Selfies At Serious Places

when you just *have* to document it, compiled by @heyfeifer

Artistic gaze for concentration camps!

camps

In a first for this Tumblr, I’ve received a self-submission. This note arrived with these photos: "Appreciate the site. The photos are of me at Treblinka and the memorial at Majdanek (the one where i am wearing a hood), both concentration camp museums in Poland. Thanks." I replied, asking why he sent them to me. No response.

Sun and fun with ashes!

nana

Please forgive me if nana’s ashes aren’t in that urn-looking container. But it’s a reasonable assumption, right?

Mimic for MLK!

mlk

True, this isn’t technically a selfie. But it seems worth bending the rules for. Let’s call it a favor to the very unimpressed onlooker on the right.

Thumbs up for the Holocaust!

holocaust

This Tumblr launched on August 27. I am writing this two days later, after hundreds of thousands of people have seen it.

The guy above wrote me this morning: “I’m one of the people on your tumblr blog, and I have to say you made me realize how much of an idiot I made myself look. I’ve had people messaging me and calling me stuff, all of which I obviously deserve. I know you probably think I’m just an idiot who is willing to put pictures like that on the internet, and you’re not too wrong. You’ve really made me think about it, and I’d like to thank you for that. Now I’m going to beg that you remove the picture, and I doubt you would, because you will gain absolutely no benefit from doing so, but from one severely regretful person to another person, please, do so. Sorry for being such a dick.”

This was big of him, I thought, and no one photo—even a thumbs-up selfie at the Holocaust Memorial—defines a person. We agreed on the solution you see: a blocked-out face and blurred-out Twitter handle, and his apology. A reporter recently asked me if I thought these selfie-takers defined a spoiled generation, and I replied that no, absolutely, they did not. There’s a lot of youthful stupidity on display here, but every prior generation would have embarrassed themselves publicly, were they equipped with the technology to do so. This Tumblr captures people in moments they haven’t fully thought through, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of thinking further.

And so, although this wasn’t the reason I launched this Tumblr, let’s make it a conversation. To all the other people whose photos appear here: If you’d like to speak to the viewers of this site, you’re welcome to reach out. I’ll post your words, and block out your face.

Open wide for Chernobyl!

cherynobly

Jake wrote me, saying he’d prefer his photo to remain up and unchanged, but that he’d also like to explain it. Here he is:

"As I’m sure you’re aware, Chernobyl isn’t Disneyland, in fact it’s probably the furthest thing from it. You don’t go to Chernobyl for fun, you go there to learn about the disaster and see the massive scale of the devastation for yourself. I was fascinated by what I had heard about the event - as I’m only 20 I wasn’t around when the disaster unfolded, so keen to learn more I took it upon myself to go to Ukraine and visit the site.

The first thing that strikes you is the bleak nature of the place, followed by the realisation of how fast people had to leave when you visited the abandoned villages. And then you get to the sarcophagus of the reactor. That expression on my face is meant to be shock, not some vacuous, feeble attempt at narcissistic irony. The shock of seeing the scene of the disaster I’d heard so much about. The shock of seeing how close the reactor is knowing that 27 years ago standing in the same spot would have killed you in mere minutes. And what was probably the most shocking thing for me was seeing how many people still work there. People imagine Chernobyl to be an empty wasteland, the reality is 5000 people are still working in and around the site. All these feelings culminate inside you and you’re left numb and confused trying to take everything in. It was probably one of the most surreal experiences for me during my time on Earth, without question.

I would encourage as many people to visit Chernobyl before October 2015 (the expected completion date of the dome which will replace the sarcophagus) to experience what I experienced. Until you visit the place you don’t get a true scale of the events that happened back in April 1986. If you’re in Kiev but unable to visit Chernobyl, the museum in Kiev is an unmissable, fitting tribute that is able to convey some reality of the events. I would certainly go back if I’m not now banned from entering Ukraine.

Finally, I think some people have been quick to demonise myself and my picture. As I’ve already said, you don’t go to Chernobyl for a party, and I’m quite proud that a photo of me taking in some culture, documenting my travels and learning about the world’s worst nuclear disaster has gone viral. It makes a change from seeing the usual images of drunk British teenagers ruining a Mediterranean island by drinking too much alcohol and urinating/vomiting/fighting/having sex in the middle of the street. I hope that some people will now think about images like mine for just a bit longer before bemoaning that they show society’s failures laid bare before them.”