Recent Zones of Portraiture: The Selfie


  • Teresa Bruś Wrocław University, Poland



Face, frontality, performative functions, selfie, self-portraiture, snapshot, digital images


In the “age of the selfie” (Jerry Saltz), we gauge the self as active. This paper proposes to engage the selfie as a dominant and enlarging practice of assertion and performance of lived existence.  I align the selfie with the snapshot, making a point about their extraordinary cultural force and productivity determined by their distinctive economies and technical bases as well as cultural statuses.  An expression of our desire to be visible in the social world, the selfie, I argue, is a sub-genre of portraiture which exposes and “proliferates” our face as an activity promising interaction. In the “post-face” phase of our culture this performative face is a surface of the visual present, always in the making.

This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing on May 24th 2016, and published on July 12th 2017.

Author Biography

Teresa Bruś, Wrocław University, Poland

Teresa Bruś is associate professor at Wrocław University, Poland. Her major fields of research include visual culture, interactions of photography and literature, subjectivity, and life writing. She teaches MA seminars on autobiography, electives on poetry of the 1930s, English modernism and visual and verbal portraiture. Her doctoral dissertation focused on aspects of “profound frivolity” in W. H. Auden’s poetry. She is also a graduate of the International Forum of Photography in Poland. She has published on various aspects of life writing and photography in journals, including Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, Prose Studies, and Connotations. Among others, her publications include: “Essaying in Autobiography: Wystan Hugh Auden’s and Walter Benjamin’s Faces,” “Stride Over Spaces: Stephen Spender and David Hockney’s China Diary,” “Essay, Essaying, Essayistically and the Experience of Reading,” “Photographic Portraits of the Mother in Roland Barthes and Tadeusz Różewicz,” “Exposing Experience and Facing Photography,” “When the Self Portrays the Self: Composite Portraiture,” “Academic Memoirs and What They Expose,” “Agency in Self-Portraits”, and “The ‘I’ and the ‘not I’: Self-Knowledge in Friendship”. She is the author of Life Writing as Self-Collecting in the 1930s: Cecil Day Lewis and Louis MacNeice (2012). Currently she is working on a book on changing meanings and uses of the face in English and Polish photo-literature of the 1920s and the 1930s.