Friday, January 27, 2023

The distorted sense of selfie among Generation Z


The selfie for Gen Z is evolving. In addition, some young people who are looking for these effects are turning to a product that is more well-known for capturing interstates than influencers: the mirror for traffic.

Written by Callie Holtermann, Mercedes Jimenez-Cortes frequently snaps pictures of herself in parking garage dome mirrors. By bending concrete like jelly and exaggerating the size of Jimenez-Cortes' face, iPhone, and extended middle finger, the mirrors transform an everyday scene into something surreal.

Jimenez-Cortes, a 24-year-old Atlanta resident who works for Instacart, bought one of the mirrors for her apartment recently because she liked how they looked. On Amazon, the PLX18 Circular Acrylic Indoor Convex Security mirror, which has a stylish name and costs $37, comes with a swivel mounting bracket so that it can be seen more clearly in loading docks and driveways. Jimenez-Cortes hung the mirror in her living room near a disco ball, where Pixie, her cat, uses it to look at his own twisted reflection.

Jimenez-Cortes commented, "It looks funny." But it was designed to look funny."

This is the latest take on the self-portrait by Generation Z. The selfie with the hashtag #NoFilter has been replaced by obvious distortion. For extreme forced perspective, there is the ultra-wide-angle lens with 0.5 degrees; the AI portrait generator that resembles a painting in its rendering of you; and the low-fi digital camera for a nostalgic, grainy appearance. In addition, some young people who are looking for these effects are turning to a product that is more well-known for capturing interstates than influencers: the mirror for traffic.

You have already seen these mirrors. They emerge from school buses and 18-wheelers and are sometimes referred to as blind-spot mirrors. Additionally, they are frequently utilized as safety or security mirrors, allowing attendants at grocery stores and subway stations to monitor a large area. Convex mirrors are probably the most accurate term for them, but on TikTok, a platform that is good at changing language, they are known as traffic mirrors.

Jimenez-Cortes said that she sees the mirrors everywhere in the app, where they are advertised as a low-cost home décor hack and a tool for taking selfies. The hashtags #trafficmirror, #inspiration, #roomdesign, and #aesthetic are among the most popular, with over 20 million views each. The mirrors are praised by commenters as the "bus driver core" in streetwear account TikTok video roundups.

Stylianos Peppas, the director of SNS Safety Ltd., a London-based traffic and parking safety company that sells convex mirrors through Amazon, wrote in an email, "There has indeed been a slight upward trend in sales lately." According to him, "people are increasingly concerned about the safety of themselves and their families," which explains why he thought the mirrors were selling well.

However, social media suggests a less tangible motive. According to Swasti Sarna, the global director of data insights for the company, searches for "convex mirror" on Pinterest were four times higher in December than they had been a year earlier.

A component of their appeal is the fact that traffic mirrors have not historically been fashionable. The mirrors add a layer of irreverence to photos, making them look ordinary, cheap, and conspicuously out of place in a bedroom or Instagram feed.

Elijah Ray, 25, a 25-year-old Portland, Oregon resident who works at a wood mill, ordered a $15 set of two traffic mirrors from Amazon in November. He stated that whenever he saw the mirrors at a CVS or bus stop, he would stop to take a selfie; presently he takes them at home, catching his outfits and a lot of his stylistic layout, similar to his red Drove light strips and the hand tailored yin and yang mat where his unshaven mythical beast chilled behind the scenes during a Zoom interview.

He stated, "I kind of like the vibe of, I have one big eye and one small eye."

According to Allie Rowbottom, the author of "Aesthetica," a 2022 novel about an influencer who tries to undo years of cosmetic surgery, the way the mirrors distort the face and body can take some of the pressure off looking perfect.

A #NoFilter backlash that seemed to emphasize authenticity was brought about by the proliferation of apps like Facetune that smooth pores and cinch waists beyond the point of possibility. However, self-manipulation was still required for some of that so-called realness. Rowbottom stated that Gen Z's rejection of both approaches is represented online by looking "absolutely bizarro."

