Even Bishop Sullivan takes part in the social media ‘selfie’ craze


Josh Capp is captured in an image with Bishop Dennis Sullivan and Dorothy Clarke after his confirmation at Our Lady of Peace Parish Williamstown.


Photos by James A. McBride

John Kalitz and Reggie Beckett take photos of themselves with the bishop.


Vito Dante Carfagno from St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield with Bishop Sullivan at his confirmation. Right, Jeff Young and the bishop at a meeting.

Several years ago, the father of a teenage girl was describing what he saw the previous night. “She was holding her camera phone over her head, taking pictures of herself in the bathroom mirror. Over and over.”
“They’re called ‘selfies,'” his coworker explained. “They put them on MySpace.”
Of course, the self-portrait had a long tradition in art and photography long before the advent of social media, and before everyone from middle school girls to the president of the United States were taking photos of themselves with an iPhone.
The iPhone is key. When Facebook surpassed MySpace in 2009, selfies seemed left behind with it – but a year later the iPhone 4’s front facing camera allowed a person to take a picture while looking at the screen. The awkward bathroom mirror potshot was replaced by an often crisp, well-composed portrait.
“So now the selfie is back, as evidenced by the heavy volume of them posted by teenagers, who post everything from new hairstyles to new shoes to no occasion at all,” technology writer Kate Losse wrote in a New Yorker report in June 2013. “People take selfies in public, posing everywhere and in every which way.”
A recent poll conducted by Samsung found that selfies make up 30 percent of the photos taken by people ages 18-24.
The word “selfie” seems to have been first used in 2002 in a post on the website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Apologizing for the out-of-focus picture of his stitched lip (after a drunken fall), the poster explained, “it was a selfie.”
Now, look up “selfies” on your computer and you’ll find countless images of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus and, it seems, everyone else. Including the pope. In fact, The Huffington Post lists “The Papal Selfie” – showing Pope Francis being photographed with several Italian teenagers – as Number 18 on its list of the “29 Greatest Selfies of All Time.”
Others that made the ranking: “The Presidential Selfie” (Obama and Biden), Number 8; “Ellen’s Infamous Oscars Selfie” (Ellen DeGeneres with a gang of actors), Number 10; and “The Call a Doctor Selfie” (a smiling student takes his own photo while his teacher, in the background, is in labor), Number 12. The “Something Awful is About to Happen Selfie” (a woman’s self-portrait at a baseball stadium appears to show a baseball about to hit her head), was ranked Number 14 on the list. On the other hand, selfie takers are reportedly a problem at the Tour de France this year. Although there have been no serious injuries, several riders have been knocked off their bikes by individuals standing on the course, facing away from it to take their own photo.
Since the pope was first captured in a selfie almost a year ago, he has appeared in many others. (See sidebar photo at left for just one example.) And that, perhaps, helps explain the selfie phenomenon. Given the opportunity to stretch out an arm and capture a photo of yourself with the pope, an image that you can not only frame but also share with others through social media, who wouldn’t take that picture?
“In a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing,” said actor James Franco, who has been called the Selfie King, in a New York Times piece last year entitled “The Meaning of the Selfie.”
Here in the Camden Diocese, Bishop Dennis Sullivan has been captured at an increasing number of selfies, taken after meetings, confirmations and other liturgical celebrations. A few are on this page.