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Locals Snap Up Opportunity To Display Themselves In PHD Gallery’s ‘Selfie STL’

Updated following "Cityscape"

A couple of months ago, PHD Gallery owner Philip Hitchcock hesitated before pressing “Send” for his mass email soliciting selfies for an art exhibit.

“What if I do this big launch and the returns come back low?” Hitchcock said. “I was really, really nervous about it.”

But once he got a handful of “yes” responses, he figured he could use them as leverage.

“I could say, for instance, to Philip Slein, ‘Hey, Duane and Bruno are doing it, and Leslie Laskey and Roseann Weiss,'" Hitchcock said. "And it started to get legs.”

Out of about 75 emails, Slein received 50 entries for“Selfie STL,” opening this Saturday at PHD Gallery, 2300 Cherokee St.

‘What Do You Think of Me?’

The exhibit includes local artists, photographers, educators, journalists and politicians. Most were taken with a cell phone, in a mirror or with an outstretched arm. The rules contain no restrictions as to “nudity” or “good taste.”

Leslie Laskey
Credit Courtesy PHD Gallery
Leslie Laskey

The selfies are printed on 8 ½ by 11-inch photo paper, with five copies of each. They’ll sell for $100 apiece, with profits split between the subject and the gallery.

Those who declined may not go unnoticed. Hitchcock’s thinking of posting a generic, stand-in head shot (although he won't name names) for each naysayer and non-responder. Some of the more adamant refusals included words like ...

"I hate them, I can’t stand them, I’m not a selfie person,” Hitchcock said. "In my mind, that's shaping up to be an important part of the story."

Recently, some mental health professionals havelinked obsessive selfie-taking to poor mental health. But Hitchcock pointed out it’s a great way to get immediate feedback, determined, for example, by Facebook “likes.”

“People say, 'The selfie I did last week got 100 likes but the last one got 70; maybe I need to be more like this',” Hitchock explained. “It’s this odd sort of extension of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame.”

“Selfie STL” is part of an emerging trend looking at selfies as art. St. Louis Poetry Scores uses the cell-phone snapshots in its efforts to translate poems into other media.

Philip Hitchcock
Credit Courtesy PHD Gallery
Philip Hitchcock

For Hitchcock, taking self-portrait snapshots is “a weird confluence of vanity and marketing and validation.” His own image, showing off a muscular, tattooed torso, is included in his “Selfie STL” show.

“It’s a little bit of, ‘What do you think of me?’” he said.


‘Selfie STL’

Where: PHD Gallery, 2300 Cherokee St., 63118

When: Opening reception 7-10 p.m., Saturday, June 7; runs through July 19

How much: Free

Information:  PHD Gallery website

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.