We've all fallen prey to the social media revolution that's been sweeping the globe following the development of camera phones, no matter how badly some of us hate to admit it. As we stare hypnotized into the glowing screens of our smartphones, intently entranced on capturing the perfect shot, selfies have changed the way we share the precious moments we're convinced our families and friends just have to see. Whether making memories while visiting France, securing visual proof of summiting a mountain, or just taking some pictures with friends, the prevalence of portable and easy-to-carry cameras has birthed an explosive trend of self-portraiture.
Some of us are shy, taking self-shots only in privacy when no one else is looking, while others take selfies to a whole new level, snapping picture after picture unabashedly in a practice that borders on a form of art in its own right - some of us even utilize additional equipment to enhance the result! Sure, the average human arm provides enough reach to replace that random person on the street you ask to take your picture, but what do you do when you want to include that castle in the background or when you need to fit a few extra friends into your viewfinder? The issue of perspective extension was solved with the invention of a device that could only belong in one of those wacky gadget catalogues and, despite an increasing social acceptance, the so-called "selfie stick" has recently faced skepticism among some of the more prestigious museums around the United States.
Stop That Selfie!
Historical venues and art galleries are a hotspot for picture taking as awe-stricken visitors strain to nab a photo with their targeted attraction. After all, who doesn't want a personal souvenir to seal the memory of a great trip, in versatile, shareable digital imagery for years to come? For the most part, the practice of taking photos poses no problems and people generally keep to themselves. But a growing concern, along with a few stray incidents, has led several museums to take preventative measures against the possible safety concerns regarding selfies.
The particular qualm here doesn't concern photography or even selfies specifically, but rather the sometimes intrusive gadgets which people use to both literally, and figuratively elevate their self-shot endeavors.
We're talking, of course, about the infamous "selfie stick". The seemingly harmless contraption provides a telescoping rod that users can attach their camera or smartphone to in order to put some extra distance between themselves and the lens. While providing a reasonable solution for outdoor venues where there's plenty of open space, however, the "selfie stick" can begin to cause some problems when utilized in tight indoor areas, especially amongst popular galleries that become quite crowded. Throw a few dozen priceless works of art into the mix, an irreplaceable historic artifact or two, a rush of eager tourists, and a selfie-spellbound zombie wandering around in a mesmerized malaise - distracted by the screen at the end of the 4 foot pole they're holding - quickly becomes a serious liability.
In response to the impending risk presented by telescoping photo gizmos, several museums have officially banned the use of such tools, including:
- The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY)
- The Smithsonian Design Museum (New York, NY)
- The Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY)
- The Frick Collection (New York, NY)
- The Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum (Washington, D.C.)
For the time being, visitors to these venues in New York City will have to settle with arm-length selfies or else face having their equipment confiscated in a backlash that has catalyzed international attention.
Dire Consequences for Unregistered "Selfie Sticks" in South Korea
Galleries in New York aren't the only institutions that have enacted regulations against telescoping camera mounts as the government of South Korea implemented its own ban earlier this Fall. While significantly more serious in punishment, calling for fines equivalent to over $20,000, the regulation focuses specifically on Bluetooth-equipped devices that must be certified in order to be legally sold in the country. South Korean authorities claim their intentions are related to health concerns but, given the rampant popularity of the accessories, selfie enthusiasts in the country, like those here in the States, are likely to feel more repressed than protected by the perceivedly overblown measures.