When the “selfie” movement began its reign of popularity recently, Boston College photography professor Karl Baden undoubtedly cracked a smile.
See, Baden had already practiced the concept for nearly three decades.
The notion of a “selfie” – a type of self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone – is relatively new to this century. But Baden has snapped a picture of himself in the same position every day for the last 27 years.
Baden, in an email interview with The College Fix, said he simply “wanted to see what would happen” if he undertook such a venture.
“Pure curiosity is often the basis for projects like this one,” he said.
Today, at age 61, he’s amassed nearly 10,000 black and white photos – and counting. His project gained popularity when he put the images together in a single timelapsed video and posted it online about two weeks ago. (watch video below)
According to his blog, Baden believes it is important that “each day’s image be no more nor less than a reasonably detailed visual record of the subject’s presence.”
Baden has used the same camera and same pose since he first began his “Every Day” project, which he first conceived of in 1975 but did not begin until 1987.
He said he wanted to document “the superficial changes that represent the effect of time on a life” – what he believes is the “fundamental purpose for a camera and film,” the latter of which being his only choice in pre-digital times.
Over the years, he has tried to minimize effects of his mood or personality in the photos, so that only one variable is present in the timelapse – that is, whatever changes occured in his face as he aged.
Another important aspect regarding Baden’s “impulses” is the significant distinction between perfection and simply “being human,” he said.
“Mistakes are part of the project, and part of the process,” no matter how subtle or gross they are, Baden said.
The professor said he’s pleased with the results, despite any hurdles.
“I suppose the up side would be that I’ve been able to do it; to create a record of this kind,” Baden said. “The down side would be the technical part; making sure the pictures come out, and accepting the fact that they won’t always.”
Baden said his lifelong project, which he continues to this day, has not been a time-consuming obligation, as the process only takes five minutes when he’s home and 15 minutes if he is on the road.
Baden also said there’s “no doubt” he learned a lot from this project, but he “can’t put it into writing at this point.”
But Baden says he “never thought of this project as a ‘selfie’ project.”
“The word itself implies something more casual, even trivial, or childlike,” Baden said. “That said, I don’t care how people refer to the project; if you want to call it ‘selfie,’ that’s okay.”
He has made self-portraits of all kinds for the past 40 years, many of which are in the “selfie” style – that is, holding the camera at arm’s length and pointing it toward his face.
“Photographers have been doing this since day one,” Baden said. “I think it’s a natural human response. If you go to some part of the world where cameras are unknown (impossible today, I know), and give a person a camera, tell them what it does, show them how to work it and send them off, eventually they will turn it around and make a picture of themselves.”
Watch the video (embedded with permission):
College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.