Inside the Self Portrait Project

A selfie is an inherently selfish act, done in isolation or a moment of introspection. Anything that serves as a functional mirror - a bathroom mirror, an oil-slicked rainwater puddle on the asphalt parking lot (if you’re feeling particularly poetic). Selfies are moments of self-appreciation and self-assessment. The administrator picks the angle, and curates lighting and context. It’s an exercise in vanity, but also a foray into self-perception. But there’s something philosophical that separates a selfie from a self-portrait

The Self Portrait Project functions as a “visual archive that seeks to capture the zeitgeist of New York City.” With kiosks in Williamsburg (Donna, 27 Broadway), The Lower East Side (Black Crescent, 76 Clinton Street) and Soho (at our very own Artists & Fleas, 568 Broadway), the project captures daily life in vibrant sectors of New York City.

The Self Portrait Project is installed, intentionally, in places of gathering. Portraiture is not a solitary venture - and though in Lin’s project the subject plays two active roles as subject and photographer, there’s the lack of formality that makes traditional portraiture so, in a sense, daunting.

Andy Lin; creator and administrator of the Self-Portrait Project, is a National Geographic Traveler award-winning photographer. Lin’s global view and humanitarian background inform the project in a palpable way. After the devastating earthquake that left hundreds of thousands displaced, marginalized, and destroyed, Lin installed a Self Portrait Project kiosk to allow those most vulnerable and disadvantaged to maintain agency in how their lives were portrayed on film. While you may stumble upon one of the kiosks in a center of fun, capitalism, consumerism, it’s an opportunity for agency in a collective.

And then there’s the community aspect: while installed in public places, participants have the ability to log onto the project’s app and discover the people who have been in that place before them. You might just see someone you know – if you click under the Artists & Fleas Soho kiosk, you’ll find employees, makers, artists, shoppers; a microcosm of our market.

According to Lin, the Self Portrait Project is influenced by and owes a spiritual and aesthetic debt to a variety of sources, including Storycorps; the music archive work of John and Alan Lomax; the New Deal's Farm Security Administration images; early photo-paper-and-chemical analog photo booths, and a wide array of photographers including but not limited to Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell, Richard Avedon, Mary Ellen Mark, Robert Frank, Anton Corbijn, Sebastião Salgado, Anatol Josepho, Platon, Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus, Edward Burtynsky, Eadweard Muybridge, Steve McCurry, Bill Cunningham, Brandon Stanton, JR, Patrick McMullan, Dorothea Lange, Andre Kertesz, Margaret Bourke-White, Luigi Ghirri, Paolo Roversi, Malik Sidibe, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The Self Portrait Project is photojournalism meets editorial. The high-res images of bar life detailed in stark contrasts of black & white spontaneous portraiture, or bright and oversaturated color explosion of an experiential retail environment. It’s comprised of humans, in their natural environment, owning their own image and archiving an experience. 

The Self Portrait Project at Artists & Fleas is set to take on a new look every other month, offering fresh self-portraits on the regular for all who seek a deeper selfie session. For the months of October and November, we're featuring a disco ball backdrop. Come and reflect. Literally.