She stated, "We've exited the conventional era of the selfie, which started in 2012, 2013 with the advent of Instagram."

However, distortion in portraiture has existed long before the advent of social media. When Parmigianino, an Italian artist, painted his "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror" in 1524, he was about 21 years old. Two barber's mirrors were used by Parmigianino to make his hand appear larger and the horizon behind him appear curved and out of place.

According to Sabine Haag, the director-general of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where the portrait is displayed, Parmigianino's was playful and fluid while still demonstrating virtuosic painting skill. By contrast, earlier portraits by Albrecht Dürer, for instance, appeared meticulously posed.

The artist, like people who take selfies these days, wanted to get a specific shot. Haag went on to say, "It really ought to give you the impression that it is not constructed." It happens completely out of the blue."

Similar images became a fixture of popular culture much later, when Nikon's first fish-eye camera lens became widely available to consumers in 1962. Fish-eye lenses were used to capture Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones' album covers and Woodstock's trippiness in the 1960s.

According to Jeremy Elkin, the director of the documentary "All the Streets Are Silent," the fish-eye lens became a defining look of the 1990s due to its prevalence in both skateboarding and hip-hop videography. However, the fish-eye look is perhaps best associated with the decade that Gen Z is at times lovingly and ironically imitating.

In the music video for Missy Elliott's song "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)," director Hype Williams used fish-eye lenses to emphasize Missy Elliott's futuristic outfits and Busta Rhymes' numerous characters in "Gimme Some More." A fast-moving skateboarder, Missy Elliott's entire Hummer, or a Beastie Boys rooftop could all be in the ultrawide angle of the lens.

Elkin pointed out that Lorde and Harry Styles' most recent album covers feature the fish-eye look once more. The convex lens reflects a DIY spirit that is timeless among the young, edgy, and broke by creating a dramatic look with one relatively inexpensive piece of equipment.

Elkin stated, "The thing they all have in common is that you don't need high production value or some crazy scene or some insane location." This applies to music videos, skateboarding, and children taking selfies in parking garage mirrors. A fish-eye lens has the ability to transform something as simple as a studio into something exciting.

The same reasoning applies to TikTok, where Harry White uploaded a video of his traffic mirror in July and received over 1.2 million views.

In the video, which borders on ASMR, White, 26, a home décor content creator in Cardiff, Wales, prods the squishy surface of the mirror while removing protective film. He claimed that viewers had sent him messages inquiring about where they could purchase the mirrors for themselves.

He stated, "The problem with TikTok is that it is so competitive." Even if their home décor items are so different that they don't match their vibe, other content creators will attempt to replicate a video that does extremely well, such as mine, he stated.

White's reservations about the app's rapid fashion and décor trend cycles grew stronger as a result of the experience. Because the mirrors are so cheap, some people might buy them, make a few videos with them, and then throw them away in a fashion-forward way.

Accessories for iPhone photography that were popular in the past have not always held up: Who still uses a selfie stick to try to get a good angle?

Rowbottom is of the opinion that the sentiment conveyed by the traffic mirror will endure regardless of whether it remains in place.

Rowbottom stated, "Leaning into a distorted image of the self through a mirror or through the screen of your iPhone is an act of reclamation and rebellion." In any era, that vibe is so important to youth culture.

In June, 26-year-old Justyna Gwozdz, an accountant in Katowice, Poland, purchased a traffic mirror from a home improvement store and hung it above the toilet in her bathroom. She uses it almost every day to take pictures of her best party looks and worst bed head.

She looks weird and funny in her traffic mirror, no matter how put together she looks that day, which is a relief. She stated, "You don't have to look good to look good in it."

EleganceWorks Voices

Catch Daily Highlights In Your Email

* indicates required

Post Top Ad