details of 4 avatar portraits. Close crops of the faces of Darkley Aeon, Monerda Skute, Connie Arida, and Strawberry Singh

Big Heads (Avatar Selfies)

Avatar selfies today. Details of 4 avatar portraits. Close crops of the faces of Darkley Aeon, Monerda Skute, Connie Arida, and Strawberry Singh
Aeon, Skute, Arida, Singh

Big Heads. Avatar Selfies. Fish crawl out of the ocean. They walk on land. Avatars crawled out of Text-Only MUDs and into 3D MMO’s. They shoot avatar selfies. The phone goes mobile. We shoot selfies. The mobile phone gets Instagram. We go nuts.


I find the sport of boxing difficult and disturbing. Yet lots of sports carry violence as subtext. Maybe boxing is just more honest? Is the selfie, self-absorbed? Perhaps. But with a boxing-like naked honesty, the selfie is one of the most fundamental forms of expressing identity.

Avatar selfies from history. Details of 4 iconic portraits from art history: Nefertiti, van Eyck, Andy Warhol's Marilyn, and Chuck Close
Nefertiti, 1345 BCE, Jan van Eyck, 1433, Andy Warhol, 1967, Chuck Close, 1968

Man is the measure of all things
— Protagoras, ca 490 – 420 BCE

It’s a big universe. A big galaxy. A big solar system. So much vastness. So much diversity. And on our tiny, pale blue dot? Millions of species. Mostly not-so-human. Even so. It would be disingenuous to think that 25 centuries later, Protagoras doesn’t have a powerful insight into who we are. A powerful insight into how we come to understand this life and this world.

Historical Avatar Selfies

Painters and other 2D artists have always been obsessed with the human figure. And with big heads. Subjects of the past included nobility & deities. In the modern period we’ve looked at “real” people. And at ourselves. From Victorine Meurent to Lady Gaga, self-identity has been discovered and expressed through the image. Have we been taking “avatar selfies” since before we even knew the words “avatar” or “selfie”?

Contemporary Avatar Selfies

All these ideas are true with avatar selfies. Avatar selfies also intersect with the state of the rendering platform. Second Life celebrated its 10th birthday last week. They took the moment to remember when everyone walked around looking like “Ruth”. In that spirit I was struck by these 4 avatar selfies. I was struck by these 4 “big heads” that were posted to flickr in the last few days. And so I have put them on one page. A page where you can consider this moment in avatar rendering. And avatar identity. And avatar self-awareness.

click images to see larger

Avatar selfie today. Australian photographer Connie Arida
“Imitation of Life,” Connie Arida, 29 June

Avatar selfie today. Large headshot of virtual photographer Monerda Skute.
“Strawberry Cream,” Monerda Skute, 30 June

avatar selfie: An almost flawless self-portrait of avatar blogger Strawberry Singh. The image appears as a "natural" or "minimal makeup" photograph, yet her skin and complexion are so nearly perfect as to be both "real" and "unreal" at the same time.
“Avatar Blogger,” Strawberry Singh, 30 June

Avatar selfie today. Avatar selfie of Darkley Aeon. Highly freckled face with double piercings over her right eye.
“Me,” Darkley Aeon, 1 July


Don’t be miffed! I know you take amazing avatar selfies / big heads too! Please post your photo / link in the comments below! 😀

o n . f l i c k r

• Connie Arida / Imitation of Life
• Monerda Skute / Strawberry Cream
• Strawberry Singh / Avatar Blogger
• Darkley Aeon / Me

A L S O:
• Carrie Lexington / Avatar Selfie
• Slate / How to take a selfie for men
• Instagram (Statigram) / #selfie
• Vanessa Blaylock / selfies in sepia

No consideration of the selfie would be complete without remembering photographer Sheffield Quigley. Quigley invented the “fake selfie” on MySpace:

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

12 thoughts on “Big Heads (Avatar Selfies)

    1. nice one Kikas – selfie with misty hair!

      oooh… maybe we should create some sort of “Big Head Gallery” at LEA11… come stick your big head here… hmm… it worked for Easter Island… could work for us…

    1. Oh hey Connie, thanks for stopping by! And HA, THIS is nothing! Have you seen the next post? Where there’s a whole gallery of your big heads? Actually You & Jan van Eyck… you two got to be the placeholders for peeps to paste their own big heads. It’d be great if you want to come deposit anything! 🙂

      And thank you again Connie for doing such compelling, long-term work investigating the possible in avatar embodiment. Your photo series are as rich as your home is detailed. It’s all just so much beautiful work. I think Lizzie Gudkov is writing something interacting with your work – yes? I can’t wait to see that.

      I hope winter in the Southern Hemisphere is treating you well Connie.

      xoxo, Van.

    1. Hmm… interesting observation Albert. I can explain 66% of your findings:

      1. In 1/3 of your findings, the photos are actually vertical selfies – makes sense “portrait” is a vertical format, vs “landscape” which is horizontal, and when they get cropped square by twitter the forehead goes

      2. in 1/3 of your findings, the profile has Justin Bieber as the background. That’s enough to explain pretty much anything, isn’t it?

      3. As for the last 1/3 of your curious results, I really have no explanation.

      Your website is as awesome as it is disturbing. And by “disturbing” I don’t mean “creepy,” I just mean that you really DO have too much time on your hands. You must be one of us. Want to write the Avadentical column for iRez? You could post from time to time sharing your observations, and linking to your cool site, of course.

      1. 1. I do not use the cropped version but the original.
        2. :)))) Bieber is inescapable
        3. Those are the really interesting ones.

        Let me come back to you about your – very flattering! – request. I am right now very busy with my site. There is only so much ‘free’ time…

        1. 1. On twitter I noticed that some displayed with cropped forehead on their page, but if you clicked the pix, it showed the full source pix which sometimes did have a forehead.

          2. kk, Bieber = Oxygen. Noted.

          3. What about hiding embarrassing lobotomies?

          Bonus: hahaha – so even peeps with too much time on their hands manage to fill it up… That was Aristotle, wasn’t it? “Nature abhors a vacuum.” ?

          kk, good luck with your site, it IS very cool. And the invitation is open, if you want to do a post to Talk About / Pimp your project, that’d be great.

          When you have time, you might like to add comments to your site, so the cool pages could have cool little boxes at the bottom — LIKE THIS ONE — so that visitors could tell you what interesting shit you’ve found. “Disqus” might be a nice option for that.

          Also, when you have time you might like to drop by and paste a photo there with your email… then when you leave comments at places like — HERE — instead of an Oranje bug, we could see YOUR selfie!

          Good luck / keep up the cool work!

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