Pascale Trouillaud –
Under the immense Christ the Redeemer statue that overlooks Rio de Janeiro and its picturesque Guanabara Bay, dozens of tourists jockey for position to get selfies with the stunning panoramic view illuminated by the setting sun.
A tangle of arms and selfie sticks are lifted for solo shots, couple snaps, family photos: getting the perfect picture with the statue or Sugarloaf Mountain in the background is the goal.
The only definite fail? Ending up with other tourists taking selfies in the frame.
Brazil is a selfie-mad country. But it is hardly alone.
Around the globe, selfie culture has become a facet of daily life — social media sites are flooded with pictures, tourist attractions are overrun with those seeking selfie nirvana.
In some cases, that quest for the ideal happy snap has been deadly, when amateur photographers take the hobby too far. For celebrities, it can be a moneymaker.
But for the average tourist, it’s a way to make memories.
Philippe, a young French engineer on holiday in Brazil who has Christ-like long hair, positions himself in front of the imposing Christ the Redeemer statue, an Art Deco work made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
“My colleagues laughed, saying I look like Jesus. So I needed to take a selfie to send them,” he said.
But he isn’t all in on the idea.
“On social media, it can give a false impression. People only post pictures of beautiful things — the sun, Rio, the beach,” he said. “People end up getting depressed because they have the idea that their life is crappy.”
For Brazilian Daniela Lemes, taking selfies is “a happy moment, shared with family (…) in marvelous places like this one.”
On the other side of Rio, at the waterfront Museum of Tomorrow, aesthetician Tatiana da Silva de Paula admits she takes 100 to 200 selfies a day.
“First I take some to see how I look. Then I post them on social media for my friends and family,” she said.
About 9,000 kilometres away, in the heart of Rome, the Trevi Fountain is the must-have selfie spot.
Sarah and Fivos, a British couple from Manchester who came to the Eternal City to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, were part of the selfie scrum.
“We are happy with the selfie we took, but with so many people, you have to wait for the right moment to get the good shot with no people in the frame,” said Fivos.
Nearby, Elia and Chiara, two young Italians, took a selfie with their parents in the background… taking a selfie.
On this day, as on most days, there is such a huge crowd at the fountain, immortalised by Fellini in “La Dolce Vita,” that tensions can mount.
In August last year, police had to separate two groups of tourists who had come to blows when they wanted to take a selfie at the same spot.
In Athens, even celebrities join the millions of tourists seeking romantic mementos. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg showed up at the Acropolis with his wife in May, after music legend Paul McCartney did the same.
In Egypt, before the Great Pyramid outside Cairo — the last of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World still standing — Bangladeshi tourist Sheila Ahmed uses her smartphone to do as so many have done before her.
“Generally, I am not a fan of selfies but it’s easier to just hang up your phone and take a picture of yourself at whatever place you want,” she said.
“Especially here I am in front of the Great Pyramid — where would I want to take a selfie if not here?”
In the United States, at Mather Point on the majestic Grand Canyon’s south rim, picture-taking is constant, but some go to extremes — and the very edge of the cliff.
“We can see well enough from here,” British tourist Kathryn Kelly said, looking at a woman in an especially risky spot. “I don’t see the point stepping closer to the edge.”
In South Korea, taking selfies is practically a national sport. To mark his 100 days in office, President Moon Jae-in shot a selfie video message.
North Korea seems to be the last place on Earth immune from selfie fever, where people prefer more traditional pictures.
Nevertheless, the country’s leader Kim Jong Un has posed for two selfies — with a Singaporean minister and a Russian journalist. — AFP