Sergei Stroitelev

Photographer
  
Magnificent Man
Location: Chisinau
Nationality: Russian
Biography: I am a freelance photographer and visual artist based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia working with National Geographic Russia, VICE UK/USA, De Volkskrant, Takie Dela, Meduza, Novaya Gazeta, others. My photographic practice primarily focuses on the... MORE
Public Story
Magnificent Man
Copyright Sergei Stroitelev 2022
Updated Aug 2022
Nowadays, countless numbers of people have the chance to photograph the world around them using only the phones in their pockets. Despite the fact that our beautiful, fascinating, ever-changing surroundings beckon—the most popular type of photography among internet users is the inward-facing selfie.

Really. Just login to any photography (or dating) network and you will find millions of faces from every corner of the planet. People have wondrous new technologies of communication and expression but end up using them to display only their make-up, their meals and their bodies to the world.

For the last two months, I surfed through the pages of some of the most popular social and dating networks around the world. I looked at the faces of completely strange people residing somewhere very far away—or maybe living next door.

After two hours of surfing, I found that I could not even remember one face from the thousands I had just looked at. They merged into a single collage inside of my head. That was how the idea of making this project came to me.

During the last two months, I downloaded 100 selfies every day. These were the “best”—offered to me by the networks using the criteria of which were the most liked during that 24-hour period.

Then, I manually merged these 100 pictures, layering them in a photo-editing program that used the same level of transparency on each picture. Thus, every portrait was equal in the final collage.

Of course, one result could have been chaos. But instead, I was surprised to see how easily the selfies layered on each other. Each of the subjects, in trying to look uniquely magnificent in the lens of their phones, took on very stereotypical poses. Countless authors were all posing, gesticulating and smiling in almost exactly the same way.

Thus, at the end, I had a composite image of the above-average “selfier.” An accumulation of our stereotyped ideas of what good-looking means. A portrait of the modern, idealized person—the Magnificent.

Note that in accordance with the policies of the networks from where I took the images, there are absolutely no rules restricting public downloads. I was perfectly free to take these images and use them in my art (or really, in any way I saw fit).
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