Selfies and recontextualisation: Still life self-imaging in social media

Michele Zappavigna, Sumin Zhao

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Self-representation can be construed through a wide-range of visual genres that are associated with different types of social practices. Visual self-representation shared via social media as a form of ‘social photography’ is an increasingly important means of negotiating experiences and relationships. This chapter explores how particular visual structures associated with Instagram selfies are recontextualised across different domains and practices. In particular it focuses on still life self-imaging as an extension of the classic selfie genre. The chapter adopts a social semiotic perspective, focusing on the important role of interpersonal meaning in construing alignments with ambient viewers. In particular, we will discuss the ways in which the photographer’s perspective is implied and inferred through representational and compositional choices (e.g. inclusion of body parts, shadows, reflections etc.), and the interesting functions these visual choices enact as they are recontextualised across meaning-making domains and media platforms (e.g. Instagram, Tumblr). We argue that selfie is both a genre and a recontextualizing discourse, and understanding the ‘selfie-isation’ of photographic practices on social media offers insight to the nature of semiotic capitalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhotography and its Publics
EditorsMelissa Miles, Ed Welch
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Electronic)9781350054974, 9781350054981
ISBN (Print)9781350054967
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2020


  • selfies
  • recontextualisation
  • social media
  • social photography
  • still life self-imaging


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