Bodybits 101: the personal side of SelfiesJenna Price
Published: November 20 2012 - 3:00AM
We didn't really have selfies when I was a girl. My friends with fancy cameras and timers would usually perch their camera on some shelf and dash into frame, just in time to look slightly flustered. That is, if they really wanted to take a photo of themselves. Mostly, we just flagged down some passing stranger who would happily click, all the while saying: ''I hope this will be OK. I'm not much good at photos. Is this the button you are meant to push?''
These days, we are too frightened to hand over our valuable digital SLRs and even more valuable smartphones (because it would be a nightmare to replace all those contact details). Instead, we take selfies.
Selfies are the photos one takes of oneself, usually for sharing with friends, family or complete strangers. It's too easy these days; and all the selfies you have will include your stretched-out arm. I take a lot of those with He Who Must Never Be Written About and then text them to the kids. It's a more personal postcard because it's us in front of Big Ben or us at The Fat Duck and not just some static and peopleless photo.
Anyhow, I'm trying to summon up the courage to take a different form of selfie. One that is utterly terrifying. This particular quest started a couple of years ago when I volunteered to be part of a giant nude photo.
I remember lying on my back on the stairs of the Sydney Opera House at 6am with 5000 strangers. We were all completely naked, nude, starkers, part of, how would you describe it, a ''happening'' for the internationally-renowned photographer Spencer Tunick. We were posing every which way.
My own family are anti-nudity. I remember begging them to come with me to that photo shoot nearly three years ago but, in unison, they told me that if I wanted to embarrass myself, I was more than welcome to do that. By myself. The universal response was: ''Don't let anyone know you are related to me.''
Anyhow, my next project doesn't require any company. I'm trying to take a photo of what has recently become known as lady parts. My own lady parts, in fact. For a coffee table book. I'm just rereading those words and having a little attack. Why would an old woman with wrinkles everywhere want to expose herself?
It's because of a bloke (could this get any worse?) Philip Werner is 38 and a slashie - the kind of person who does several jobs at once. In his case, he is a former engineer, current photographer, website designer and deck chair maker. He is also an activist. In slashie terms, it would look like this: engineer/photographer/webbie/chair architect.
He was the local resident who organised the peace march to commemorate the life of murdered Melbourne woman Jill Meagher and he marched with a banner that said ''Choosing peace, hope, non-violence and solidarity with all women''. I loved that. I loved that this young bloke could do something so sweet and serious and important.
Which is why I haven't run away screaming from his project 101 Vagina. Basically, it's photos of vulvas, a coffee table book full of photos designed, Werner says, to break down the taboos around body image. Could be creepy, right? He doesn't sound creepy and I'm glad he is following it up with 101 Penis just so we have some equity happening. The bit I love best is that each owner writes about her vulva and her relationship with her body, herself.
You'd hardly be surprised to discover this is no easy publishing task. Werner is looking for funding through the crowdfunding website Pozible.
Why do I like this thing that some might conceive as pornography?
Because Werner will show real vulvas, just as they were home-grown. In the words of Ragni and Rado: ''Long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.'' Not that they were talking about vulvas. But they could have been.
I think his work, along with the work of artist Greg Taylor, is a strike against the hideousness of cosmetic gynaecology, which for the first time this year was the subject of a presentation at the annual meeting of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics.
Fiona Godlee, the editor of the British Medical Journal, was tough in her editorial this week. There is, she said, no ''enduring psychological or functional benefit'' from the surgery. None. ''Instead we have the world's most prestigious gynaecological gathering giving unprecedented prominence to the practice. This does not look like an advance to me.''
Plastic surgeon Jill Tomlinson was quick to respond online in her role as the secretary of the Australian Federation of Medical Women. She wrote: ''I would like to see FIGO speak out about the rise in female genital cosmetic surgeries and the lack of evidence backing these increasingly heavily advertised and sometimes trademarked procedures.''
What worries me is that young women think they can't be shaggy, ratty or matty; and their lovers get strange and plastic ideas from the impossibility of porn.
I want young men and women to see what it's really like. Which is why we should all support coffee table bodybits 101. Whether it's vagina or penis. Make it Pozible.
■ Follow me on Twitter @jennaprice or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was found at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/content/adaptive/canberratimes/federal-politics/bodybits-101-the-personal-side-of-selfies-20121119-29m6x.html