Mirzoeff is asking the reader to think about the history and social context behind what is commonly known today as a ‘selfie’. We are made aware of the history of self expression with a focus on how artists have presented their own image through paintings, photographs and in the post modern era ultimately leading to the selfie of today. Mirzoeff allows us to think about how different periods have each shaped and influenced visual culture today. He wants us to think about how majorities and minorities have used self portraiture to assert themselves and make a statement about their identity.
The selfie has become a prominent part of modern day culture. Therefore, witnessing and forming an opinion on the concept of ‘selfies’ is almost inevitable. Most people have some form of a digital presence. Often, we make judgements or form opinions on people’s online behaviour including selfies they choose to share. This is because viewing a selfie allows us to believe we understand it’s subject better having seen it. It is after all, an image representing themselves which they chose to share with the world. Therefore, understanding the historical and social context of self portraiture provides a deeper understanding of human nature and how we express our identities.
The visual text that best exemplified my understanding of Mirzoeff’s idea was Marcel Duchamp’s Self-Portrait in a Five-Way Mirror. For me this epitomised how we can have many different identities and we can manipulate how they appear to others. In other people’s minds we are a slightly different version of ourselves based on their perception of us. This is why Duchamp’s photograph was so interesting to me as it showed him representing his one identity from five different perspectives. While each angle showed a different perspective, ultimately he was still in control of each version of himself and how each different ‘identity’ was shown.