Competitive Photography and the Presentation of the Self

  • Alise Tifentale
  • Lev Manovich


Much of the current writing on selfies, Instagram, or camera-phone photography in general tends to decontextualize these phenomena and analyze them on their own, without referring to historical precedents. The medium of photography tends to become invisible, while photographs posted on Instagram or other platforms are treated as pure and transparent data, from which conclusions about their makers and their audience are being made. What is still missing, and what we propose to bring back into focus, is more attention to the medium of photography as such. There was photography before mobile phones, and photography was shared socially before Instagram. While the new image-making technologies and image-sharing platforms, no doubt, change our definition of photography, much of what is being interpreted as “new” has roots in photographic practices of earlier decades. We believe that adding such historical perspective would expand our understanding of present-day cultural phenomena and let us analyze them as part of historical continuities. It is time to bring photography back into our discussion about photography in social media. The chapter follows this request by focusing on the phenomenon of “competitive photography” and the anti-selfie genre as a backdrop to explore contemporary and historical dimensions of the selfie as a photographic practice.



The first part of the chapter (“Here Comes the New Photographer … Again!,” “Instagram and Competitive Photography,” and “Competitive Photography Is a Game of Rules”) was written by Alise Tifentale, and the second part (“Competitive and Noncompetitive Photography on Instagram” and “Competitive Photography and Anti-Selfie Genre”) was written by Lev Manovich. The Selfiecity (2014–2015) project was created by Lev Manovich, Moritz Stefaner, Daniel Goddemeyer, Dominikus Baur, Mehrdad Yazdani, Jay Chow, Alise Tifentale, and Nadav Hochman. The development of this project was supported by the Graduate Center, City University of New York, California Institute for Telecommunication and Information (Calit2), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The authors of this chapter would like to thank the editors, Jens Ruchatz, Sabine Wirth, and Julia Eckel, as well as the anonymous reader from Palgrave Macmillan for their excellent questions and comments.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alise Tifentale
    • 1
  • Lev Manovich
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate Center, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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