Gendered Art, Work, and Self-Representation

A Comparative Analysis of Camera-Phonographic and Painted Self-Portraits

Authored by: Chelsea Butkowski , Lee Humphreys

The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media Art

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  July  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367197162
eBook ISBN: 9780429242816
Adobe ISBN:


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Selfies continue the centuries-long legacy of self-portraiture through the lenses of millions of mobile phone cameras. Like the self-portraits that precede them, selfies present edited self-representations of their creators, illuminating their interests, achievements, and relationships. We contend that self-portrait traces coalesce to form a qualified self, or the sense of self developed by creating mediated accounts of daily life and revisiting them over time. However, selfies are also distinct from traditional painted and even photographic self-portraiture in significant ways. These differences emerge from the ephemerality of mobile phone photography, “massified” app-based filters and tools behind the creation process, and networked nature of viewing audiences and interfaces. Therefore, in this chapter, we consider the implications of viewing selfies as art and, in turn, classifying self-portraits as media traces. In doing so, we comparatively situate selfies within the larger history of self-portraiture and its gendered trajectories. The self-representational practices of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Cindy Sherman, and Kim Kardashian—three women known generations apart for their artistic self-portraiture—bolster this account. Ultimately, we trace how visual self-representational practices constitute qualified selves through high art as well as vernacular media in gendered ways.

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