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How the JC invented the selfie (well sort of)

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November 24, 2016 23:22

There are many reasons why you might be reading the JC today. But the chances are at some point you will be having a sneaky look through the paper to see if there are any pictures of friends, family and acquaintances - and, who knows, maybe even you.

Long before camera-phones brought us the cult of the selfie, the latter-day photographic version of the self-portrait was being pioneered within the pages of the JC. People would go to great lengths to get their photos in the paper and when they did so, the kvell factor among their friends and family would register on the Richter scale.

Could this rather endearing need to be seen by your fellow JC readers have been the genesis of the selfie?

Photographer David Rubin has snapped hundreds of events for publication in the JC, and he thinks this might be the case. "We did invent the selfie – it was called the Guest List. At the time it first appeared in the paper everyone suddenly wanted to be in it. I see it as the Jewish version of Hello! or OK! magazines. They want to be where it matters. The movers and shakers of this world do enjoy a bit of limelight and kudos and they like being associated with the even greater and better."

Rubin would notice strange behaviour when he photographed these events. At least it seemed strange at the time - now we would immediately identify it as photo-bombing. "In the old days, people had to rely on the photographer to get them into a picture with a celebrity. People would edge into the photo so that they would be photographed next to the famous person. I often had to crop people out. It was a bit embarrassing."

In latter years, however, Rubin has noticed a change. "Now people are waiting for the photographer to take a picture then they are getting out their phone, putting their arm around the celebrity and taking their own photo, too."

If anything, those who clamour the most for attention are the older ones, says Rubin. "People in their 30s and 40s have been exposed to it more and tend to hold back. Unless there's someone very famous in the room."

It is not just photographers who have been subjected to pressure to help people achieve the kudos of a photo in the JC. Sue Rifkin is a public relations expert who has represented a number of big Jewish charities. Even in the age of Facebook, she is constantly being asked to help people place their photos in the JC. "People like to be seen, they like to show their friends. But the photo also needs to tell a story."

If there is one area of the JC that has an extra appeal for those seeking to have their faces seen in the right place, that is indeed the Guest List, where the likes of you and I get to dress up and take our places in the line-up alongside the great and the good at that week's big event. Rifkin says: "The Guest List is incredibly popular. It has the value of prestige. Especially if there's a celebrity in the ensuing photo."

So what is it that makes us so anxious to be photographed for publication? Psychologist Dr Jane McCartney feels there we have an innate need for validation. "It revolves around identity. I have been photographed therefore I exist. There is also a kind of herd mentality about it. If you see other people in the paper being photographed with a celebrity you might be more inclined to yearn for it yourself."

She is not surprised there is a long and distinguished history of readers trying anything to get their faces in the JC. "You have made it into the papers so people are seeing you and registering you. In a reasonably small community you are going to get some feedback and that is what people really crave.

"You see it with Facebook, too. When you post your selfie, what you really want is for people to validate it with a 'like' or a comment. This is probably what was happening in the JC long before the advent of social media."

So there you have it, the JC was fulfilling the same purpose as Facebook long before Mark Zuckerberg was even a twinkle in his dad's eye - and his dad before that. And even though our community is all over social media, it seems the one thing everyone still craves is that priceless image on page 36 in a dinner jacket and bow tie - preferably next to someone who has appeared on EastEnders.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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