Jack Albert Nusenow

The Selfie, New and Old Travel Writing

Progym: ekphrasis, argument

While it seems to be getting less and less stylish to take and share selfies, in actuality, my sense is that no one has slowed down. The first accusation in conversations about selfies is their vanity. Critiques of selfies is an artistic sense often rely on this quality as a means of attacking selfies’ potential to be rhetorical in some way. This extends to selfies as a form of travel writing. The first sentence in the introduction of Kylie Cardell & Kate Douglas’s essay on selfies as travel writing immediately brought to my mind a famous picture.

At 23, Beatles' lead guitarist George Harrison clicked an iconic selfie at the  Taj Mahal during his 1966 India visit

George Harrison, at 23, standing in front of the calm, shallow pool that reflects the memorial’s figure feels anything but vain. The fisheye selfie features the Taj Mahal as the one point perspective with reverence, not vanity. It highlights Agra’s beautiful greenery and their vibrant blue sky. If travel writing’s “purpose” (if it has only one) is to spur curiosity and inspire travel, this picture, for me, is a perfect form of travel writing. It says more without words than most stories could, while leaving mystery to provoke a serious desire to visit the Taj Mahal.

If Cardell and Douglas are right, and selfies are indeed on the forefront of travel writing, they’re nothing new. They’ve only been made ubiquitous.


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