A smile and a stick…

According to Robert Powell will cover you for most situations in life, with only occasional need for recourse to the stick.  I fear he may have spoken these words before the development of that modern scourge, the selfie-stick (or narcissistick as I have seen it described).

As I was closing on Waverley Station on Saturday morning, I saw a very hefty smartphone being carried at the end of what I believe to have been a selfie-stick and realised that I objected to this technological development: despite my obviously rampant egomania.   Now this could just be a consequence of my age (and later this theory will be shown to have some weight) or it could be a reaction to my total inability to take a decent selfie – in any attempts I look not unlike a Christian Scientist with appendicitis (to quote the great Tom Lehrer) – but I would like to propose another reason.

As you will have come to expect, I shall not be relying on the more normal reasons to object to the selfie stick:

  1. The assumption that the captured image of any vista, monument or event can be improved by the gurning visage of the photographer filling half the frame; or
  2. the dreadful lack of consideration for others which ownership of such a stick seems to engender

but instead appeal to the joy of photography that the stick eliminates.

Despite some (half-hearted) attempts over the years, I am very far from being a great photographer – and even in these days where it could scarcely be simpler to capture an image, rarely remember to do so.  I can enjoy the work of much better photographers, but the actual process of taking a photograph offers little appeal to me.  However, there always used to be an exception – which was the rare attempts to try and include the self within the captured image.  In the good old days (with Leonard Sachs MCing), this could take one of two routes:

  1. Find a stranger and inveigle upon them to take the snap – and so encouraging social contact with your fellow humans; or
  2. Attempt to prop the camera in a somewhat stable position, set the timer and then race round in front and hope that everything has worked.

This second option was – usually – the most exciting with real tension and a risk of physical danger as the photographer attempts to get into “frame” in the few seconds available.   In the days before digital cameras, it could also be some weeks before you knew how well matters had gone.  There are a number of photos in existence, normally taken at the summit of Welsh hills or mountains, with the youthful author and his family captured in this way – and with my Dad just having made it into the frame at the last second.  It gives the shots a vibrancy and life that I doubt any selfie-stick can ever hope to replicate.

However, I can see one possible use for a (perhaps modified) selfie stick.  As presbyopia continues to ravage the accommodation in my eyes, it is going to become increasingly important to hold books further away from my face than even my pointlessly long arms can achieve and here I can see a potential use for the arm-extending capabilities of the “reading stick”.  As with the original selfie stick, the application is driven by o’erweening vanity – but does not destroy an existing pleasure or (if used responsibly) inconvenience others.  I do also wonder if both the selfie and reading sticks could double up as a very handy back-scratcher?

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