10 Years of Selfies

On 8/5/2006 I was at a Berkeley eyeglass store trying on new frames and I was debating heavily on buying particular frames. When I buy eyeglasses, it’s expensive cause my prescription is SUPER HIGH. So once I make a choice, it has to be love because the cost is going to be bonkers.

The salesperson was pushing me to buy them and I just wasn’t sure if I was going to like them after a week of overly analyzing the situation. Then I realized “Hey, I have a phone with a camera, why don’t I take a picture of myself and decide in 24 hours if I’m still in love?” Remember, this was 2006. The first iPhone wasn’t released until 2007 so taking selfies with a plethora of filter choices DID NOT EXIST.

This was my phone. The Nokia 6682.

It had a 1.3 megaxpixel camera and I was IN LOVE WITH THIS PHONE. No more waiting at 1 Hour Photo to see if your pictures came through. Digital photographs meant immediate gratification.

So I shot a selfie. And then the next day I shot another. Then the next another. And I realized this is way too easy, I could just take a picture every day for the next ten years.

And I did.

Today marks the 10th year of selfies.

10 Years of Selfies from Elaine A on Vimeo.

What have I learned?

Technology has made things easier and clearer. But don’t let technology rule your life.
It’s obvious when you compare the first and last photo that quality has improved quite a bit.


When I first started taking selfies I had to attach my phone to my computer and download the images through a line. There was no AirDrop. Then I took the photos and cropped them at exact spots in Photoshop. Then I uploaded them into Flickr. This took a while. Now I don’t crop anything and I can upload huge photos to Flickr directly through their app.

When I first took photos I was very self conscious. People would stare because back in 2006 taking a picture of yourself wasn’t really a normal occurrence. So I did it quickly and haphazardly as you can tell by the blurriness. Now, everyone takes selfies. Everyone spends enormous amounts of time getting the right angle, the right frame, the right lighting. Honestly, if it takes you longer than 1 minute to take a selfie you’re taking too long. Shoot it, filter it (if needed), upload it, move on.

Makeup is great but it’s not really necessary. Wear SPF all the time.
80 percent of the photos here are without makeup. And when I say makeup, I only use lipstick because I have not mastered how to put foundation on or contour my face so I look pouty all the time. It’s not a skill I have mastered and though I would love to learn, I’m impatient. And I sweat every day. But the one item I do wear on my face all the time is SPF and I as I see those sunspots pop up throughout each shot, I realize how important it is to slather your face in sunscreen as much as possible.

Remember the bad with the good.
When I look at the individual photos, most of the time I can remember exactly what is happening in the shot. And more importantly, I can remember if this was a really sad day or a really great day. And good god there have been a lot of sad days, and just F&CK all hellish days. But what I found interesting was the majority of the shots were good days. Days where I ate a beautiful croque monsieur with my husband. Days where my friend Richard remained patient with me even though I don’t know how seasons work. Days where I am literally dancing with dance GODS. It makes me happy to know that the good outweighs the bad by 10 to 1 easily.

Don’t be afraid to look ridiculous.
Cause most of the time, the experience is worth it.

Back in 2014, Flickr interviewed me about my project. What I find funny about myself is I have no problem looking at pictures of me. I have no problem seeing videos of me dancing. But me on camera talking, oh my god I AM CRINGING. What’s going on with my mouth? Why do I move my hands so much?
Photographer’s inspiring selfies project: No one can deny the popularity of a selfie. But long before it became a phenomenon, Elaine Adolfo was taking them for nearly a decade, showcasing her photos in a Flickr series called The 10 Year Project.

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