Roxanne Tellier – Take My Picture

rox lolas May 2014 3

When I was a kid, photographs were precious. In the days before digital cameras and cell phones with photo capability, the taking of a picture was a big deal … families went to a lot of trouble to capture moments in time.


polaroid one stepI don’t even think my parents owned a camera, in the sixties. Most of the photos I have from those days were taken by my relatives. I do remember how excited my dad got when he bought himself a Polaroid One Step … you could instantly print out a picture and see yourself .. in colour! He was blown away by this brave new technology. It was a simpler time.

Les Telliers 1906The cost of even a mid-range quality camera was prohibitive for us. And then there was the cost of developing the film. We had other priorities.

So I’m always grateful when friends and family share their precious prints with me. In some cases, there would have been just one set of prints made, and only the family that took the snaps would have a copy, especially in the case of photos taken in the early 1900’s. Being able to see what our parents, grandparents, and great-greats looked like is to step back in time, and to at least partially bond with their good and bad times.

During the years when I was touring with Performer, our pictures Performer 1982were taken constantly, especially in Toronto, and especially whenever we played the Gasworks.  Hey, we had a strong, visual stage presence, and there were three, three, THREE girls in the band! There was a camera club that met nearby, and they would always come to the club to take live shots. The next time we’d play, the photographers would bring me handfuls of prints – some good, some not so good – but all lovingly framed and well-conceived.

shawn and rox 82 001When we’d get off the road, and try to merge into ‘real life,’ our families, bless their hearts, would photograph us looking like rare species invading suburbia. I have no idea how my mother could talk to me with a straight face when I would burst into her living room kitted out in rock n roll gear and enormous rock hair.

Those were the years when I developed the habit of never leaving the house without full (often stage) makeup, hair whipped into frenzied heights, and suitably high heels. Otherwise, I could be sure to be waylaid by some fan who would gasp at my ‘day’ look, and tell her friends how different I looked off-stage … “and did you know, she’s really short too!”

guns and rosesI suppose guy rockers had it a little better … though some had the same vanity as I. I’ll never forget the times I saw fellow rockers strolling the beach boardwalk in the blazing sun, in full rock gear, leathers, shiny boots and all.  What can I say? It was the eighties. And we were all young and full of ourselves.

When I left the road and settled down, my focus was on capturing images of my girls growing up, and then my grandchildren’s first moments.  And then the pet photos began. But I stayed away from being photographed, as a rule. Wasn’t interested. I already knew what I looked like, and I’m generally much better looking in my mind’s eye than in reality. I guess we all are.

mona lisa duck faceI didn’t really ‘get’ the whole ‘selfie’ thing, when it first became the way people communicated on social media. We were inundated with duck faces for a few years, and self-portraits taken in bathrooms with hilarious results. I must really be getting old now, because most of the pics I see these days are of cats.   

I had no idea that selfies have actually been around for nearly two hundred years.

selfie RobertCorneliusRobert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839 which is also one of the first photographs of a person. Because the process was slow he was able to uncover the lens, run into shot for a minute or more, and then replace the lens cap. He recorded on the back “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”         

But the name itself is of a more recent vintage.

“The earliest usage of the word selfie can be traced as far back as 2002. It first appeared in an Australian internet forum ABC Online) on 13 September 2002.

Date LookUm, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer[sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.

By 2013, the word “selfie” had become commonplace enough to be monitored for inclusion in the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. In November 2013, the word “selfie” was announced as being the “word of the year” by the Oxford English Dictionary, which gave the word itself an Australian origin.       (

ricky gervais viking bathI get a huge kick out of Ricky Gervais’ intentionally unattractive selfies. He’s using his camera to poke fun at our self-absorption.

It’s not just the ladies doing the selfies. There are a whole lot of Jersey Shore type dudes loving on their own images as well. And most of the time, it’s just as male selfiesegotistical. The camera is just held a lot lower.

Sociologists see the trend of sexualized selfies as disturbing, “the male gaze gone viral.” Some link the selfie to the rise of porn culture, and a perpetuation of the idea that only sexual attractiveness makes a woman visible.  Feminists have an ongoing love/hate relationship with the genre, viewing it alternately as a form of empowering self-expression, or a reinforcement of how programmed we are by advertising that tells us we can never be good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough.

tessa apple viperI love to see photos of my friends and family, posed or candid. Not keen on the selfie idea, but I’m always happy to see what everyone’s doing.

For myself, I’m always a little nervous when I read that I’ve been ‘tagged’ on Facebook. I know it’s gonna be a crapshoot as to whether I’ll like the photo or not, and I’m a vain bitch. And once on Facebook, there I am, forever. I can delete it on my page, but there’s always the potential that someone, somewhere is looking at that picture soul cafe NoelStock July 2014 5and wondering what the heck I was thinking when I wore that outfit, or marvelling at how badly/well I’ve aged, whether they know me or not.

Though that’s probably the vanity talking. In reality, my photo is just one more drop in the sea of today’s culture. In time, people will look back at our current images and make conclusions about our lifestyles and fashion, just as we do with the photos of our ancestors.

montreal xmas

For which we have to thank Robert Cornelius and his 1839 self-portrait. Nearly 200 years later, we’re still marvelling at our own images.    

mum pat anne gram

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

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