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Turn the Selfie Around Share a New Encounter with One Photo  

 

About 10 years ago I was on a vacation and had the opportunity to explore the area alone while waiting for a friend to arrive. I took a rental bike around the area visiting light houses and really enjoyed the time – I love exploring light houses very much. It was a great day, time that I have relished in many times since. Of course, the scenery was perfect, but I received a gift from a stranger that day that changed my whole experience, and something I try and pay forward every chance I can.

In the age of social media, we often take pictures of ourselves along with our friends and family as a symbol of modern self-expression. With a simple click, individuals can capture a moment and share it with the world. On my adventure that day 10 years ago, I took a few pics of myself in front of the ocean with my bike and couldn’t wait to share with my friend and with my social world. Maybe having started out of convenience, the rise of the selfie has also brought about discussions on narcissism, self-obsession, and the quest for validation. That day a woman sitting in the grass nearby with her family literally turned the camera around and shifted the focus of my experience, my perspective, and my life. She approached me and said, “can I take a picture of you with your camera, I would love to help you capture this picture, its stunning”.  Turning the selfie around shifted the focus from myself to my surroundings and the thoughtfulness of this women created a connection between us, and a mindful and broader perspective on life.


A kind gesture like turning the selfie around allows us to focus on the environment rather than ourselves and through the connection with make with others we are much more joined in the present in the moment. I made a friend that day too – she and I connected with each other on social media, and we watched each other’s lives from afar for many years.  I was so intrigued by her gesture that she became someone I wanted to share life with, a true connection, even if we were mainly connected through social media because our lives were so far apart geographically. The practice of turning the selfie around can lead to a deeper appreciation of one’s surroundings, the warmth of the memory and our connections with others. Whenever I am traveling, work, pleasure, a weekend, or long vacation, I find myself more intune with my surroundings, and find many occasions when I can pay forward the same experience I had so long ago. It makes me feel so good inside, to help capture a special moment for people sharing time together. Turning the selfie around is a gesture that enhances my social connections and highlights a true lifetime experience for those I take the photo of. In this way, photography becomes a tool for storytelling and connection, enriching relationships and creating lasting memories.


What I have noticed over time is this trend impacts how I feel about myself, and how others feel about themselves. Just this morning, while I vacation, I was sitting poolside, and when walking to pool for a dip in the cool water, I noticed what looked to be (and was, I learned through conversation) a mother and daughter together sitting in pool chairs in my path, having just received the drinks they ordered. I could tell from the energy of the moment they were really excited to be there together, and I could also tell they had not been at the pool long because their hair looked on point. As I walked by I was drawn to their energy and I asked them if I could borrow their camera and take a photo of them together. A little taken aback at first (which I have seen happen often), the mother said “yes, that would be wonderful”. Right before taking the picture, I asked if they were mother/daughter and they smiled and said yes! I proceeded to clean the lens of the photo camera and took the picture of this mom and daughter, all smiles. I wanted so much to help them capture this moment for themselves, and probably to share it with their family and friends and even on their social media platforms. We talked for a few more minutes about our respective trips and I went on my way. The beauty in this experience is that both this woman and her daughter, and me, smiled, and brightened each other’s day.


Sure, I still take plenty of selfies for my social media but by redirecting the lens outward as often as I can, I find so many more connections around me, and in many more scenarios that you might image. Turning the self around allows for a more authentic expression of the self, where the value of an experience is not measured by external approval but by personal fulfillment and joy.


The artistic potential on the other side of the lens cannot be underestimated. This approach can inspire creativity and innovation in photography. By exploring different perspectives, angles, and compositions, individuals can develop a unique visual language that reflects their view of the world. This approach of kindness and thoughtfulness allows people like me and you to communicate our experiences and emotions in a more profound and meaningful way.


Next time, instead of just capturing a self-portrait, capture the essence of someone else’s experience, fostering a sense of gratitude and awareness for you and the people you are photographing. This simple gesture has changed my life, truly, by encouraging mindfulness, strengthening my social connections and making me feel better about myself and the world around me, while at the same time unleashing a artistic creativity.  Think about the profound effect this trend could have on our culture – turning the self around has the potential to transform how we capture and share our lives, fostering a deeper connection with the world around us and with each other. On your next opportunity, consider turning the camera around and capturing the beauty of life that lies beyond yourself – you will look and feel so much more beautiful.


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