'Selfies With Homeless People'

Today in selfie sadness: images that treat sleeping humans as scenery
More

Selfies at Funerals. Selfies at Serious Places. Selfies Before Teachers Who Are Going Into Labor. Selfies Before Suicide Attempts. Here's another one to add to the collection: Selfies With Homeless People

The phenomenon is exactly what it claims to be: people snapping photos of themselves posing with homeless people. Sometimes, these photos are proper selfies, captured by the subject of the photos; more often, they're simply portraits shot by some unnamed photographer. Sometimes, they feature subjects posing with a smiling homeless person; more often, the posing occurs without the consent of the individual in question.

These images are common, it's worth noting, only in the sense that there are enough instances of them to populate a Tumblr. 

They are also, it's needless to say, profoundly sad. 

 

 

On the one hand, let's not give too much time to—or read too much into—these photos. Some people have poor judgment; some people use others as means to ends; some people are terrible. None of that is new or worth our time. 

What's worth a moment—just a moment—of pause, though, is the way these images take the logic of the selfie to a morally vacuous extreme. They treat sleeping humans as ironic backdrops to the subjects of the images in question—like so many picturesque sunsets or famous landmarks or daintily set dinner tables. People, here, are presented as architecture.

My colleague Jim Hamblin, considering Selfies at Funerals, suggested that, despite their dubious taste level, the self-shot images tap into a broader attempt to make sense of grief and memory and mortality. Selfies With Homeless People have no such redemptive value. "Look at me, in front of this homeless person!" these images say. Their use of "person" itself is, of course, ironic. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In