June 14, 2021

The year of the selfie stick?

Anne is asked to take a picture with a selfie stick.

Looking back on 2015, it could be dubbed the year of the selfie stick. At least that was the buzz at a bridal shower I attended just before embarking on a summertime trip to Europe. Those metal rods designed to hold smartphones had become so ubiquitous they were being banned at some public venues, such as museums. But from what I observed this hadn’t dampened the zeal of street vendors selling selfie sticks in the busy tourist centres of Italy. Most visitors seemed to resist buying one of these telescopic extenders and those who wanted to widen the view of their self-portraits simply asked a bystander to take their picture. And that bystander was often me. I would nod yes to this request, and then a smartphone would be placed in my hand.

I should mention that I walk around with a single-lens reflex camera slung around my neck. It’s a digital camera, but it is not a phone. I don’t even own a smartphone. So “why me?” I kept wondering as I stared at the unfamiliar object I was now being asked to take a picture with. “Just tap it here,” the phone-owner would say before stepping back to pose beside his beaming girlfriend and wait for me to take a photo.

One morning at dawn my husband and I, who were waking early due to jet lag, decided to walk the streets of Venice while they were quiet and the air was cool. Few others were up yet, just the occasional jogger, as we strolled alongside the canals and across stone footbridges. Then we came upon a small group of early risers who were admiring the famous view at the entrance to the Grand Canal. As Bill and I approached, they asked me if I would take a picture of them. And so began my European vacation, taking photos of complete strangers on their smartphones.

In Rome when I was taking a picture of a young couple in Piazza Navona, the guy thought I had too much foreground in the photo when he checked the image on his phone and not enough of the baroque fountain they were standing in front of. So I took the photo again, and again he wasn’t completely happy with the result. By this time his girlfriend was laughing and I decided it was time to slowly back away and rejoin my waiting family.

While lunching at the Pitti Palace’s courtyard café in Florence, where we watched some brazen pigeons knock a wine glass off a table, I remarked to my husband and two teenage sons that although nearly everyone seemed to be taking selfies with their phones, I hadn’t seen too many people with selfie sticks. A half hour later, as we strolled though the Boboli Gardens, I was not only taking a picture of a couple on their smartphone, but holding it with the selfie stick it was mounted on. My husband was amused by all of this and would take photos of me taking photos of other people. But I actually didn’t mind. The fellow tourists who approached me were always polite and smiling and thanked me for taking their picture.

I can appreciate the appeal of taking selfies. My sons were doing it and they got some good spontaneous shots of themselves in front of famous landmarks. As long as it doesn’t become obsessive, let the selfie seekers have their fun. The one tourist trend that did bother me was seeing a beautiful bridge in Paris covered in “love locks.” What happened to the old adage of take only pictures, leave only footprints.

About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.