fact the first selfie that still exists, dates back to 1839, when a Robert Cornelius of Philadelphia, shot a shaky self image.
By 2012, Time magazine had rated 'selfie' one of the Top Ten buzzwords. And in November 2013, it was the Oxford English Dictionary, Word of the Year.
The most famous selfie ever taken is more recent -- the group of stars captured by host Ellen Degeneres at the 2014 Oscars. It was re-tweeted 2 million times before the event was over. "If only Bradley ( Cooper)'s arm was longer!", Ellen lamented when she could get only 12 actors in the picture. She should have done what any selfie-addict would have done -- used a selfie stick.
With a handle at one end and an adjustable clamp at the other, to hold the phone, today's selfie sticks let you position the camera 30-70 cms away and with some of the wide angle lenses that cameras boast today ( see box: Selfie-friendly phones) , you can easily fit 20 friends in the frame -- via wireless bluetooth.
A casual search on Indian e-tailing sites will throw up dozens of self stick priced Rs 300 - 1000. Chennai-based Zebronics has recently launched one of the pricier ( Rs 999) models the ZEB-SS100 with a Bluetooth shutter release, and 5 telescopic rods that stretch to a full 79 cms. The most compact selfie stick I have seen is the one on sale at e-bazar ninja which collapses to palm-size and costs Rs 499. You know selfie sticks have gone mainstream when even the big name camera makers get into the act: Nikon launched its own stick, the foam handled N-MP001, earlier this year.
Most sticks come preinstalled with software to work with leading makes of Android or iOS phones. But if you have an odd phone which doesn't, you can always download Camera 360 or one of its clones, a popular app that has become the de facto standard powering selfie sticks.
Over -enthusiastic selfie stick artists have caused some grief to fellow humans and surroundings, by their aggressive stick work. So they are today banned from many museums and public amusement parks ( and an entire nation: South Korea). But where ever allowed, these narci-sticks are finding new and innovative uses. Last week in New York, at the Reem Acra 2016 Fall Bridal fashion show, models sported a Swarovski jewel-encrusted selfie stick ( with matching headphones) which will set back prospective brides a full 500 dollars ( Rs 32,500). Who needs a shaadi-ka-photographer, when the bride records it herself?
And a new video posted on YouTube entitled Selfie Stick Aerobics invites you to practice some high energy selfie admiration, by recording your moves , as you work-out. If you don't like what you click -- you need to exercise some more!
Bangalore, October 19 2015