It would be easy to slip into seeing the instantly shared photographic self-portrait, along with snaps of things bought and consumed, as a register of a complete surrender to commercial image culture: the preening necessary to emulate commodified beauty ideals, the apeing of celebrities, the internalising of values of professional self-presentation, the erasure of experience and memory through an obsession with moment-to-moment recording, and the distribution of the results on websites that mine images and metadata for commercial value. Yet the daily practice of photography gives people detailed knowledge about the way standard images of beauty and fame are produced; they learn considerable sophistication in the making of images and scepticism about their effects. The artifice of commercial imagery is understood through practical emulation. Most selfies are pastiche and many tip into parody. With this increase in awareness potentially comes a shift in power: from the paparazzi to their prey; and from the uncles, corporate and otherwise, to their nieces and nephews.
Later that summer, the LRB and the Paris Review launched the first #readeverywhere competition, inviting people to share photographic self-portraits of themselves
consuming reading one or other magazine – which they may have just bought in an unbeatable double subscription offer! – in surprising or unlikely locations. The competition is now in its third year, and this summer you can enter videos, too. The winner will get a selection of Aesop luxury skincare products (because if you’re going to preen, you may as well do it well). Pastiche, parody, it’s all good. Share your sophisticated, sceptical snaps (not to mention your metadata); it doesn't have to be a selfie; doesn't even have to be of a person.
Enter by using the hashtag #readeverywhere on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest between 1 July and 31 August. Find out more at readeverywhere.co.uk. And, if you haven’t already, take out a joint subscription to the LRB and Paris Review.